The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

The Price of Things

Do we know how much people paid for commodities?

We know a great deal about the price of things. For example, on April 12, 1861, the very day the war began, the New York Times informs us of the following prices, commodities, and events.

Ashes, which were in demand that April, went for $5.31 per pot. Cotton, which was selling sluggishly (“dull and heavy,” said the Times) went for 12.25 cents per bushel. Hay was selling for 75 cents per 100 pounds. Sugar was divided into three groups. Cuban sugar sold for between 4.5 cents and 5.5 cents per pound, while New Orleans sugar went for 4.75 cents per pound. Puerto Rican sugar, which seems to have held the highest demand, sold for 5.75 cents per pound. This is not all, however. Thanks to the New York Times, we know that the “Situations Wanted” advertised more for “coachman and gardener” than any other position for men and “waitress or chambermaid” for women. And we know that there were no fewer than eleven entertainments or amusements that day, ranging from the highbrow Academy of Music to Niblo’s Saloon, which had a minstrel show.


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