It Cost How Much!!

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 old-mercantile1.jpgbill 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 Tea —  12 cents to $1.00                                                

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 Pound of Bacon — 12 cents                                                                     flour.jpg

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 pioneer-woman.jpgvigilance. 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 Nevada desert in an old ghost town with just the basic necessities. It’s been interesting watching how those children cope with cooking over a wood stove, hauling their water, and using outhouses. Kinda funny at times seeing their frustration. But, they’re learning a lot of skills that will help them through life. They’ve sure developed an appreciation for the things they have. And I say that’s a very good thing.

At you can find prices for selected items for a variety of years, plus at Info you see the population of the U.S. from Colonial to present day. Lots of fascinating information and statistics here.

And at  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  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 –  — 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’.

The Westward Journey

In the years since I first started writing novels, I’ve explored the west’s many legends: the gambler, the gunfight, the soldier, the fallen woman, the rancher, the half-breed. I’ve written about the Utes whom I greatly admire as among the best horsemen in the west.
The one symbol – or legend – I’ve never written about, but have been fascinated with, is the emigrant.  I’m in the midst of correcting that neglect.

One of my friends disagreed with my use of emigrant in speaking of those traveling across the country to California or Oregon. Emigrants, she contended, come from other countries. But that was the term given them in my handy “The Prairie Traveler” written in 1859 by an Army officer.   I mentioned the book before and you’ll probably hear much more from it because it has become my bible.

While it’s fun writing about the vivid characters that populate western fiction, I don’t think there’s been enough written about the “everyman” who risked everything to make the four to five month perilous journey to an uncertain future. My true heroes have always been those who packed everything they owned in a wagon, risked Indians and drought and mountains to achieve a dream.

We often talk about movies here. I haven’t seen any mention of a movie called “The Oregon Trail,” starring Fred McMurray, another of my off-beat favorites. It’s probably as true to the real facts as any film I’ve seen.

I come by my interest honestly. I grew up on tales my father told of his father’s homesteading in Arizona. My grandfather took his wife and six children to homestead in Arizona in 1912, and the stories are wonderful, including one in which my grandmother went outside to find by dad, then two, playing with a rattlesnake.

But as usual, I digress. More stories about that later.

I thought, instead, I would include some more information about the trail west for these sturdy individuals. The journey from the jumping off point of towns along the Missouri River to California or Oregon usually took six to eight months. Many guidebooks promised no more than three to four months time – a summer vacation. But the guidebooks were wrong.    Starting in mid-April, the emigrants would discover that the overland passage took every ounce of ingenuity and tenacity they possessed. They traveled in wagons with no springs, under a canvas that heated up to 110 degrees by midday, through drenching rains and summer storms.

Many used my trusty “Prairie Traveler” handbook that advised using oxen instead of mules. You could also hitch a cow to a wagon if necessary, or ride an oxen as one would ride a horse.

One feature that fascinates me about the “Prairie Traveler” is the mile by mile description of the route. By the mid 1850″s the trail was plain for all to see, worn by earlier wagons, but information was still necessary.

Here are a few excerpts from the Handbook giving directions from Westport, Missouri to Pike’s Peak.

4 ½ miles (west from Westport): Indian Creek – the road runs over a beautiful country. Indian Creek is a small wooded stream, with abundance of grass and water.

8 3/4: Cedar Creek – the road passes over a fine country, and there is a good camping place at Cedar Creek.

8 ½ miles: The road is smooth and level, with less wood than before. Camping good.

9 ½ miles: Willow Springs – at nine miles the road passes “Black Jack Creek,” where there is a good camping place. The road has but little wood upon it at first, but it increases toward the end of the march.

At 20 miles, our traveler reaches the Big Bend of the Arkansas – “The road strikes the sand-hills of the Arkansas River. They are soon passed, however, and the level river bottom is reached. The river has a rapid current flowing over a quicksand bed . . .

Then we reach Black Squirrel Creek. “This is a locality which is very subject to severe storms, and it was here that I encountered the most severe snow-storm that I have ever known on the first day of May, 1858. I would advise travelers to hasten past this spot as rapidly as possible during the winter and spring months . . .”

And on it goes, mile by mile, the handbook stating where the grass and wood flourished, where to cross the river, and remarking on the best sites for camping, hunting and resting.

It makes fascinating reading, particularly as I imagine myself sitting on the wagon seat, my backside longing for the day to end, yet looking forward to the next stage of the journey.

I’ll continue to offer more directions in coming weeks and hope you’ll come along for the journey.

THUMBS UP … Westerns are Hitting the Theatre Trail!

200px-310_to_yuma_poster.jpgThat’s good news for all of us who love westerns.  I’ve seen 3:10 to Yuma and loved it, despite it’s rather cringe-in-your-seat violence.  I will admit to never having seen the original in its entirety, but I really thought the acting in this remake was superb. Then again, maybe it was my hunger for a good western on the big screen that swayed my judgement a little.  Who could argue with the acting talents of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale?  

The200px-assassination_poster.jpg newest movie to hit the big screen this week is The Assassination of Jesse James by the  Coward Robert Ford.  Jesse James by far, led a very tumultuous, intriguing life.  He lived from 1847 until 1882 and was the most famous member of James-Younger gang.  The desperado was most famous for his train robberies and 15 murders.

Some Jesse James facts:200px-jesse_james.jpg 

His father, Robert James was a Baptist minister and a farmer from Kentucky. He helped found the William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He died in California prospecting for gold when Jesse was three years old.

Jesse James was shot by Union militia when he attempted an attack on them one month after the war’s end. Badly injured, Jesse was nursed back to health by his first cousin, Zerelda, “Zee” Mimms and they began a long courtship that ultimately led to marriage. 

Jesse didn’t become famous until he shot a cashier in 1869, when he and his brother Frank, robbed a bank in Gallatin, Missouri.  The murder was an act of revenge, mistakenly 180px-jessejames_headline_1873.jpgbelieving the cashier was Samuel Cox, a militia man who’d killed  “Bloody Bill Anderson” during the civil war.  The James’ brothers escape from that robbery and murder marked them as notorious outlaws. 

The James brothers, along with Cole Younger and his brothers, Bob and Jim, Clell Miller and others in the gang, continued a string of robberies from Iowa to Texas and from Kansas to West Virginia. They hammed it up in front of large crowds as they robbed banks and stagecoaches but they rarely robbed the bystanders. The gang turned to robbing trains in 1873 and only twice did Jesse rob passengers. His antics heralded Jesse James as a Robin Hood bandit.

With his gang depleted by arrests and deaths Jesse thought he had only two men left whom he could trust: brothers Bob and Charley Ford, but he didn’t know that Bob Ford had been conducting secret negotiations with the Missouri governor to bring him in.  By now, the railroads and express corporations offered a $10,000 reward for Jesse James.  In April 1882, as James prepared for another robbery, he climbed a chair to dust a picture and was shot in the back of the head by Bob Ford. 

It Is Rumored:

That Ford didn’t really kill Jesse James. It was someone else in that house living with his wife, in an elaborate plot to allow him to escape from justice.

That a man named J. Frank Dalton claimed to be the real Jesse James. He died in Granbury, Texas at the age of 103 in 1951.

The body of Jesse James was exhumed in 1995 and tests done had proven that they’d gotten the right man.

Brad Pitt as Jesse?

Brad fits the profile of a good-looking blonde Jesse around the same age. th-fcstil_0168bradlegends.jpg Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of Brad’s ever since Legends of the Fall, but I worry that the movie might make Jesse out to be a hero, instead of the heartless killer that he was.  Even back then, the dime novels and news accountings for the South, immortalized him in a positive light. When doing research about the movie I learned that originally it was to be a character study of Jesse James, but then the 180px-jesse_james_dime_novel.jpgdirectors decided to make it more an action picture. They claim it’s dark and I hope that’s the case.  Jesse James was not just a bandit, but a heartless killer and hardly the “Robin Hood” they depicted him to be – he never gave back to the poor. I know I’ll be in line to see the movie coming out this week with hopes that they portray him accurately.


1. High Noon – (1952) (Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges)
  2.The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – (1948) (Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston)
  3. Shane– (1953) (Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin)
  4. The Magnificent Seven – (1960) (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson)
  5. Virginia City – (1940) (Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Miriam Hopkins)
  6.Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – (1969) (Paul Newman, Robert Redford)
  7. The Wild Bunch– (1969) (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine)
  8. Stagecoach– (1939) (John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine)
  9.The Shootist – (1976) (John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, James Stewart)
10. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly– (1966) (Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach)
11. The Searchers – (1956) (John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter)
12.Rio Grande– (1950) (John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara)
13. A Man Called Horse – (1970 (Richard Harris, Judith Anderson)
14. The Outlaw Josey Wales – (1976) (Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke)
15. Little Big Man– (1970) (Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George)
16. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – (1962) (John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles)
17. Unforgiven– (1992) (Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman)
18. Once Upon a Time in the West – (1969 (Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson)
19. Dances with Wolves – (1990) (Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene)
20. High Plains Drifter – (1973) (Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom)

How many of these are on your all time favorite list?  Does the star make the western or does the western make the star?  And do you think these two new movies will compare to the classics?

Join Me in a “Pitt” Stop Tomorrow! New Westerns on the Horizon.


So why the picture of Brad?  Years ago, when my daughter was in junior high, it was rumored that Brad Pitt had been sighted in the neighborhood next to ours. He had a friend that lived just blocks away. We had fun driving around after school and making “Pitt” stops  in our quest to catch a glimpse of the  star of Legends of the Fall.  To this day, my daughter and I joke about those “Pitt” stops.  Did we ever see him? No, but I sure have fond memories of our silly antics.

Learn about Brad and Jesse James in the new movie and a Top 20 list of the greatest westerns ever made.

Calamity Jane

calamity2.jpgDo you love stories and films about real Western characters?  I do.  One of my favorites is Calamity Jane, whose outrageous lifestyle and genuine courage made her a frontier legend.

The record of Calamity Jane’s life is a mixture of fact and fiction.  Much of that fiction was invented by Calamity herself.We do know that her real name was Martha Jane Cannary, and that she was born in Missouri in 1852. In 1866 her family emigrated to Montana.  Her mother died on the trail, and her father passed away the following year.  Martha Jane became the head of the family and eventually struck out on her own.           

By the time she was 13, Martha Jane could cuss like a man and had learned to like whiskey.  She was a fearless rider and a dead shot.  In 1870 she became a scout in the campaign against the Indians.  At this time she began dressing in men’s clothes.  Sometimes she even passed as a man.  Her heart was warm and womanly.  But men’s clothes suited the rough work she did.  Her appearance also made it easier for her male associates to accept her as an equal.           

 Around the same time, she acquired her nickname.  Calamity claimed it was given to her by an officer she rescued from an Indian attack.  More likely it came from her way of drawing trouble wherever she went.  As one old-timer said, “If she sat on a fence rail, it would rare up and buck her off.”           

 Calamity remained with the army until the mid-1870’s.  Then she met James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock and rode with him and his friends to Deadwood, South Dakota.  In Deadwood she worked as a pony express rider carrying the U.S. mail through dangerous country.           

Legend has it that Calamity and Wild Bill were lovers.  She was almost certainly in love with Bill, but he was married to a girl back East and had no romantic interest in Calamity.  After Bill was shot dead during a poker game, Calamity chased down his killer.  The man got away but was eventually recaptured and hanged.Calamity remained in Deadwood for a time.  During the winter of 1878 she helped nurse residents through a smallpox epidemic.  After that she returned to the army for a time, drove freight wagons, tried ranching, and finally drifted to Texas.           

In 1885, at the age of 33, Calamity married Clinton Burke and later gave birth to a daughter.  No one knows for sure what became of the child.            

By now Calamity Jane was a legend.  Friends persuaded her to cash in on her fame.  She toured and made many public appearances, some of them with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  But hard living had taken its toll.  She returned to South Dakota where she died in 1903, at the age of 51.  At her own request, she was buried next to Wild Bill, “the only man I ever loved.”           

I’ve always wished someone would make a good, historically accurate movie about the life of this amazing woman (the Doris Day musical, delightful as it was, doesn’t count).  How about you?  What actress would you cast as Calamity?  Who are some of your favorite real-life Western characters?  Don’t forget to sign up for our contest!  We have some great prizes.               

A True Texas Medicine Woman

Hi! Lorraine couldn’t be here today so I’m filling in. I hope you’re not too disappointed, but she’ll be back on October 10th. Meantime, I hope you find this as interesting as I did.

gun-and-holster.jpgAt a time when strapping on a gun was as commonplace and as necessary as breathing, you can imagine that the odds of getting shot were fairly high. Treatments for gunshot were basic—dig the lead out if you could and if you couldn’t you were likely a goner. Not a good scenario when doctors were hard to come by.

When we’re crafting our western romances, we usually have to do a lot of research about various things and sometimes we run across truly amazing stories. Here’s one I stumbled upon when I was researching gunshot wounds and treatment. I thought you might like to know about one of the most unique women who lived in Texas.

sophie-herzog.jpgDr. Sofie Herzog who came from back East to Brazoria, Texas in the late 1800’s was quite colorful. The lady doctor’s arrival in the small coastal community of Brazoria created quite a stir. She was attractive, energetic and a highly skilled physician. Though not Texas’ first woman doctor, in 1895 she was definitely a pioneer in a male-dominated field of the Victorian era. Not only was Dr. Sofie out of place in her chosen profession, but her appearance shocked a good many. She wore her hair cropped short, rode a horse astride instead of sidesaddle, and shaded her face with a man’s hat. Needless to say, she set tongues wagging. But the doctor had obvious medical skill and little competition, so when someone needed assistance, they weren’t too picky about the gender. Soon folks were calling her simply Doctor Sofie. 

She became particularly adept at removing bullets from gunshot victims. One of her techniques was elevating a gunshot patient so that gravity would aid in getting the lead out. Only twice in her career was she unsuccessful in recovering a bullet. When she had accumulated 24 extracted pieces of lead from gunfighters, she had a jeweler fashion a necklace with a gold bead threaded between each slug. She wore it constantly as a good luck charm the rest of her life.


Word of her medical skills and pleasing bedside manner soon spread. Dr. Sofie made calls in her buggy or traveled astride a horse. Often, she rode on handcars or trains to get to someone along the rail line in need of a doctor. In 1906, the railroad formalized its relationship with Dr. Sofie, appointing her chief surgeon of the S.L.B. & M Railroad. But, when headquarters learned that a female doctor had been hired, Dr. Sofie received a polite letter asking her to relinquish her position. She stubbornly refused and remained on the line’s payroll the rest of her life.  

In addition to her medical practice, Dr. Sofie operated her own pharmacy, built and operated a hotel, and became wealthy by investing in real estate. She was very enterprising.

In 1913, the 65-year-old doctor married Marion Huntington—a 70-year-old widower—and moved to his plantation seven miles outside Brazoria. Having reached an age when many would have retired, Dr. Sofie continued her practice, commuting each day from the plantation to town in a new Ford—the first automobile in the county.Fourteen years later, Dr. Sofie died of a stroke at a Houston hospital on July 21, 1925. At her request, they buried her with her lucky bullet necklace, evidence of her surgical skills and charming eccentricity. 

Here are a few prices for medical procedures and assistance in the 1800’s: 

A visit within one mile    $1.00

Each succeeding mile — .50

Simple case of midwifery — $5.00

For bleeding — .50

Bullet Wounds — Between $1.00 to 10.00

For setting fracture — $5.00 to 10.00

Amputating Arm — $10.00

Amputating Leg — $20.00

For advice and prescription in office — $1.00

For difficult cases, fee based in proportion to difficulty.

But as was often the case, the doctor accepted goods in lieu of money. I haven’t heard of one doctor who refused to treat someone because they couldn’t pay.

Have you read about or know an interesting person with an unusual story?                                       Or maybe you’d like to comment on the cheaper cost of medical treatment in relation to today’s prices?

Also. . .If you haven’t registered yet for the Big Fall Bonanza Contest, better get your name in the hat. The contest ends on November 30th.

What wonderful posts we had today

horseheader11.jpgThank you to all you bloggers who responded with such delightful viewpoints about so many different things today.  I would like to especially thank Mary Connealy, Debbie, Paty, Tanya Hanson, Jeanne Sheats, Devon Mathews, Ava Wrightsman, Cheryl, Connie Lorenz and fellow Western Romance Authors, Charlene Sands, Pam Crooks and Linda Broday.

There were so many different things said that made me think and I would like to end with this taken from my last comment, which concerns the Western in general:

As far as the Western is concerned, I believe that as long as there is a spark of freedom still alive and well in the human spirit, there will always be a place for the Western novel.  It was here in the West where the freedom to be just who you are really took form.  It is personified in legend and a part of our heritage.  May there always be a bit of the Western spirit in all our hearts.

Have a wonderful rest of the evening and be sure to tune in tomorrow when your hostess will be Lorraine!

Those incredibly hunky Native American men

horseheader11.jpgGood morning bloggers!

 Okay, did the title wake you up yet?  If not, stay tuned.  We’re going to have a look at some of those hunky men on the covers of our books.  As you might know already — or at least suspect — all of my books are about the historical American Indian.  And some of the men on those covers are incredibly good-looking.  And since I don’t have access to others’ covers, if you will bear with me, we will examine some of my own.

whiteeagle11.jpgThis is a past book — or as we like to say — an older title.  Orginally part of the Blackfoot Warrior series, this cover quickly became one of my favorites.  The model is Joseph Anselmo — and isn’t he delicious?

Then we have another cover — again with Joseph Anselmo and again part of the Blackfoot Warrior series — an older title.  The interesting thing about this particular cover is that when it first came out, I was touring in Montana and was on the Blackfeet reservation for their Indian Days Pow-wow.  There is a fellow on the reservation who looks exactly like Joseph here — and I was fortunate enough to meet him.  

This was again one of my favorite covers.                                                     nightthundersm1.jpg

Then we have a couple of very older titles — these are covers of my first books — LAKOTA SURRENDER was #1 and LAKOTA PRINCESS was #2.lpcover11.jpglscover11.jpg

The model for LAKOTA SURRENDER was John D’Salvo and the lady is Cindy

And then we have the most recent favorite cover — however, I don’t know the name of the model for this cover.  If anyone knows who this model is, please let me know. 

red_hawk_s_woman1.jpgAbsolutely handsome.  Of course I have other favorites, too.  Here’s one of my most prized, most favorite hunks of all time.3-paul-31.jpg

Well, it’s my favorite, although the man is not Native American.  Instead, it’s my husband, Paul.

At the time period when I write, the men were not only handsome — George Catlin describes them in 1834 as rivaling a Greek statue in physique — but there were other romantic values in place, as well.   Integrity, honor, honesty, undying devotion to family and to the tribe were uppermost.  A Jesuit monk once described the Hurons as a tribe of saints.  While I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that, I will agree that at this time in history, there were values of life and liberty that at times seem to be lost in our world nowadays.  And so I write about this time period in history with the hope of not only entertaining the reader, but bringing back to mind as vividly as possible a time when honor was respected above all else; when money meant nothing and when the land and the creatures upon it were free as the wind.

What’s your favorite cover?  Your favorite model?  Your favorite title?  I’d love to hear about them, and even more so, why they are your favorites.  So come on in and let’s talk.


And Linda’s winners are . . . !

Okay, here we go. I have names in a paper cup. Since so many took the time to post I’ve decided to give away 3 copies of Once A Cowboy. I wish I could give everyone a copy

 . . . drawing names . . . 

The first name is Brenda Mazur!

The next is Bluecat!

And the last is Hope Chastain.

If they will send an address to, I’ll put the book in the mail.

And I want to thank all the great western authors at Petticoats and Pistols for inviting me. It was a blast!

Linda Warren