American Costs: ...The cost of living in America has gone up about fifteen fold since the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Of course, not all prices have risen at the same rate.
Inflation is amazingly variable from decade to decade, from product to product, and service to service. 24/7 Wall St. set out to illustrate this by looking at the costs of a number of items which were, and in some cases still are, a part of everyday life in America.
Read on for a look at how American costs have changed through the years.
1776One ton of iron cost $63.73 (Philadelphia, 1775) -Twenty gallons of orange peel cordial cost 3 pounds (Richmond County, VA, 1776) -One checkerboard with pieces cost 2 shillings, 6 pence (Richmond County, VA, 1776) -One double-barreled gun cost 3 pounds (Richmond County, VA, 1776) -One pound of coffee cost 0.13 silver dollars (Boston, 1775) -$1 in 1775 = $29 today
At the time of the American Revolution, the United States was still primarily using the British pound as its currency. As the war dragged on, the colonies began printing a vast amount of paper money (about $450 million) to cover costs, causing extreme inflation. This, combined with shortages resulting from British blockades, made the prices of many goods rise significantly.
1800-One dictionary cost $0.50 (1797) -One 12-volume encyclopedia cost $20 (1820) -One chest of drawers cost $2 (1802) -One cow cost $10 (Charles County, MD, 1804) -Total cost to build the President’s house for South Carolina College was $8,000 (1806) -One Pound of Coffee Cost $0.25 -$1 in 1800 = $17.60 today
In the early nineteenth century, the United States still has a immature economy. The country’s money supply did not exceed $30 million, which was less than $6.00 per citizen and only $20 million more than the combined amount held between all of the colonies twenty-five years earlier. The price of many goods increased due to the country’s poor infrastructure. It cost $9.00 to ship a ton of goods 3,000 miles from Europe to America. To move the same amount of goods 30 miles from America’s coast inland, it cost the same amount.
1825-Ten pounds of sugar cost $0.20 (1822) -One acre in a tract of land of over 400 acres cost $2.00(Sumter, SC, 1823) -One bushel (35.2 liters) of potatoes cost $0.12 (1829) -One set of blue china cost $8.00 (1828) -One cow cost $12.00 (1829) -One Pound of Coffee Cost $0.17 -One dollar in 1825 = $22.40 today
The US economy of 1825 was marked by innovation and expansion. The development of canal systems and railroads opened access to the country’s interior and, as a result, mass-produced goods became available to many who lived away from the industrial cities and domestic trade increased. In addition to this, about 100,000 Europeans were immigrating to the United States each year around this time, many of whom were skilled artisans, thereby stimulating the economy greatly. (iStock Photo)
1850-One bottle of port cost $0.11 (Greenville County, SC, 1847) -One piano cost $195 in 1847 -A routine doctor’s visit cost $2 (Florida, 1852) -A new home in Brooklyn, NY cost $2,500 (1853) -One pound of coffee cost $0.80 -$1 in 1850 = $28.30 today
By 1850, the United States’ economy was doing extremely well thanks to the success of agriculture in the South and manufacturing and commerce in the the North’s. The nation’s population grew about five times its own size from the beginning of the century and, furthermore, labor productivity increased dramatically. Between 1840 and 1860, the country more than doubled its agricultural output. Its mining and manufacturing industries approximately tripled their worth over this time period.
1875-A necktie “designed to supersede all other methods for fastening the bow to a turndown collar” cost $0.10 -A dozen pairs of Levi Strauss blue jeans cost $13.50 (1874) -One pair of shoes cost $0.98 (1875) -One suit cost $10.00 (1875) -One opera ticket for “The Marriage of Figaro” cost $1 (San Fransisco, 1875) -One pound of Coffee cost $0.25 -$1 in 1875 = $20.20 today
Following the Civil War, there was an unprecedented boom in US production compared with. This growth, however, was stalled by the Panic of 1873, a major economic recession. Apart from this downturn, the country underwent rapid expansion as the population over doubled from 1860 to 1890, from 31.5 million to 76 million. Most professions required a 60 hour work week, which paid anywhere between $1.60 per day (a fireman in Massachusetts) to $4.64 per day (a glassblower in New Jersey.)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
1900-”Tooth soap” cost $0.25 (1896) -Board at Clemson College for 40 weeks cost $59 (1896) -A home on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn, NY cost $7,000 to $12,000 (1901) -One Oldsmobile cost $650 (1904) -One pound of coffee cost $0.15 -$1 in 1900 = $26.40 today
The beginning of the 20th century is known as the Progressive Era. The lower classes got fed up with the abuses of the trusts and the railroad companies and pushed for legislation against corruption and poor working conditions. During this period, the United States continued to see a growth in industry, and the number of non-farming jobs increased from 800,000 million to 2.2 million from 1900 to 1920. Similarly, disposable income rose from $20 billion to $71.5 billion. Kodak released its famous “brownie” camera in 1900. It cost $1.
1925-Total annual cost of Cornell University, including living expenses was $1,400 (1927) -A Harley-Davidson motorcycle cost $235 (1927) -A camera cost $80 (1928) -A Chrysler Imperial Sedan cost $2,995 (1928) -One pound of coffee cost $0.47 -$1 in 1925 = $12.20 today In 1925, America found itself in the midst of the “Roaring Twenties,” which saw a heavy emphasis on rampant business growth and consumerism. In 1925, more than 40 million Americans went to the movies each week, there were 20 million cars on the road, and owning a radio was, for most Americans, as important as owning a television is today. In this year, Chesterfield Cigarettes began marketing to women, and Hormel introduced its first processed meat in a can, which would later be called “Spam.”
(AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz)
1950-Monopoly the game cost $4 (1950) -One bottle of aspirin cost $0.54 -A Chevy Corvette cost about $3,000 -A one-way flight from New York to California cost $88 -One pound of coffee cost $0.79 -$1 in 1950 = $8.91 today In the 1950’s the American industrial economy was changing after World War II. With millions of American soldiers now back from the war and settling down with the aid of the G.I. bill, as well as the new 40-hour work week resulting from the New Deal, the economy saw the American middle class heavily bolstered, and a mass migration to the suburbs. In 1950, there was one car for every 3.7 Americans and 5 million homes had television sets, with only 45 million still containing radios. In this year, Coke owned 69% of the cola market.
(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
1975-An Apple II computer cost $1300 (1977) -A six-pack of beer cost $1.49 (1978) -A microwave cost $168 (1978) -One movie ticket cost $1 (Chicago, 1978) -One pound of coffee cost $1.40 -$1 in 1975 = $3.98 today
In in the mid-1970’s, the United States was experiencing one of its worst economic crises since the Great Depression. Oil prices skyrocketed and, in 1978, the price of regular gasoline went above $1.00 per gallon for the first time. In 1975, 120,000 Americans declared bankruptcy and unemployment hit 9.2 percent. That same year, McDonald’s opened its first drive-thru restaurant.
2000-A 12 pack of Bud Light bottles cost $8.99 (2003) -A Samsung 42” television cost $999 (2004) -One movie ticket in Chicago cost $7.50 (2004) -One year’s tuition at St. John’s College cost $30,570 (2004) -One pound of coffee cost $3.54 (2000) -$1 in 2000 = $1.25 today
When the United States entered the 21st century, the economy was booming thanks to a “dot-com bubble.” Unfortunately, conditions took a turn for the worst as the tech bubble burst in 2001. The period is marked by many other characteristics however, such as the fact that 60% of American households owned a personal computer. 2000 also saw the beginning of the modern “green” movement, and Honda released its first hybrid vehicle.