Wednesday, July 9, 2014

18th Century Buying Power...wages and prices of the 1700s

The Shop, 1772 by Luis Paret y Alcázar 
So you wake up and you’ve been transported to the early 1700s where someone hands you a shopping list. How much money will you need? We know, of course, costs are relative to one another and to the amount of earnings of the average person at any given time. Who earned more: a teacher or a farm laborer? Which cost more: a wig or shop rental for a year? (Hint-- they didn't call them Big Wigs for nothing.)The answers may surprise you! They certainly did me. Below is a chart of costs and wages I have adapted from Colin Woodard’s book, The Republic of Pirates. Mr. Woodard lists the amounts in British pounds of the early eighteenth century but I have transferred them into US dollars (based on the current exchange rate of 1 pound sterling equaling 1.72 dollars, rounding up or down to next dollar) and where he lists a range of prices or wages, I have given the average. Sadly, there is also listed the price for human life.
The Housemaid, 1782, by Thomas Gainsborough

Housemaid, London:                   $9.00
Sailor, Navy:                               $22.00
Teacher, England:                      $28.00
Farm Laborer, England:             $31.00
Able Sailor, Merchant Marine:  $57.00
Shopkeeper, England:               $77.00
Surgeon, England:                     $89.00
Captain, Merchant Marine:      $112.00
Attorney, England:                    $194.00
Governor, North Carolina:       $516.00
Country Squire, England:        $516.00
Governor, New York:             $2,064.00
Gentleman, England:             $5,160.00
Duke of Newcastle:              $43,000.00

Daniel Defoe’s Book Advance for
Robinson Crusoe:                        $86.00
Annual Profit, 100-acre
Sugar Plantation, Jamaica:       $929.00
Annual Profit, 500-acre
Sugar Plantation, Barbados:$12,900.00 

12-pound Whole Cod Fish, Boston:$.02  
Duke of Newcastle, 1735 by Charles Jervis
1 pound, Fresh Beef, Boston:           $.07
1 barrel, Cider:                                    $.26
1 gallon, Rum:                                    $.34

Sailor’s Canvas Trousers:               $.10
Sailor’s Waist Coat:                          $.78
Gentleman’s Wig:                         $40.00

One Pot, Alleged Cure for
Venereal Disease, London:             $.26
Doctor, Annual Retainer for
a Family, Boston:                             $9.00

Letter Postage (England to Boston:)$.09
Book: General History of Pyrates:    $.34
Coach Ride, from edge to center of
London:                                                $.09
Budget Transportation, England to
America:                                            $10.00
Rent of Attic Room, Oxford:              $5.00/year
Rent of Shop, Boston:                      $34.00/year
Rent of Gentleman’s  
Townhouse, Charleston:                 $79.00/year
Fishmonger's Stall, 1737, by Balthazar Nebot

Indentured Servant (adult European,)
Virginia:                                                $21.00
Slave (adult African,) Americas:       $55.00
Total Value, 100 acre 
Sugar Plantation, Jamaica:          $9,675.00              
Sloop, 10-ton trader:                            $52.00
Frigate, 350 ton, 36 gun,
fully-fitted:                                      $14,104.00   

1oz Spanish Silver:                                  $.77
1oz Gold, London:                                  $7.40

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


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