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Prices and Wages by Decade: 1920-1929

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, 1920-1929

 

WAGES by RACE

Wages by occupation and industry (A to Z), 1920s

A

1920s farmer

B

C

D

E

F

G

  • Government, federal
  • Government, state and local
    • State employee pay, 1925-1928 
      • Shows average public employee pay for each state. Source: National Municipal Review, January 1932 issue.
    • New York state, 1911-1931 
      • This source is entirely about compensation of state and local government employees in New York. See the table of contents for additional tables and discussion.
    • Pennsylvania, 1928 
      • Shows salaries at the state, county and city levels. Source: Report of the Salary survey commission to the Pennsylvania General assembly, 1929.
    • New Haven Connecticut, 1920 and 1921 
      • This series of Municipal Year Books from New Haven, Connecticut, show salaries for police, firemen, school teachers, principals, building inspectors, clerks and other jobs working for city government.  Use the search function to find salaries for these occupations, or contact us for assistance.

I-L

M

N

O

P

R

  • Radio announcer salary, 1929 
    • Broadcasting jobs described in Manual of Occupations by R. Platt (source), p. 275
  • Railroad employee wages
    • 1920-1921 
      • Shows wage rates for engineers, conductors, passenger baggage men, coal passers, firemen, switch tenders, hostlers, signalmen, station agents, telegraphers, machinists, car cleaners, and more. Source: Monthly Labor Review, April 1922, pp. 82-85.
    • 1922 
      • Compares 1922 to 1940 wage rates for a variety of RR jobs, pp. 7-8 in: Wages and labor relations in the railroad industry 1900-1941.
    • 1914-1923 
      • Source: Wages, hours and employment of railroad workers published by the National Industrial Conference Board.
    • Pennsylvania Railroad Wage Data, 1927 
      • Extensive, 219-page report published in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin no. 514.
  • Religious organizations - Salaries, 1929 in Manual of Occupations by R. Platt (source)
  • Retail shop employees - Chain store wages, 1929
    • Table shows average 1929 and 1931 weekly wages of full-time store employees, managers, and supervisors by kind and size of chain and location. Source: Chain Stores (Serial Set 9783).

S

T

V

Manufacturing wages, 1920-1929

WAGES in AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURING, 1920s

WAGES in AIRPLANE and AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURING, 1920s

WAGES in CLOTHING MANUFACTURING, 1920s

WAGES in TEXTILE MANUFACTURING, 1920s

WAGES in FURNITURE MANUFACTURING, 1920s

WAGES in PAPER and PULP MANUFACTURING, 1920s

WAGES in POTTERY MANUFACTURING, 1920s

Women's wages, 1920-1929

WOMEN'S WAGES in MULTIPLE STATES, 1920s
See tabs above for individual states.

See list of the most common occupations for women in 1910 and 1920 (source: Census Bureau).

WAGES of BLACK WOMEN, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in ALABAMA, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in ARKANSAS, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in WASHINGTON DC, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in ILLINOIS, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in KANSAS, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in KENTUCKY, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in MISSOURI, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in OHIO, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in NEW JERSEY, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in PENNSYLVANIA, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in SOUTH CAROLINA, 1920s

WOMEN'S WAGES in TENNESSEE, 1920s

Significant legislation concerning wages, 1920s

International wages by country, 1920-1929

Wages in ARGENTINA, 1920s

WAGES in AUSTRALIA, 1920s

WAGES in AUSTRIA, 1920s

Wages in CANADA, 1920s

WAGES in CHILE, 1920s

WAGES in CHINA, 1920s

WAGES in FRANCE, 1920s

Wages in GERMANY, 1920s

Wages in GREAT BRITAIN, 1920s

Wages in the SOVIET UNION, 1920s

Wages in NEW ZEALAND, 1920s

Wages in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES, 1920s

Click for exchange rates, 1921-1930.

Family and household Income, 1920-1929

NOTE: If you are looking for household income data for 1929, we recommend a 1934 Brookings Institution report titled America's Capacity to Consume.  It is not yet available to read online; check your local library.

Prices in the United States, 1920-1929

PRICES for FOOD, 1920s

PRICES for MERCHANDISE, 1920s

PRICES for HOUSING, 1920s

HOME PLANS with ESTIMATED COSTS

Important note: Some of these home plan catalogs estimate only the cost of materials based on prices in a particular market (such as Chicago).  The ones that do include labor costs generally add disclaimers based on fluctuating rates. The front matter of each catalog usually includes some explanation.

COST of CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS and LABOR

FARMS and LAND PRICES

HOUSEHOLD UTILITIES

PRICES for HEALTH CARE, 1920s

MEDICINE PRICES

PRICES for SERVICES, 1920s

PRICES for TRAVEL and TRANSPORTATION, 1920s

AUTOMOBILE PRICES, 1920s

GASOLINE PRICES

HORSE DRAWN TRANSPORTATION

TRAIN FARE and EXPENSES

STEAMSHIP and AIRFARE

VACATIONS and TOURISM

PRICES for EDUCATION, 1920s

In the 1920s decade, 8% to 12% of people aged 18-21 enrolled in college. Source: U.S. Bureau of Education.

PRICES for ENTERTAINMENT, 1920s

Cost of living in the U.S., 1920-1929

In addition to the links below, we recommend the book America's Capacity to Consume, published in 1934 by the Brookings Institution.  It presents detailed analysis of personal and household income as well as consumer expenditures in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  

Buying power of historic wages expressed in today's dollars

International prices by country, 1920-1929

Quotable facts for the 1920-1929 decade

In the United States...

  • Milk cost an average of 33¢ per half gallon in 1920. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • Eggs cost an average of 68¢ per dozen in 1920. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Coffee cost an average of 47¢ per pound in 1920. Source: U.S. BLS
  • In 1926, only about 4% of workers earned enough to be required to file a federal income tax return.  Source: NBER.
  • A 1920 Model-T Ford cost $440. SourceAutomobile Trade Journal
  • A gallon of gasoline cost 21.7¢ in 1929. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • In 1925, motor vehicles were scrapped at an average age of 6.5 years.  Source: Automobile Manufacturers Association
  • Life expectancy in 1900 was 48.2 years for males and 50.7 years for females. Source: U.S. BLS
  • In the 1920s decade, 8% to 12% of people aged 18-21 enrolled in college. Source: U.S. Bureau of Education.
  • Selected average occupational earnings:
    • In 1920, carpenters earned an average of 95¢ per hour in Washington, D.C. Source: U.S. BLS
    • In 1921, elementary teachers in mid-Missouri made a minimum of $765 annually. Source: Bureau of Education 
    • In 1924, police officers in Kansas City earned an average of $2,400 annually. Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Timeline -- Major economic events of the 1920s

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

1920

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

1921

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

1922

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

1923

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

1924

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

1925

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

1926

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

1927

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

1928

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

1929

"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
106B Ellis Library (1st Floor East)
University of Missouri, Columbia
Phone (573) 882-0748