Saturday, January 24, 2009

Letters: Windows to the past (Part 4)

For this weekend post, I'm thinking of food. Not a head-to-the-supermarket-grab-something-from-the-freezer type food. But food you could obtain in 1879 in Leadville, before the advent of trains.

Toward the end of February, young George Elder was taking his meals at the Tontine, a very fashionable restaurant in Leadville. In his letter of February 26, 1879, he wrote to his parents in Philadelphia:
. . . As to the material of my meals I live very well though I doubt if any one at the Tontine where I board lives as cheaply. Liver, ham, eggs, mutton and beefsteak are my standards. I drink no coffee or tea and thus the extra 10 cents I can put in something else. Milk cannot be had for love or money. Eggs are up so high that two fried eggs come at 25 cents . . .
Using the Measuring Worth site, that 10-cent cuppa equates to a $2.14 cup of java today. And, trust me, we're not talking lattes in 1879. Those two fried eggs at a quarter? You'd be paying $5.36 for them in 2007. Given that the daily wage in the mines were about $3.50 (that's $75.05 in today's money), you can see that only the wealthy were ordering fried eggs for breakfast on a regular basis.


Camille Minichino said...

I hope at some point you're going to tell us what ever became of young George Elder -- did he live to a ripe old age? Die in a duel? Lose at poker?

Morgan Mandel said...

What about growing fruits and vegetables and getting some chickens to lay eggs? Maybe chickens were scarce?

Morgan Mandel

Ann Parker said...

Hi Camille!
Young George did indeed live to a ripe old age. And he did very well for himself, both as a lawyer, and in his investments. At least, that's my understanding! :-)
Hi Morgan!
I think part of the problem is that Leadville is at 10,000 feet elevation . . . a very short growing season! And there's a great story about a fellow called "Chicken Bill" who thought to make a killing bringing chickens to Leadville. I'll have to find it and use it in a post.
-- Ann

Sharon Reece said...

What an interesting comparison! How in the world did you find out what the modern day cost equivalent would be?


Bob Sanchez said...

Good post. I liked your Measuring Worth link. Interesting!

Bob Sanchez