In the Old West, a person didn't always shell out a coin or dollar for their purchases. Instead, there were many ways to pay for goods and services. Bartering or exchanging goods was very common. A farmer might barter a bushel of his apples or potatoes for some fabric and thread for a dress for his wife. The local doctor might have received a ham or live chicken as payment for his doctoring a broken arm. Others might pay for goods with gold dust, nuggets, or silver. Like Native Americans, mountain men would trade their pelts, as known as plews, for tobacco, food, clothing, or ammunition.
Two of the most universal items traded were milk and eggs. Farmers would trade their excess for other products they needed. Trading often occurred between neighbors, especially if the nearest town was far away. However people paid for the items they needed, they definitely cost less than things do now. Here are some prices from the 1800's.
1847: At Fort John in Wyoming, sheeting, shirting, calico, and cotton cost $1. Antelope skins were 75¢ - $1. Buckskin $2 - $5.
1847: At Fort Hall, flour sold for $20 per 100 pound. That's a lot of biscuits!
1860: A 25 x 100-foot house near San Francisco sold for $800-$1000.
1860: The cost to send a half-ounce letter via Pony Express was $5.
1863: Turkeys sold for 25¢ and chickens 75¢ per dozen in Missouri. Butter was 9¢ per pound, coffee was 50¢, and sugar 16¢.
1863: The price of passage on a steamer from San Fransico to New York was $265, $185, and $135.
1864: Stage fare from Atchison, KS, to California cost $600.
1867: Buffalo Bill Cody received $500 per month to kill 12 buffalo per day along the Kansas Pacific railroad.
1869: Admission to a concert and festival in Lincoln, NE, cost 50¢.
1870: Cheese and rice were 5¢ per pound. Corn 40¢ per bushel. Molasses was 15¢. A basic saddle sold for $30.
1871: Strawberries in San Francisco cost 4-6¢ per pound.
1874: Doc Holliday charged $3 for extracting a tooth at his dental practice in Dallas.
1879: Cattle prices in Texas - yearlings cost $3-$5, and a full-grown beef was $8-$10.
1880: In Madison, NE, the price to delivery a baby was $10, plus $1 for the in-town doctor's visit.
1880: Pat Garrett earned $10 per day as a special deputy U.S. marshal.
1886: In Topeka, KS, butter was 20¢ a pound, eggs were 20¢ per dozen, coffee cost $1 for eight pounds.
1886: (This one is funny) In Topeka, KS, an anti-dude club fined men $5 for carrying a cane, $10 for wearing a plug hat and kid gloves, and $20 for parting his hair in the middle.
As you can see, for the most part, prices were far less than they are today. I hope you enjoyed this step back into the 1800's.
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Vickie McDonough is the CBA, EPCA and Amazon best-selling author of 50 books and novellas. Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, OWFI Best Fiction Novel Award, the Inspirational Readers’ Choice awards. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com