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Old-Time Prices and Wages in 1839

Schuyler K. Tyron’s Daybook, kept in Middletown, N. Y., “in the year of our Lord,” 1839, and thereafter, is interesting in these days of high and high .

Tyron, according to the entries in his journal, was a farmer and a methodical one. He paid the preacher, the teacher, the laborer and was generally a useful citizen. From the standpoint of those who want to complain about high prices, Tyron’s record furnishes some basis for arguments. He kept a record of every cent he spent, and he spent quite a lot.

The entries start off at the beginning, namely, the cost of the passbook in which the record is kept. The cost was 6 cents and the date was May 18, 1839.

Some of the items in the book and the dates given are as follows :

  • June 25, 1842, eleven pounds of butter, $2.07. (About 19 cents a pound).
  • October 1, 1842, fifteen pounds of beef, 75 cents. (Five cents a pound).
  • April 5,1843, sixteen pounds of veal, 64 cents. (Four cents a pound).
  • May 7, 1842, five dozen eggs, 50 cents. (Ten cents a dozen).
  • February 21, 1842, thirty-seven pounds of butter, $7.40. (Twenty cents a pound).
  • November 26, 1842, Mary Ann, shoes, 50 cents.
  • June 4, 1842, two yards blue calico, 38 cents.
  • August 7, 1842, one gallon molasses, 50 cents.
  • August 7, 1842, seven pounds of rice, 42 cents.
  • August 7,1842, seven pounds brown sugar, 66 cents.
  • August 26, 1842, one pair of suspenders, 25 cents.

There was plenty of labor at the prevailing prices in those days. Some of the entries for labor hire are:

  • Hamilton Drake.
    • July 14, 1845—One day mowing, 75 cents.
    • July 15, 1845—One day reaping, 75 cents.
  • Lewis McGill.
    • July 7, 1845—One day hoeing corn, 75 cents.
    • July 12—One day cradling, 75 cents.
    • Daniel Ogden.
    • July 10, 1845—One half day raking hay, 37 cents.
  • Clark McNish.
    • December 4, 1845—New shoes on my bay mare, $1.
  • William Williams.
    • August 31, 1846—One day’s thrashing, 50 cents.

In connection with the account of William Williams there are items showing board paid and also an allowance of $1.25 for a load of hay.

In another part of this little book is the following:

1845—Gain raised on farm—

Ear corn—140 bushels.

Buckwheat—14% bushels.

Wheat—10 bushels.

Rye—22 bushels.

Oats—74 bushels.

Under the date of 1845 there is an item for preaching, the rate being $2.75.

Brother Tyrou was a school district trustee. Under date of January 21, 1841, there is a record of the receipt of $8.32 from the old Board of Trustees.  One of the records of the school trustees is as follows:

“H. Tuthill taught six months. Paid her $45.”

The school building windows suffered greatly. In a record for six months there are seven items like this:

For glass and putty—23 cents.

Taxes were certain in those days, to. Some of the tax items are:

  • December 12, 1845—Paid taxes, $9.12.
  • November 23, 1842—Paid school taxes, $2.15.

And finally in this little book there is a recipe for pickle to be placed on ham. This is it:

Take six gallons of water, nine pounds of salt, one quart of molasses, three ounces of saltpeter, one ounce of salaratus. Put together, cool, then skim and put on hams.

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