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Prices and Wages by Decade: Intro

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 prices and wages found in primary sources for each decade back to the 1700s.  Our preference is government sources though we also use commercial catalogs, travel guides, newspapers, etc.  We point only to publications that are freely available online, and make extensive use of the HathiTrust Digital Library, the FRASER® digital library and the Internet Archive.

With regard to prices, our primary focus is the price paid by consumers.  Usually that means retail prices.  However, consumers did at times have the opportunity to purchase at wholesale, for example, when buying flour by the barrel (see an explanation in this 1880 marketing guide).  Accordingly, our website does point to some wholesale prices, especially in earlier decades. 

This website is managed by Marie Concannon of the University of Missouri Library's Government Information Department.  We welcome questions from students of all ages and the general public.

Government Information Department
Phone (573) 882-0748

Thanks to MU Library employees Dylan Martin, Mathew Stephen, Cade McKnelly, Jade Neeley, 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.

Website Awards

GODORTCatharine J. Reynolds
Research Grant, 2023

American Library Association
Government Docs Roundtable

awardHistory / Genealogy Achievement Award, 2022
American Library Association
Reference & User Services Association History Section

awardExcellence in Reference
& Adult Services Award, 2022

American Library Association
Reference & User Services Association (RUSA)