The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Southern Diarists

Do Mrs. Pember’s letters tell us anything about the prices of commodities?

As a true Southern lady—and therefore interested in her wardrobe and appearance—Mrs. Pember lamented both the high prices in Richmond and the difficulty of getting anything, even if one was able to pay. She therefore sent a number of letters to her sister in New Orleans.

“Eugene says you mentioned something about black and white gingham at 4.50 a yard, but that I do not intend to give. I am going on a shopping expedition next week. I had to give fifty dollars a pair for leather shoes and what is worse wear them, with the thermometer at ninety-six. I think prices are better for the purchaser here than anywhere else. I had made a black cravat for Eugene and it was lying upon my table when Major Mason of the Army came in and took it, saying he needed one. I let him keep it and a few hours afterwards he sent me five new novels and twenty pounds of coffee, telling me he knew I was too honest and scrupulous to drink the Hospital [sic] coffee.”


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