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Prices and Wages by Decade: 1850-1859

Links to U. S. government documents listing retail prices for typical consumer purchases, and wages for common occupations. All data is for the United States unless specifically indicated.

Wages, 1850-1859

Wages in foreign countries, 1850-1859

Wages, 1850s - Analysis

Prices, 1850-1859

PRICES for FOOD, 1850s

PRICES for CLOTHING, SHOES and SEWING SUPPLIES, 1850s

  • Men's heavy boots, priced by the pair in dozens of U.S. towns and cities.  This table spans two pages; see the town names on the first page and the 1850s prices on the second page.
  • Boots, shoes and leather prices in Massachusetts.  Detailed prices for style and type of shoe, boot, sandal, slipper, rubber overshoe, etc. 
  • Ready made clothing prices in Massachusetts: prices for hats, handkerchiefs and stockings, gloves, breeches, pantaloons, hose and coats, shawls and vests, mittens and waistcoats.
  • Fabric prices in dozens of U.S. towns and cities, including prices for shirtings, cotton flannel, ticking, prints, and more.
  • Cloth and dress goods in Massachusetts: prices for alpaca wool and calico by the yard, as well as batiste, cambric, cashmere, crape, gingham, gauze, lawn, muslin, linsey woolsey, plaid, poplin, satin, silk, velvet and many other fabric types.  More fabrics are listed under the Dry goods heading which also shows prices for blankets, cotton flannel, damask and denim, diaper cloth, shirtings, ticking, and more.  Also find prices for buttons and dress trimmings, ribbons and laces and small wares such as yarn, needles, pins, embroidery silk, cotton and linen thread. 

PRICES for HOUSEHOLD ITEMS, 1850s

  • Historical retail prices in Massachusetts: furniture, carpetings, cutlery (table knives and forks and pocket knives); paper: letter paper, priced by the sheet, tallow, candles, soap, etc.oils for illumination, to light lamps and lanterns; fuel: charcoal, oak wood, pine wood, coal, etc.; tobacco and snuff: prices for cigars by the dozen, and tobacco and snuff by the pound or (sometimes) ounce.  Miscellaneous household items: prices for brooms, brass kettles, brick, matches, tubs, tumblers, clocks, candlesticks, silver watches, feathers, wine glasses and more. 
  • Price of soap and starch in dozens of U. S. cities. Scroll forward in the source to see tables for each city.

TRANSPORTATION PRICES, 1850s

PRICES for HARDWARE and BUILDING MATERIALS, 1850s

  • Retail prices in Massachusetts for tools and implements: hoes, shovels, spades, files, etc. priced by the dozen or when sold individually.  Lumber prices for boards, plank, shingles, timber, clapboards, etc. by the foot. Tacks, brads and nails priced by the pound.  

MISCELLANEOUS PRICES, 1850s

COST of ATTENDING COLLEGE, 1850s

Until we locate a government source listing college cost averages, we will list expenses for individual colleges as we find them.  These are publications direct from the colleges; they are not government documents.

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Prices in Foreign Countries, 1850-1859

Prices in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES, 1850s

Click the tabs above for single countries.

Prices in BELGIUM, 1850s

Prices in CANADA, 1850s

Prices in GREAT BRITAIN, 1850s

Prices in HAWAII, 1850s

Prices in ITALY, 1850s

Prices in MOROCCO, 1850s

Prices in SPAIN, 1850s

Prices in TURKEY, 1850s

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Marie Concannon, Government Information Librarian
Government Documents Department
106B Ellis Library (1st Floor East)
University of Missouri, Columbia
Phone (573) 882-0748