Sunday, December 27, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Leadville, 1879

As we all wallow under a surfeit of HD TVs, iPods, iPhones, MP3 players, Play Stations, XBoxes, Nintendo DSs, BlueRay videos, and an abundance of electronic games and geegaws, let's take a pause and reflect on what was available for the discerning shopper in Leadville for the 1879 Christmas season, in some tidbits gathered from the newspapers of the time by Griswold and Griswold in their magnificent historical tome: The History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado. And remember as you read this list: There were no trains to Leadville yet. Everything had to be hauled in ... and there was lots and lots of snow to contend with. There were, apparently, some folks with lots and lots of money as well.

Holiday Goods.

B.F. Allen & Co. Invite the special attention of Ladies and Miners, who are in search of Goods suitable for Presents to their Friends both in Leadville and the East and South, to their recent importation of NOVELTIES. Our Stock comprises: English Silk Handkerchiefs, Silk Suspenders, French Jewelry, English Neckwear, Fine Buck Glove, Lined, Fine Lap Robes, French Clocks, Ladies Neckwear, Lined Mitts, Pocketbooks, Etc.

The Griswolds noted that none of the advertisements included prices (most which read rather like the one above, so B.F. Allen didn't have a lock on the imported stuff). However, Daniels, Fisher & Company did included some prices for their wares:

... All wool suits sell from $15 to $25; wool and silk combination suits from $25 to $50; combination street costumes from $35 to $65; silk dresses from $35 to $75, and a general variety of black silk velvet and ratine suits, ranging in price from $40 to $175 each, and some elegant parlor dress suits from $175 to $200 each.

Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, consider that $15 in 1879 had the same "purchase power" as $333.98 today. So, that "cheap" wool suit is really more like $340. And, the "elegant parlor dress suit" at $200 would cost you $4453.01 today. That's how many Dell laptops?

Anyway, to get an idea of how prices of "long ago" compare to prices today, I suggest checking out the "Measuring Worth" website and the page Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2008. Rather mind-boggling.


Anonymous said...

I consider spending $100-$200 on an outfit to be expensive even for today.

That's a really neat link - I especially liked the info on the cost of the Civil War.

Ann Parker said...

Hi Christina!
Pretty interesting, all in all. Once we look at yesterday and realize how much things cost ... I can understand why people had a few chickens in the backyard and their own gardens, etc.!