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Prices and Wages by Decade: Up through 1779

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

Colonial currencies

NOTE: To better understand money values before the U.S. adopted the dollar as its official currency in 1792, see the 3-page section "Colonial Currency" in History of Wages in the United States from Colonial Times to 1928 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wages by colony up to 1779

WAGES in MASSACHUSETTS

1600s

  • Wages in Massachusetts, 1670s
    • Source: U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 473-474.
    • Source: Historical statistics of the U.S.: colonial times to 1970, p. 1196.
  • Wages by occupation - Massachusetts, 1633 
    Source: Historical statistics of the U.S: colonial times to 1970, p.1196.  Further detail on wages in Winthrop's Journal (source).
  • Potential annual income for unskilled laborer in Massachusetts, 1643
    Winthrop's Journal cites a servant who was able to save £25 in one year's time.
    Farm labor in Massachusetts, 1672
  • Wages for cutting, mowing, reaping, etc. by the acre. Source: USDA Wages of Farm Labor, published 1892, Bulletin #99, p. 8.

WAGES in the CAROLINAS

WAGES in CONNECTICUT

WAGES in MARYLAND

WAGES in NEW HAMPSHIRE

Recommended reading: explanation of early money in the Introduction to the book History of old Chester from 1719 to 1869 by Benjamin Chase.

WAGES in PENNSYLVANIA

  • Prisoner of war wages and compensation, 1770s
    Tells wages paid to prisoners of the Continental Army (usually Hessians). There was at the time high demand for skilled weavers, tailors, shoemakers, stocking-makers, millers, bakers, butchers, carpenters, joiners, smiths, and plasterers. Source: History of Prisoner of War Utilization by the United States Army, 1776-1945, p. 16.

WAGES in RHODE ISLAND

WAGES in VIRGINIA

Wages by occupation in the American colonies, up to 1779

  • Building-trades wages 
    • 1600s (17th century) in Monthly labor review, Jan 1930, pp. 5-7
    • 1700s (18th century) in Monthly labor review, Jan 1930, pp. 7-11.
  • School master salaries
    • 1625 -- New Amsterdam, 360 florins per year
    • 1642 -- New Haven Connecticut, £20 per year
    • 1643 -- Roxbury Massachusetts, £20 per year
    • 1732 -- New York City, £40 per term

Wages in England up through 1779

Prices by colony up through 1779

PRICES for HOUSING and LAND, up through 1779

PRICE of BUILDING MATERIALS

See food prices by colony below.

Prices of items for FARM and HOME, up through 1779

PRICES for OCEAN PASSAGE, up through 1779

PRICES for OVERLAND TRAVEL, up through 1779

PRICES for CLOTHING and SHOES, up through 1779

PRICES for HEALTH CARE, up through 1779

PRICES for TOBACCO, up through 1779

Food prices in the American colonies up to 1779

  • Food prices in Connecticut, 1770s
    A farm family's account book shows a wide variety of items that were purchased, along with prices. Source: "Farm prices in two centuries," Report of the Statistician, USDA, p. 337.
  • Food prices in Philadelphia, 1779
    In 1779, Philadelphia set price ceilings on certain foods, wine, rum, tea, spices and other goods such as candles and soap. Similar information is repeated in an alternate source.
  • Food expenses reported at Valley Forge PA, 1777-1778
    Shows prices paid at George Washington's headquarters for beer, cider, rum, tea, geese, turkeys, fowls, rabbits, pigeons, chickens, duck, ham, lamb, roasting pigs, venison, fish, eggs, apples, butter, strawberries, potatoes, sugar, sprouts, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, and more. Source: Washington's headquarters, Valley Forge National Historical Park, 1989. Appendix VIII (pp. 223-242) shows full expense accounts.
  • Bread price in New York, 1770s
    The price of bread was capped from 1777-1783 in response to inflation. Source: Colonial records of the New York Chamber of Commerce, pp. 349-350.

Foreign prices by country - 1700s

ENGLAND

CANADA

FRANCE

Price and wage analysis, 1700s

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Marie Concannon, Government Information Librarian
Government Documents Department, Ellis Library
University of Missouri, Columbia
Email: concannonm@missouri.edu
Phone (573) 882-0748