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Prices and Wages by Decade: Introduction

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.

Prices and Wages by Decade

This guide will help you find full text primary sources showing retail prices for common items or "necessities of life."  Prices for foods, clothing, household items, fuels for heat and transportation, and fees for services fall within the domain of this guide.  We also link to documents showing the average costs of major purchases -- for example, a house, a car, or a college education.  Whenever possible, we point to retail price averages as reported in government publications.  When those are not available, we may point to non-averaged retail prices appearing in other primary sources, such as commercial trade catalogs, travel guides or newspapers.

Because costs can only be understood within their historical context, we also point to government reports showing average wages, salaries and earnings throughout history.

Thanks to University of Missouri Library Government Documents Department student assistants, Catherine Hutinett, David Steinmeyer, Amanda Krewson, Kamilah Jones, Scott Peterson, Carrie Carter, and Guinevere Lawson, as well as to Pamela Campbell of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' FRASER digital library, all of whom provided assistance in the enhancement of this resource.

Govt Documents Coordinator

Marie Concannon's picture
Marie Concannon
106-B Ellis Library

Office phone: (573) 882-0748