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Prices and Wages by Decade: Introduction

Links to government documents and primary sources listing retail prices for products and services, as well as wages for common occupations.

Prices and Wages by Decade

This guide points to 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 such as houses, cars, and college education.  Whenever possible, we point to retail price averages as reported in government publications.  When those are not available, we point to prices appearing in other primary sources such as commercial trade catalogs, travel guides and newspapers.  Because costs can only be understood within their historical context, we also point to primary sources showing average wages, salaries and earnings.

This site is based on freely available historic resources, most of which come from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRASER®  digital library and the HathiTrust Digital Library.  The Prices and Wages by Decade website is managed by Marie Concannon of the University of Missouri Library's Government Information Department.  

To understand how much a historic price or wage might be worth in today's dollars, we recommend the website


Thanks to MU Library employees Lindsay Yungbluth, 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.

Head, Government Information

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Marie Concannon
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