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Prices and Wages by Decade: 1880-1889

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

Wages in the United States, 1880-1889

Wages by race, 1880-1889

Wages by occupation, 1880-1889

A

  • Attorneys - Salaries, 1884
    Shows salaries of federal district attorneys.  Source: Register of the Department of Justice and the judicial officers of the U.S., 1885 ed.
  • Attorney's fees in Dakota Territory, 1881
    The law stipulated how much an attorney might charge for winning a case.  Source, p. 17

B

  • Bakers - Wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin #499, p. 148.
  • Blacksmiths and helpers - Average wages
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 670.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 277-279.
  • Boiler makers and helpers - Average wages
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 671.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 285.
  • Bookbinders - Average wages in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 337.
  • Brick layers - Average wages
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 672.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin #499, p. 155.

C

  • Cabinet makers
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 672.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin #499, pp. 456-457.
  • Carpenters - Average wages
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 673.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin #499, p. 162-163.
  • Cigar makers - Average wages in U.S. BLS Bulletin #499, pp. 422-423.
  • Compositors (printing industry)
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 673.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin #499, pp. 349-351.
  • Congressional salaries
    Historical chart shows that congressmen's salary was $5,000 per year in the 1880s. Source: Congressional Research Service.
  • Convict labor, 1886
    Compares convict wages to that of free labor available near prisons, by state and by sex.  Source:  U.S. Commissioner of Labor, 2nd annual report.
  • Cooks earned $25 - $50/month in Wyoming, 1888.
  • Coopers - Average wages in U.S. BLS Bulletin #499, pp. 460-461.
  • Cowboys' pay, 1880s mostly in Wyoming. Source: Cowboys of the Americas (1990)
  • Cowboys earned $25-$35/month in Wyoming, 1888. Source: U.S. Treasury Dept.

D

  • Dressmakers - Daily wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 219-220.

E

Farm labor wages, 1880s

  • Farm labor - Average hours per week and wages per day by state.
    Source: U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 226.
  • Farm wages by state - 1880
    This table is shown in a section of the book for wages on farms, and includes breakouts for blacksmiths, carpenters, machine makers, wheelwrights and shoemakers. Also breaks out wages for transient and non-transient workers, during harvest or not.
  • Farm wages by state - 1881
    Same breakouts as above but also includes wage data for Indian Territory.
  • Farm labor wages by state - 1866-1892
    Reported with and without board. Data for years: 1866, 1869, 1875, 1879, 1882, 1885, 1888, 1890, 1892. This book also contains an explanation of labor and wage conditions in the South following the Civil War.
  • Farm labor - Average wages by state, 1866-1909
    Tables 11-13 on pages 29-31 show average wages with and without board. Table 17 shows average wages per day without board, and Table 18 shows the daily wages with board.
    Section titled "Extras Received by Laborers" explains the prevalence and value of non-monetary benefits paid to farm laborers, such as the use of a house or dwelling and garden plot, firewood for heat, stable and pasture for the worker's horse or cow, laundry service, occasional use of a buggy or a team for hauling, and one meal per day, pp. 49-52. Starting on page 53, there is discussion of the purchasing power of farm wages over the years.
  • Farm labor wages in Missouri, 1866-1930
    Shows average farm labor wage in Missouri with and without board, during harvest time or at other times. Source: Missouri State Dept of Agriculture.
  • Farm laborer monthly earnings, 1818-1948
    Lists average monthly earnings with board, by geographic divisions. Data for years: 1818, 1826, 1830, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, 1909, 1919, 1929, 1940, 1948. Read the explanation and historical context for this table.
  • Farm labor wages - 1866-1922
    In one simple table, this source shows the national average for daily and monthly wages of hired farm labor, with board or without, at harvest or at other times. Data available for years 1866, 1869, 1875, 1879, 1882, 1885, 1888, 1890, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1898, 1899, 1902, and each year from 1910-1922.
  • Farm wages in Vermont, 1780-1937
    Table 26 shows daily and monthly wages with board for each year from 1780-1937. Source: Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station.

I

  • Iron molders and helpers
    Average wages in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 676.
  • Iron industry job wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 238-252.

J

  • Joiners
    Average wages in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 677.
  • Judicial salaries (federal), 1884
    Lists salaries of federal circuit judges, district judges, supreme court justices, district attorneys, U.S. marshals, court clerks, and more. Source: Register of the Department of Justice and the judicial officers of the U.S., 1885 ed.

L

  • Laborers, average wages...
    • Labor (unspecified) wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 256-258.
    • Unskilled labor wages - Shows average daily wage earnings for yard hands, watchmen, teamsters, quarrymen, coal-heavers, helpers, unskilled factory operatives, without any geographic breakouts. in Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 13, p. 365.
    • Street labor wages in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 677.
    • Other labor wages in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 678.
  • Lasters - Wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 268.
  • Longshoremen - Average wages by state in  U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 446.
  • Nursing students - Column 13 of table XVII shows the average salary paid to nursing students at 22 different training schools across the country. US Commissioner of Education 1882-1883 Report, pp. 700-703
  • Painters' wages
  • Pattern makers, iron works
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 680.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 320-321.
  • Plasterers' wages in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 202-203.
  • Plumbers - Average wages
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 681.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 207-208.
  • Potters - Wages in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 235.
  • Principles - Average annual salaries by state in primary and elementary schools. US Commissioner of Education 1882-1883 Report, pg. 348
  • Printing industry - Average wages in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499:
  • Sawyers - Average wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 465.
  • Sewing machine operator wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 221.
  • Shoemaker wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 262-265.
  • Steamboat and towboat wages
    This link leads to the beginning of a section in the 1880 U.S. Census for Transportation, where steamboat statistics are given by U.S. region (the link above leads to the section on New England states.) Read the section carefully to find average wages - it is provided for only some regions. Scroll forward to see additional riverboat regions such as Lower Mississippi, Northern Lakes or Pacific Coast. This source also lists wage rates paid to each type of worker on the boats: masters, mates, pilots, watchmen, engineer, stewards, steersmen, carpenters, deck hands, chambermaids, cabin crew, roustabouts etc. by river where the boat traveled.  For example see wage rates on the Ohio River and Upper Missouri River.
  • Steel industry job wages by state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 238-252.
  • Stone cutters - Average wages
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 681.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 212-213.
  • Stone masons - Average wages
    • By city in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 679.
    • By state in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, pp. 190-191.
  • Street laborers - Average wages in Wages in the U.S. and Europe, 1870-1898, p. 677.
  • Streetcar conductors - Average wages in U.S. BLS Bulletin no. 499, p. 444.
1881 classroomTeachers averaged 
$6.31 per week ca. 1880

Wages by state, 1880-1889

WAGES in ALABAMA, 1880s

WAGES in ARKANSAS, 1880s

WAGES in ARIZONA, 1880s

WAGES in CALIFORNIA, 1880s

  • 1882-1883 - all in San Francisco
  • 1883-1886 - in San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton and Redding
  • 1886 - in San Francisco and Oakland

WAGES in COLORADO, 1880s

WAGES in CONNECTICUT, 1880s

WAGES in DAKOTA TERRITORY, 1880s

WAGES in the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, 1880s

WAGES in DELAWARE, 1880s

  • 1881-188  - Oyster packing, pottery, building trades, and textile industry.
  • 1883-1886 -  Leather goods, weaving and stone cutting.

WAGES in FLORIDA, 1880s

WAGES in GEORGIA, 1880s

WAGES in IOWA, 1880s

WAGES in IDAHO, 1880s

WAGES in ILLINOIS, 1880s

  • 1881 - Brick makers, coopers, machine shop and metal workers, miners
  • 1881 - Miners (cont'd.), ship builders, stone cutters, tobacco workers, more 
  • 1881-1882 - Watch makers, detectives, horse shoes, more
  • 1882 - (cont'd.) - Miners, stone cutters, wharf hands, more
  • 1883 - Building trades, tailors, more
  • 1883-1884 - Telegraph linemen, cigar makers, more
  • 1884-1885 - Gas fitters, coal miners, wharf hands, more
  • 1885 (cont'd.) - Coopers, miners, boilermakers, more
  • 1885 (cont'd.) - Cigar makers, ice cutters, RR engineers, box makers, more
  • 1886 - Bicycle factory workers, plumbers, tailors, more
  • 1886 (cont'd.) - Makers of furniture and billiard tables, more
  • 1886 (cont'd.) - Iron and brass foundry workers, coppersmiths, more
  • 1886 (cont'd.) - Coal miners, iron bridge builders, more
  • 1886 (cont'd.) - Public works construction, quarrymen, etc.
  • 1886 (cont'd.) - Railroad freight handlers, switchmen, wharf men, more
  • 1886 (cont'd.) - Musical instrument factories, wood planing mills, more

WAGES in INDIANA, 1880s

WAGES in KANSAS, 1880s

WAGES in KENTUCKY, 1880s

WAGES in LOUISIANA, 1880s

WAGES in MASSACHUSETTS, 1880s

  • 1881-1882 - Miscellaneous occupations
  • 1882-1883  - Miscellaneous occupations
  • 1883-1884  - Miscellaneous occupations
  • 1884-1885  - Miscellaneous occupations
  • 1885-1886  - Miscellaneous occupations
  • 1886 - Shoemakers, building trades (carpenters, etc.), tailors and more
  • 1886 - Bakers, furniture makers, machinists, factory workers and more
  • 1886 - Cigarmakers, teamsters, weavers, telegraph messengers and more

WAGES in MARYLAND, 1880s

WAGES in MAINE, 1880s

WAGES in MICHIGAN, 1880s

  • Miners receive from $2 to $2.25 per 10-hour day.
  • Miners working on contract make from $2.50 to $3.50 per day.  
  • Furnace men get $2 to $2.25 per day.
  • Founders get $1,500 to $1,800 per year. 
  • Surface laborers at the mines get $1.75 to $2 per day.
  • Laborers on the railroads get $1.80 per day.
  • Farm hands, get $1.50 to $1.75 per day, exclusive of board. 
  • Carpenters, painters, etc., receive $3 per day.
  • Masons get $4 per day.
  • Wood-choppers are paid $1 per cord.

WAGES in MINNESOTA, 1880s

WAGES in MISSOURI, 1880s

WAGES in MISSISSIPPI, 1880s

WAGES in MONTANA, 1880s

WAGES in NORTH CAROLINA, 1880s

WAGES in NEBRASKA, 1880s

WAGES in NEW MEXICO, 1880s

WAGES in NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1880s

WAGES in NEW JERSEY, 1880s

WAGES in NEVADA, 1880s

WAGES in NEW YORK, 1880s

WAGES in OHIO, 1880s

WAGES in OREGON, 1880s

WAGES in PENNSYLVANIA, 1880s

WAGES in RHODE ISLAND, 1880s

WAGES in SOUTH CAROLINA, 1880s

WAGES in TENNESSEE, 1880s

WAGES in TEXAS, 1880s

WAGES in UTAH, 1880s

WAGES in VIRGINIA, 1880s

WAGES in VERMONT, 1880s

WAGES in WASHINGTON, 1880s

WAGES in WISCONSIN, 1880s

WAGES in WEST VIRGINIA, 1880s

WAGES in WYOMING, 1880s

Wages by country, 1880-1889

Wages in AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND, 1880s

WAGES in BELGIUM, 1880s

Wages in CANADA, 1880s

Wages in FRANCE, 1880s

Wages in GERMANY, 1880s

Wages in HUNGARY, 1880s

Wages in INDIA, 1880s

Click on IRELAND tab below.

Wages in ITALY, 1880s

Click on SCOTLAND tab below.

Wages in SWEDEN, 1880s

See box below.

Sources showing wages in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES

United Kingdom wages, 1880-1889

Foreign wages by occupation (A-Z), then country - 1880s

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.  Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country. Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country. Source: A Compilation of wages in commercial countries from official sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

 

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Shows average daily wages for males and females by occupation, state and country.   Source: A Compilation of Wages in Commercial Countries from Official Sources, Volume I and Volume II. Issued as the 15th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1900).

Food prices by state, 1880-1889

  • Milk (melk), 6 ¢ per quart
  • Butter (boter), 24 3/4 ¢  per lb.
  • Eggs by the dozen (eieren), 18 1/3 ¢
  • Coffee (koffy) 20 1/3 ¢  per lb.
  • Tea (thee), 50 ¢  per lb.
  • Brown sugar (bruine suiker), 8 3/4 ¢  per lb.
  • Potatoes, per bushel (aardappels), 80 ¢
  • Fresh fish (versche vische), 7 3/4 ¢ per lb.
  • Beef (rundvleesch), salted 7 3/4 ¢  per lb.
  • Beef (rundvleesch), for soup 6 1/2 ¢  per lb.
  • Salted bacon (gezouten spek), 11 ¢  per lb.

Homes and land prices, 1880-1889

Transportation prices, 1880-1889

See railroad fares below.

Railroad fares by region, 1880-1889

More prices in the United States, 1880-1889

PRICES for COMMUNICATION, 1880s

PRICES for HOUSEHOLD ITEMS, 1880s

CLOTHING price reports, 1880s

 

CLOTHING PRICES from mail order catalogs, 1880s

TOOL PRICES, 1880s

GUNS and HUNTING, 1880s

PRICES for ANIMALS, 1880s

COST of EDUCATION, 1880s

HOTEL RATES, 1880s

Barbershop services

BarberGetting a shave
in the 1880s

The following examples were found in newspapers.

  • 1880 -- Dakota Territory - Haircut alone 20¢; haircut with shave 25¢, shampoo 15¢ (source)
  • 1882 -- Texas - Haircut 25¢, shave 10¢ (source)
  • 1886 -- Nebraska - Barbers at one shop in Omaha earned $10-$14 weekly plus an additional $4-$8 in tips (source)
  • 1889 -- Oregon - Six shaves for $1 (source)

Legal services

Shipping/freight rates

See box below.

Health care costs, 1880-1889

Cost of living and consumer expenditures in the U.S. - 1880s

Foreign prices by country, 1880-1889

Prices in AUSTRALIA, 1880s

Prices in CANADA, 1880s

PRICES in FRANCE, 1880s

Prices in INDIA, 1880s

Prices in ITALY, 1880s

Prices in SWEDEN, 1880s

See UK prices in box below.

Prices in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES, 1880s

United Kingdom prices 1880-1889

Quotable facts for the 1880-1889 decade

  • In the 1880s, laborers typically worked 10 hours/day, 6 days per week.  Source: NBER.
  • An 1884 Illinois survey of working class families employed in manufacturing and mining revealed the following:
    • Food represented 42% of family expenses on average.  23% of the budget went for rent, heat and light  (p. 336 of source)
    • Families spent an average $96.83 annually on rent for dwellings which averaged 4 rooms each (p. 336 of source)
    • 100% of the Black families surveyed included a mother or child working for extra income (p. 270 of source)
    • 20% of workers belonged to a labor organization, paying an average of $6.59 annually in dues (p. 337)

Analysis, calculators, and exchange rates for the 1890s

Timeline -- Major economic events of the 1880s

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1880

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1881

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1882

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1883

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1884

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1885

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1886

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1887

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1888

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1889

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935"
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

Legend

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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