Another of the old family journals… this one for the year 1899… seems to be mostly an accounting of what the weather was like on a given day, when animals on the farm were born or sold, crop information, and prices for various items… including many references to the subscription-only Sears, Roebuck multi-page grocery list. Apparently a yearly subscription to this list cost 13¢ and six updated lists were sent out to subscribers every year.
I would guess that the family mostly used the Sears grocery lists to set prices for the cheese, maple syrup, honey, and other items they made and sold themselves, although there are several closely written pages at the end of this journal tracking items they had purchased and any increases or decreases in the prices they had paid. For many of the items, prices have been crossed out and rewritten so many times, the final entries are often hard to read. It appears that there was quite a bit of variation in prices from list to list.
Some of Sears’ 1899 prices…
A twenty-pound box of crackers — 97¢
Ten pounds of cheese — $1.61
A fifty-gallon barrel of maple syrup — 89¢ per gallon
Half barrels (thirty gallons) of fancy molasses for cooking or baking — 39¢ per gallon
Pure strained clover honey — $1.35 per gallon
Extracted honey — 21¢ per pound
A hundred-pound box of shelled Spanish peanuts (unroasted) — 7¢ per pound
A fifty-pound box of shelled unsalted peanuts (roasted) — 9¢ per pound
A fifty-pound box of almonds — 16¢ per pound
A fifty-pound box of walnuts (in the shell) — 13¢ per pound
A fifty-pound box of mixed nuts — 14¢ per pound
Ten pounds of “our own roasted coffee” — $2.08 for the coffee plus a decorated enameled canister
Ten pounds of “specially selected high-grade tea” — $3.70 for the tea plus a decorated enameled canister
A twelve-pound box of premium chocolate — 20¢ per pound
Laundry soap — $2.95 for a box of one hundred bars (with a notation next to this price, “around town 4 to 6¢ per bar”)
Don’t you wish?
Fascinating! I love seeing how much things cost in years past. Sometimes, in todays dollars they’re quite expensive. I’d sure like to get coffee at those prices!
Awesome! Can I place an order please? I have been buying nuts for the candy and cookies I make for gifts and the prices this year are incredible. Sure would like to be able to buy them in 50-lb lots. I really enjoy your articles on the past. Love the rest of the blog too of course. Just wanted to tell you. Thanks.
Please keep sharing the information you find in these journals. I find these articles so very interesting.
Interesting to see the inflation!
That ten pounds of coffee w/ tin would be about $50 today. I wonder how much was the yearly makings?
I love the old journals, and have to chuckle at the prices, but there was a lot less money in hand as well. I believe that the going rate for farm labor at that time was still about $1 a day and board. Could have been less. In one town in NH, where sheep raising was big farm business, the license fee on a sheep dog in the late 1800’s was 6 dollars. Compare that to this price list. No wonder we’ve always yelled about taxes.
It’s amazing to see those prices. I was even more shocked when I found out that it wasn’t that these things have become more valuable over time but that the value of our inflated federal reserve notes have so significantly declined in value. If you think about it, when a one-ounce gold coin was worth $20, it could buy a man a decent suit, a pair of shoes, and a belt. A one-ounce gold coin today would still buy a man a decent suit, a pair of shoes, and a belt…only the one-ounce gold coin is today worth about $1,600.