Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prices for food and travel from 150 years ago

The February 22nd 1862 edition of the British Colonist had some information on prices of basic staples.   Here is the list and what I often buy the same goods for now.

  • Flour $9/bushel which is about $0.15/lb - 2012 it goes for about $0.90/lb
  • Bacon $0.16/lb for eastern bacon, $0.18/lb for Oregon bacon - neither variety is plentiful - 2012 it is about $4.50/lb
  • Sugar $0.105/lb for Chinese sugar, $0.125/lb for Sandwich Island sugar, $0.18/lb if you want it ground - 2012 $1.00
  • Coffee $0.27/lb for Rio coffee beans and $0.40/lb for it ground - 2012 $8.00/lb for regular and $16.00/lb for premium
  • Onions $0.05/lb - 2012 $0.25/lb
  • Potatoes $0.02/lb - 2012 $0.30/lb
  • Beans $0.08/lb - I do not know what type and I am not certain of the 2012 price

Some things are much more expensive, some of them I am surprised to see how little they have increased.
  • Onions x5
  • Sugar x5.6
  • Flour x6
  • Bacon x15
  • Potatoes x15
  • Coffee x30  for the non-premium
The Colonist notes there were recent floods in California and Oregon destroyed a lot of grain and stock.  I suspect February was not a great time for prices and the Victoria area had a boom population to deal with and not enough land under cultivation on the island yet.

$1000 a year would have been a very good upper middle class wage in 1862.   $30,000 a year in 2012 is poverty level.   It shows how much the portion of our expenses food is has dropped in 150 years.  though 150 years ago there were almost no taxes, no electronics, and no consumer items as such.

That said, the wages of a general labourer was about $900 per year on Vancouver Island.  A carpenter could earn up to $1250 a year.

It cost you $50 to travel from Victoria to San Francisco via ship, $25 in steerage.   A return trip with a cabin for a carpenter would have cost him 20 days of work.   In 2012 a round trip flight to San Francisco is about $600 or a day and a half work for a carpenter.   To get to New York from San Francisco via ship was $239 for a first class cabin and $189 for a second class cabin.

To get the Cariboo it cost $50 via the most economical way but the recommendation was to have an extra $100 for expenses.  
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