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Prices and Wages by Decade: 1930-1939

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, 1930-1939

Wages by race, 1930-1939

SCHOOL TEACHERS

Wages by occupation and industry (A to Z), 1930s

  • 1928-1934 in Handbook of Labor Statistics, 1936 edition, pp. 874-1055.
  • 1935-1940 in Handbook of Labor Statistics, 1941 edition.

  • Farm wages 
    • Farm wages by state, 1929 & 1930
      Shows the average monthly wages for farm hands in different states. Wages both with and without board are provided. Source: BLS Monthly Labor Review (December 1930)
    • Farm workers' wages and income - 1909 to 1938
      Farm wage rates are broken out by year and geographic location. Wages for farm workers are compared to that of factory workers. Article starts on page 59 of the BLS Monthly Labor Review, July 1939 issue.
    • Farm labor wages 1866-1935
      Average yearly wage, reported with and without board (meals). Taken from the 1936 Statistical Abstract of the United States.
    • Farm Labor wages, 1930-1939
      The monthly USDA periodical Farm Labor showed farm labor wages with and without room and board, and broken out by geography.
    • Farm wage rates by geographical division, 1935-1939
      Shows figures with and without board. Source: USDA Agricultural Statistics. 1935 (Geographical divisions only), 1936193719381939
  • Firemen - Salaries, late 1930s (link to library item)
    The Municipal Yearbook shows the salaries of firemen and fire chiefs for all U.S. cities over 30,000 in population. This work is still in active copyright and unavailable online. However, we would be happy to look up a salary for you if you contact us.
  • Fishing wages, pp. 269-271 of Union Scales of Wages and Hours...1930 (source)
  • Foundry and machine shop wages, 1931
    Trends of hours and earnings. Earnings by occupation. Overtime and bonuses.
  • Furniture store salaries, 1930
    Shows average salaries at about two dozen furniture stores, broken out by occupation: sales, delivery, administration, etc.  Source: Domestic Commerce Series no. 68, p. 100.
  • Furnace worker wages, 1931
    Pages 1183-1187 details the earnings of workers in blast furnaces, bessemer converters, and open hearth furnaces. Source: BLS Monthly Labor Review, November 1931
  • Upholsterers' wages in 1930 in Union Scales of Wages and Hours..., pp. 298-299 (source)
  • Window cleaners' wages for 1930 in Union Scales of Wages, p. 314.
  • Woodworkers' wages for 1930 in Union Scales of Wages, p. 297.
  • WPA worker wages in 1939 - The wage depended both on the worker's skill class and the geographic location. See pay briefly discussed on pages 549-550 of this issue.
  • Writers (women) - Salaries in early 1930s shown in Careers for women in journalism, starting p. 69.

Manufacturing wages, 1930-1939

WAGES in AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in FOOD MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in CLOTHING MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in TEXTILE MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in LEATHER MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in FURNITURE MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in AMMUNITION and EXPLOSIVES MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in MISCELLANEOUS MANUFACTURING, 1930s

WAGES in MULTIPLE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIES, 1930s 

Women's wages, 1930-1939

  • 1928-1934 wages - Source: 1936 edition, starting on p. 874.
  • 1935-1940 wages - Source: 1941 edition.

Wages by state, 1930-1939

Wages in MULTIPLE STATES, 1930s

Wages in ALABAMA, 1930s

Wages in ARKANSAS, 1930s

Wages in ARIZONA, 1930s

Wages in CALIFORNIA, 1930s

Wages in COLORADO, 1930s

Wages in CONNETICUT, 1930s

Wages in the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, 1930s

Wages in DELAWARE, 1930s

Wages in FLORIDA, 1930s

Wages in GEORGIA, 1930s

Wages in HAWAII, 1930s

Wages in IOWA, 1930s

Wages in IDAHO, 1930s

Wages in ILLINOIS, 1930s

Wages in INDIANA, 1930s

Wages in KANSAS, 1930s

Wages in KENTUCKY, 1930s

Wages in LOUISIANA, 1930s

Wages in MASSACHUSETTS, 1930s

Wages in MARYLAND, 1930s

Wages in MAINE, 1930s

Wages in MICHIGAN, 1930s

Wages in MINNESOTA, 1930s

Wages in MISSOURI, 1930s

Wages in MISSISSIPPI, 1930s

Wages in MONTANA, 1930s

Wages in NORTH CAROLINA, 1930s

Wages in NORTH DAKOTA, 1930s

Wages in NEBRASKA, 1930s

Wages in NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1930s

Wages in NEW JERSEY, 1930s

Wages in NEW MEXICO, 1930s

Wages in NEVADA, 1930s

Wages in NEW YORK, 1930s

Wages in OHIO, 1930s

Wages in OKLAHOMA, 1930s

Wages in OREGON, 1930s

Wages in PENNSYLVANIA, 1930s

Wages in RHODE ISLAND, 1930s

Wages in SOUTH CAROLINA, 1930s

Wages in TENNESSEE, 1930s

Wages in TEXAS, 1930s

Wages in UTAH, 1930s

Wages in VIRGINIA, 1930s

Wages in VERMONT, 1930s

Wages in WASHINGTON, 1930s

Wages in WISCONSIN, 1930s

Wages in WEST VIRGINIA, 1930s

Wages in WYOMING, 1930s

Foreign wages by country, 1930-1939

Wages in ARGENTINA, 1930s

WAGES in AUSTRALIA, 1930s

WAGES in AUSTRIA, 1930s

WAGES in BELGIUM, 1930s

Wages in BRAZIL, 1930s

Wages in INDIA, 1930s

Wages in CANADA, 1930s

WAGES in DENMARK, 1930s

WAGES in FINLAND, 1930s

Wages in FRANCE, 1930s

Wages in GERMANY, 1930s

Wages in GREAT BRITAIN, 1930s

Wages in GREECE, 1930s

Wages in HUNGARY, 1930s

Wages in INDO-CHINA, 1930s

Wages in ITALY, 1930s

Wages in JAPAN, 1930s

Wages in KOREA, 1930s

Note: Between 1910 and 1945, the Korean peninsula was under Japanese occupation and was known as Chosen.

Wages in MEXICO, 1930s

Wages in NETHERLANDS, 1930s

Wages in NEW ZEALAND, 1930s

Wages in NORWAY, 1930s

Wages in PALESTINE, 1930s

Wages in POALND, 1930s

Wages in the SOVIET UNION, 1930s

Wages in SWEDEN, 1930s

Wages in SWITZERLAND, 1930s

Wages in YUGOSLAVIA, 1930s

Wages in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES, 1930s

Family income, 1930s

"It should be emphasized that income tax returns are frequently but erroneously used as an indication of the number of families at different income levels..... only about 4 million persons file returns whereas there are 30 million families in the United States."  -- Daniel Starch, Ph.D., writing in 1930 (Source)

Food prices in the United States, 1930-1939

Housing, land and utilities, 1930-1939

ELECTRICITY

GAS

  • Gas bills by city, 1930-1936

    For the type of gas commonly used in homes for cooking and heating water (not gasoline). Source: BLS Bulletin #628, pp. 38-47.

COAL

COMPARISONS

Transportation & travel, 1930-1939

NEW CAR PRICES

NOTE: Ford, Chrysler and General Motors (producer of Chevrolet) represented 91% of all new car registrations in 1934.  Source: The Price of automobiles, U.S. National Recovery Administration, pp. 48-49.  See graphical depiction of car sales by make in 1937.

USED CAR PRICES

NOTE: "In 1933, for every 100 new cars sold, 178 used cars were sold" (Source: The Price of Automobiles, U.S. National Recovery Administration, p. 10).

PARTS and SUPPLIES

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOTEL RATES

  • 1932 hotel guestsHotel registration desk
    District of Columbia -  Washington
  • Florida - Miami
  • Nevada - Boulder City

Health and medicine prices, 1930-1939

  • Cost of hospital service, 1930
    "A good hotel room costs only $4-5 a day while a hospital charges $6 and $7." Source: Handbook of Labor Statistics, 1931 edition, p. 420.
  • Hospital room rates, 1930 
    Shows hospital room rates only; does not include lab work, x-rays, or doctor fees. Source: BLS Handbook of Labor Statistics 1931 ed.
  • Residential fees at "old people's homes," 1939  
    Article describes the services and fees charged for the care of aged in old people's homes (AKA retirement homes, nursing homes). See fee chart on page 1056 and statement on page 1059, "Assuming an average cost to the home of $410 per person per year...."

College costs, 1930-1939

Interesting facts:
In 1929-1930, 12% of people aged 18-21 were enrolled in college.  
In 1939-1940, 15% of people aged 18-21 were enrolled in college.  

More prices in the U.S., 1930-1939

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

NOTABLE FACT: Consumer Reports found in 1936 that men's shirts lasted only about 20-26 commercial washings before degrading (source).

NOTE: In 1930, more farm families had a telephone (34%) than a radio (21%).  Source

Traffic violation fines by state, 1938

Source: U.S. Congress. House document 462 part 1, 75th Congress, 3rd session.

Cost of living and consumer expenditures in the U.S., 1930s

"Money disbursement" is the measurement of how much money people make as well as how they spend that money. 

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

Quotable facts for the 1930s

In the United States...

  • Common labor starting wage was 43¢ per hour in 1930. Source: U.S. Dept of Labor.
  • Minimum wage increased from 25¢ to 30¢ per hour in October 1939. Source: U.S. DOL
  • A 30-day supply of oatmeal would a NYC family of five 75¢ in 1936.
  • Coffee cost an average 39¢ per pound in 1930. Source: U.S. BLS 
  • Milk cost an average 56¢ per gallon in 1930. Source: U.S. BLS
  • The median salary/wage income in 1939 was $956 for whites, and $364 for non-whites. Source: U.S. Census Bureau
  • The typical American home in 1934 had five rooms. Source: BLS
  • Health expenditures were $22.04 per capita in fiscal year 1934-35.
  • In 1930, less than 10% of workers earned enough to file a federal income tax return.  Source.
  • A 20-pack of cigarettes cost about 14¢ in 1935.  Source: USDA
  • 92% of new automobiles sold for less than $825 in 1934.  Source: Price of Automobiles
  • Gasoline cost an average of 18.6¢ per gallon in rural areas in 1939. Source: USDA
  • High school teachers in large cities earned a median $2,731 in 1930. Source: U.S. BLS 
  • Engineers earned a median income of $2,574 in 1932. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Good hotels charged $4-5 per day in 1930, while hospitals charged $6-7. Source: BLS.

Foreign prices by country, 1930-1939

Prices in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES, 1930s

Prices in EUROPE, 1930s

Prices in CANADA, 1930s

Prices in CHILE, 1930s

Prices in LATIN AMERICA, 1930s

Prices in FRANCE, 1930s

Prices in the SOVIET UNION, 1930s

Tools, calculators, and exchange rates

Timeline -- Major economic events, 1930-1938

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1930

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1931

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1932

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

1933

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1934

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1935

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1936

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.
(Click image for detail)

1938

"75 Years of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation 1861-1935" (with 1936-1938 supplement)
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