Good Morning! Hope everyone’s day is going well. My topic today is prices. I swear, I went to the grocery store recently and carried out two little sacks. I thought there must be some mistake when the bill came to $79.60. Bread was $2.29 and a gallon of milk was over $3.00. That got me comparing prices of things in the 1800’s. Besides, I needed to know the price of coffee for the story I’m working on.
I can’t imagine paying just this little amount for staples. Blows my mind. And remember that the prices varied by location and quality. Prices in mining towns were higher than most anywhere else. These prices were from about 1880 to the turn of the century.
A Pound of Coffee — 15 cents to 35 cents
5 Pounds of Flour — 14 cents
A Pound of Preserved Meat — 12 cents to 25 cents
5 Pounds of Sugar — 34 cents
A Dozen Eggs — 20 cents
A Pound of Butter — 25 cents
A Gallon of Syrup or Molasses — 40 cents to $1.15
One can of peaches — 20 cents
I didn’t find any prices for bread since everyone baked their own or milk because most had a cow or a goat. Totally different from today, huh?
Spices were outrageous — $12.00 to $75.00 a pound so not too many could afford it. But most of the spices were imported so they had to figure in the cost of shipping. If you think about it, spices are just as expensive today. I paid around $3.00 the other day for 4 oz. of cinnamon. I think that computes to something like $48 a pound. Yikes!
The pioneer learned to be very frugal with their foodstuffs. If weevils got in the flour, they sifted out the little bugs and used it anyway. They didn’t throw much away. And asyou can imagine, losing their staples to some kind of disaster meant doing without, so they protected their food supply with vigilance. They also planted gardens and raised animals for their meat. They lived off the land and scratched out an existence. It might not’ve been luxurious, but they survived. Life was far from easy. I’ve loved watching a new TV series that called Kid Nation, where they placed 40 kids in the
At http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0873707.html you can find prices for selected items for a variety of years, plus at Info Please.com you see the population of the U.S. from Colonial to present day. Lots of fascinating information and statistics here.
And at www.softwave.info/incanus/sears.html you can learn that bullets costs between 14 cents to $4.25 a hundred. Revolvers were 68 cents to $13.75. They also list the price of clothing and all kind of household goods. A great website to bookmark.
Try this site http://home.insightbb.com/~d.lawson/ for just about anything pertaining to medieval times to American colonial times to the Old West. This is an excellent site for research. I reference it a lot.
Then, I found a neat website – www.westegg.com/inflation/ — where you choose a year, put in an amount and it’ll tell you what that price equals to today.
For instance….$500 in 1880 is worth roughly $10,438 today
And we’d pay $3.25 for the pound of coffee that was 15 cents in 1880. That’s about what I pay.
Research is a must when writing and especially historicals. Writers want to make their stories as realistic as possible and any tidbit we can learn helps our stories come alive even more. I’m always finding little details about things that can put my reader on the page with the characters. That’s what writers have to do. And, writing has rewarded me with increased knowledge of the world in which my characters lived. History is full of fascinating things just waiting for me to uncover. I’m a sleuth deluxe when it comes to digging for facts.
Anyway, it’s kinda neat to see how prices compare to things as they were back in the 1800’s. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look back. Maybe you won’t cringe too much the next you go to the grocery store.
What do you think about the price of groceries?
Ever yearn for the pioneer life of gardens and milk cows?
Our Big Fall Fest Bonanza is still in full swing. If you haven’t registered, go to the Primrose News Office page. Time’s a wastin’.