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  • Colonial American taverns
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  • HISTORICAL USA RETAIL FOOD PRICES: SOURCES, SURVEYS & DATA
    [1600-1860]
    The Value of a Dollar: Colonial Era to the Civil War, prices extracted from advertisements, newspapers, commodities listings, and personal inventories. Earliest prices are expressed in pence/colonial scrip. Food units are generally for large quantities, not comparable to modern supermarket prices.
    [18th century]
    Early American Tavern menu prices
    [1720-1775]
    Average wholesale prices of selected commodities in Philadelphia (bread, ship's bread, corn, rice, pork, flour, beef, salt, sugar, molasses, wine, & rum. Currency is expressed in Pennsylvania shillings. Monthly prices also available; 1762 sample. [SOURCE: Prices in Colonial Pennyslvania, Anne Bezanson, et al, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1935.]
    [1786-1817]
    Median annual prices for 14 leading commodities,Western Prices Before 1861/Thomas Senior Berry [Harvard University Press:Boston] 1943 [NOTE: This book offers dozens of price charts, including seasonal variations of Cincinnati Wholesale Commodity Prices 1824-1860 (p. 568-567).]
    [19th century]
    American pioneer provision prices
    [1817-1930]
    Family food expenditures [1817, 1833, 1851, 1864, 1926, 1930], The American and His Food/ Richard Osborn Cummings
    [1832]
    Meat prices, Boston MA
    [1849]
    Retail food costs, California gold miners
    [1861-1865]
    American Civil War food prices
    [1860-2009]
    The Value of A Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States, selected food prices extracted from advertisements and federal data [NOTE: Value of a Dollar books are available in most public libraries. In the back of this book you will find charts for selected items listing both historic prices and prices expressed in 2007 dollars.]
    [1890-1970]
    Basic commodities (go to page 31): average retail prices of eggs, bread, flour, milk, beef, potatoes, coffee, butter, bacon &c., reported by the federal government. Source: Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970/U.S. Dept. of Commerce, volume 2, series E187-202. Retail food prices are supplied by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Source notes detailed on p. 11 of this document.
    [1881]
    Prices asked for provisions, New York Times, November 27, 1881
    [1893]
    Boston School Kitchen Text-Book/Mrs. D. A. Lincoln
    [1899]
    Klondike [Alaska] gold miner provision prices
    [1900--present]
    How much did food cost in Morris County, NJ? year-by-year; also cars, clothing, housing, furniture, recreation, etc.
    [1902]
    Sears Roebuck and Company Catalog, mail order groceries

    [1909-1948]
    Food Consumption in the United States 1909-1948, includes data on prices, income & per capita consumption.
    [1910]
    "New Facts on the Increased Cost of Living," New York Times, March 27, 1910 (p. SM14) compares London & New York.
    [1913-1923]
    Average retail food prices for 51 cities, Monthly Labor Review, March 1923
    [1917]
    Food for the Worker/Frances Stern & Gertrude Spitz
    [1928 & 1929]
    Average retail food prices for 51 cities, Monthly Labor Review, December 1929
    [1931]
    Thanksgiving food prices
    [1936]
    Good Cooking Made Easy/Haseltine & Dow
    [1980-present]
    Average retail food prices --by product and region


    Inflation calculators
    If a Reuben sandwich cost 35 cents in 1935, how much would that be in "today's" dollars?
    You can use

    Colonial American tavern prices
    Colonial American tavern (publik house, ordinary) prices were set by law. Food was generally included with the price of room. Urban taverns offered a wider range of services, including both public and private dining facilties. These establishments offered meals to the general public. Menus were nonexistant; prices were fixed.
    About colonial tavern foods.

    Pricing notes here:

    "The fare in a rural tavern...was simple, whatever the tavern keeper had on hand for his/her own family and was willing to share...The prices charged for food (and nearly everything else) in a licensed tavern were regulated by law. Tavern keepers were even required in some areas to distinguish between a "good" meal and a "common" one. However, whatever the quality of the food served, the proprietor was allowed to charge a predetermined price...On December 28, 1785, the day Thomas Allen...opened the doors to his new City Coffee House in New London, Connecticut, Allen recorded the prices he intended to charge his customers in...his day book. Breakfast, dinner, and supper were the same price, one shilling and six pence...At Allen, the meals were seldom as expensive as the drink sold...Dinners in many urban taverns were, following English custom, offered as "ordinarys"...meaning a prepared meal open to the public offered at an established time for a set rate...Dishes, in some cases, were passed communally and not available as individual portions...The Indian King in Philadelphia...offered "a regular ordinary every Day, of the very best provisions and well dressed at 12d a head...'...Congressman Samuel Read wrote his wife in 1775: We sit in Congress generally till half-past three o'clock, and once till five o'clock, and then I dine at City Tavern, where a few of us have established a table for each day in the week, save Saturday when there is a general dinner....A dinner is ordered for the number, eight, and whatever is deficient of that number is to be paid for at two shillings and six pence a head, and each that attends pays only the expense of the day."
    ---Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers, Kym S. Rice for Fraunces Tavern Museum [Regnery Gateway:Chicago] 1983 (p. 85-93)

    Sample New Jersey prices:

    [1772:Mercer Country]
    "Princeton, 30th September 1772, 60 Dinners @2 s(hillings) each"
    ---"History of the Nassau Inn at Princeton," Prof. V. Lansing Collins, Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, New Series, January 1930, Volume XV, No. 1 (p. 52)

    [1784:Burlington County NJ]
    Breakfast, 1 shilling; breakfast extraordinary, 1 shilling 3 pence; Dinner, 1 shilling 3 pence; Dinner extraordinary, 2 shillings; Supper, 1 shilling; Supper extraordinary, 2 shillings."
    ---Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey, Camden County Historical Society, 1962)

    [1801:Middlesex County]
    In May, 1801 [Vernon Tavern, New Brunswick NJ] prices were fixed by Council were for a good breakfast 40 cents, a good dinner 50 cents, a good supper 40 cents, lodging 12 cents, making $1.42 per day; while a common breakfast, dinner, and supper cost each 10 cents less or $1.12 per day, for the less particular customers. it would be interesting to know just in what the bill of fare differed.'"
    ---"Early Taverns in New Brunswick," Wm. H. Benedict, Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, New Series 1918, Volume III, No. 3 (p. 137)

    [1806: Salem County]
    Best dinner with pint of good beer or cider 37.5 cents
    Best breakfast, of tea, coffee or chocolate, loaf sugar 31 cents
    Ditto of cold meat with a pint of good beer or cider 25cents
    ---Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey

    Alternative payment plans? Of course...
    "In the course of examining the [Elizabethtown NJ] tavern ledger we find some unusual mediums of exchange accepted in lieu of money. Among those more frequently met with are labor, shoes, butter, provisions, wine--doubtless 'home brew'--bottles, hay and other commodities of nature. However, to find a plow credited to the account of John Meeker [1792]...is somewhat of a surprise."
    ---"An Elizabethtown Tavern and its Ledger," Elmer T. Hutchinson, Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, New Series, October 1929, Vol. XIV, No. 4 (p. 453-454)

    A note about wartime food prices:
    Food in wartime is often a precious commodity. Prices are determined by availability and governmental regulation. During the American
    Civil War inflation was rampant and food was scarce. In World War I our federal government established the U.S. Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover.

    During World War II the Office of Price Adminstration (1942-1945) set the prices of various consumer goods to stabilize the economy in the United States. Ration books were used to purchase many items. Most countries involved in WWII also rationed food and regulated prices. Dates, prices and food items varied according to availability. In Great Britain food rationing was the managed by the Ministry of Food. Cookbooks published during war years provide a wealth of information on prices, menus and rationing.

    War ration book, New Jersey
    Price and Supply on the Home Front, Harriet Elliott,Consumer Division, Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, Survey Graphic, July, 1941.

    American Civil War: prices & fluxuations
    In all places and periods, supply and demand dictate market prices. Retail food price comparisons between the North and South during the Civil War are complicated because they had different money and inflation rates at different points during the War. Context is key.

    Most of the American Civil War was fought on Southern soil. Historians confirm Union forces specifically targeted Confederate food supply to gain physical advantage. Transportation blockades (railroads, rivers, ports), suppy reallocation (commandeering forts and merchants inventory) and farm destruction (pillage, burning) proved effective. Food was scarce; prices rose. Northern food prices reflected lack Southern produce but most folks above the Mason Dixon line were not starving. And, of course, seasonal availability was still a consideration. Enter: bartering.

    About food supply in the South
    "The Confederate-controlled Fort Henry and Fort Donelson protected major agricultural areas in Western Tennessee and well as crucial railroads and rivers on which provisions were transported withing the Confederacy...Fort Henry fell to Union naval forces, and the Union army proceeded overland to take Fort Donelson. Despite its strategic location, the garrison at Fort Donelson ran out of provisions...The effects of these losses were felt as far east as Macon, Georgia, where beef prices went from ten to twenty cents a pound in a few days...The scarcity of provisions for the arm and the price for food in the marketplace caused concern throughout the South." ---Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, Andrew F. Smith [St. Martin's Press:New York] 2011 (p. 32-33)

    "When food became unaffordable for many Southerns, the Confederate government stepped in and tried to place price controls on various commodities in the hope of keeping prices down. However, farmers hoarded staples rather than sell them at the artificially lower prices, resulting in less food on the open market. Price controls were discontinued, but inflation then ran rampant." ---ibid (p. 41)

    "[In Richmond VA] By February 1863 the price of flour had more than doubled. Bacon, which cost $1.25 per pound in 1860, sold for $10, while the price of sugar increased more than fifteen-fold and coffee cost forty times what it had previously...Rapidly escalating prices encouraged hoarding and speculation, which drove prices up even more. Since the salaries of soldiers, government workers, and factory laborers were fixed--or at least did not rise quickly enough to cover inflation--food became unaffordable." ---ibid (p. 53)

    "[In Atlanta, 1864] food prices...escalated--a pound of butter cost $15, a bushel of potaotes sold for $24, a barrel of flour went for $250, and one hundred pounds of bacon cost $500." ---ibid 9p. 168)

    "Even before the sieve of Vicksburg commenced, food was a problem in the city. Confederate soldiers engaged in 'the customary pilfering--fruits, vegetables, chickens, and livestock disappeared; troops drained the sity of supplies, created shortages, adn sent prices soaring. Food became scarce. Butter sold for $1.50 a pound, and flour was virtually unavailable...Although food was plentiful outside Vicksburg...plantation owners were often unwilling to sell food to the military authorities, simply because farmers could get better prices on the open market. Well before the arrival of the Federal army, Vicksburg residents had to drive into the countryside to purchase salt for $45 a bag and turkeys at $50 each, which were unavailable in the city."
    ---ibid(p. 99-100)

    [1861]
    Prices in the Macon [Georgia] market.
    --The prices for all leading articles are considerably lower than in any other city, as is concluseivley demonstrated by the fact that our merchants are daily shipping goods to all the principal cities in this and adjoining States. Retail country dealers have therefore only to choose whether they will pay the prices demanded by our merchangts and thus keep the good share, or let them be sold to other points. Our merchants, so far, have not ran the prices up to correspond with other cities, and prices have only advanced with the heavy demand. For instance, the single article of Lard Oil is quote in New Oreans at from 2.50-3.00 per gallon; it is quoted in our market at from 2.75-3.00 per gallon.
    Groceries
    Bacon.--The market has been stationary. Clear sides held firm at 2-3 cents. Hams 24 to 26 cents and Shoulders 24-25 cents. The stock on hand is nearly exhausted. Canvasses and country ham, 28-30 cents.
    Lard.--Stock exhausetd. Sellling at 25 cents
    Flour. Advancing. Superfine, 3.50-3.75, Family, 4.00. Stock light
    Corn meal. Good demand at 1.00-1.05
    Coffee.--Very light stock. Rio, 40-45 cents. Laguria, 45-50 cents. Java, 45-50 cents.
    Rice. Very good stock. Sells from 3.5-4.5 cents
    Sugars.--New Orleans, 9.5-13.5 cents. The stock of A, B, and C Refined Coffee Sugars have become exhausted. Crushed and Powdered, 25 cents.
    Molasses.--Declined 5 cents per gallon. Cuba 50-55 cents. Golden Syrup, 80 cents-1.00. New Orleans Syrup, 50 cents.
    Soda.--Super Carbonate, 25 cents. Considerable advance. Salt.--7.50-8.00. This article is rapidly advancing.
    Wheat-In good demand at 1.25
    Corn.--New corn is selling at 75 cents
    Oats.--But few in market quoted at 60-65 cents shelled
    Rye.--1.25/bushel
    barley.--Barley brings 1.50/bushel
    Peas.--In great demand. A large quantity can be disposed of at from 85-90 cents.
    ---SOURCE: Macon [Daily] Telegraph, Macon Georgia, October 31, 1861 (p. 3)

    [1865]
    "Family Marketing: Current Retail Prices at the Principal Markets," New York Times, November 11, 1865 (p. 3)

    Bartering instead of cash
    Bartering (trading) goods and services in lieu of monetary payment was common in pre-iundustrial times. It was especially viable during periods of hardship and war. A farmer could barter grain and vegetables for a horse; a merchant could accept flour for tools, a cobbler could exchange a new pair of shoes for a winter coat. During the American Civil War, Southerners regularly bartered one food for another, or other goods for food. Salt was an especially precious commodity because in times preceding modern refrigeration, it was used for food curing and preservation. No salt meant no meat during the long months following traditional slaughtering periods (late fall).

    Bartering transactions are excluded from historic pricing data sets because there were no records published in the newspaper, captured by commercial markets, or reported by the government. Most accounds are anecdotal; found in letters, journals and diaries.

    "Because of the depreciating value of the Confederate money, and the scarcity of specie, the primitive system of barter came to be a popular method of exchange late in the war. After early 1864 it was said that bartering had become the 'best mode of getting supplies, and those who...[had] things to barter fare well.' From 1864 until the end of the war, newspapers carried hundreds of notices of people willing to exchange one commodity for another. The following advertisement, which appeared in the Savannah Republican, was typical:

    'I will barter salt from my salt factory for produce on the following terms: Salt, 50 pounds per bushel; 4 bushels of salt for 5 bushels of corn and peas; 1 bushel of salt for 5 pounds of lard or bacon; 2 bushels of salt for 7 pounds of sugar; 10 bushels of salt for a barrel of 'super' flour; 2 bushels of salt for 1 pr. of shoes.'
    The acceptance of foodstuffs in return for tuition or board in colleges and schools became general. Forsaking altogether monetary payments, farmers would load whatever they had to ofer on a wagon or cart and take it around the countryside trying to exchange it for what they had not...One woman, once a lady of means, found it necessary to sell her $600 New Orleans-made bonnet. Instead of money, she took five turkeys in payment."
    ---Ersatz in the Confederacy: Shortages and Substitutes on the Southern Homefront, 1952 facsimile edition, Mary Elizabeth Massey [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1993 (p. 168)


    How can we find prices of popular items through the centuries to make comparison charts?
    A "Food Thru the Ages " project sounds wonderful! Unfortunately, this is not a simple task. Determining accurate historic values of consumer goods is a complicated economic process--one which must factor in regional differences, inflation, labor costs and personal income. To make international comparisons one must also study the evolution of monetary systems and foreign exchange rates. This is why (for example) it is impossible to draw a simple chart of bread prices through the ages across all cultures. If you want to compare your local prices from one decade to another you will need to factor in the
    Consumer Price Index for your area. Numbers are supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor.

    About food prices & weights
    Did you know that in Great Britain that a penny-loaf was set by law? Karen Hess, culinary historian, explained "Bread was the staff of life in Tudor and Stuart England, more so among the poor than the rich.... Its importance was such that the Assizes of Bread, dating from 1266, took upon itself overseeing and pricing of the bakers. The price of the loaf was fixed; the weight was permitted to fluctuate in compliance with an official table that took into account the price of wheat and the extent of bolting. The finest regular loaf was the penny white, next the penny wheaten...and the household penny 100% whole wheat..." (Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, pps 17-18). You will find a link to the Assize of Bread and the Judgement of the Pillory (the punishment for breaking this law!) in the Food Timeline's teacher resources page, under the heading "laws".

    If you want to make price comparisons in modern times you also have to pay close attention to changes in weights and measures. Package sizes/weights of popular consumer goods (candy bars, canned products, cereal boxes) vary greatly over the years.

    Historic restaurant prices

    Old menus are the best place to find historic restaurant prices. The challenge is to find ones from the type of restaurant you need (Steak house? Family-style chain? Roadside diner? Seaside lobster shack? Railroad dining car? World's Fair?) in the place/time you are studying. Case in point: Delmonicos 1830s menus. This is not an easy task. Very few old menus are uploaded to the Internet. Start here:

    Delmonico's Bill of Fare, 1830s
    How much did a meal in New York City's Delmonico's cost and what did they serve? Excellent questions. The original 1834 Delmonico's menu (bill of fare or carte) was a simple list of basic items. Not quite the extensive gourmet fare history associates with this particular establishment. The best discussion of this first Bill of Fare is reported in The
    "A Menu and A Mystery: The Case of the 1834 Delmonico Bill of Fare," Ellen F. Steinberg and Jack H. Prost, Gastronomica, Spring 2008 (p. 40-50).

    Delmonico's 1838 menu was reprinted in the frontmatter of Lately Thomas' book Delmonico's: A Century of Splendor. This extensive menu reflects the gourmet glory of Delmonico's exquisite meals and wine service. Curiously? These menu prices were expressed in British currency. This stuns contemporary researchers expecting the new United States to eschew all things British. In context, it make perfect sense. We queried William Grimes, author of Appetite City about this phenomenon. He was kind to respond with this information: "The US used shillings and pence for quite some time, even after the revolution. Hence the cheap restaurants that served "shilling plates." The earliest Delmonico's menus reflect the period of transition from British-style coins to the US ones."

    "Although French cuisine was gaining a foothold, the dominant cooking style in New York was still English, reflected in the profusion of oyster saloons and chophouses near the theaters, the markets and the centers of commerce...'Everything is done differently in New York form anywhere else....'...Any innovation that smoothed the flow was regarded as pure genius. Haly and Sabin's refectory on Nassau Street introduced the self-serve concept by arranging lighter dishes along a large table, allowing customers to pick and choose according to their pocket, their appetite, or their time. 'Here one can graduate his feeding precisely to his appetite, and can luxuriate from a penny's worth of bread and butter up to the full capcity of his purse.' the Tribune reported. 'Warm cakes morning, noon and night, good coffee, tea and chocolate, good steaks, etc. pies, cakes, etc. and one may fill with these for a New York shilling.'...For the present, New York's restaurants catered to every taste, at every price. In a fanciful sketch in the Broadway Journal in 1845, a 'gentleman in search of dinner' made a comic tour of the city's restaurants, driven from one dining spot to the next by a series of mishaps that whittled away at his bankroll of 'a half eagle and two shilling pieces.'...Reaching into his pocket to pay for an absinthe at the bar, the hapless gentleman realizes that one of the two shillings he gave the cabman was actually his half eagle. Suddenly, dinner at Delmonico's is off. He is now flat broke...Brooklynites who agreed paid a shilling at Bell's for roast meats (beef, lamb, veal or pork) or a shilling and a sixpence for roast fowl (chicken, goose, turkey, or duck)."
    ---Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York, William Grimes [North Point Press:New York] 2009 (p. 62-63, 71,72)

    "The trend of the prices can be judged from two bills that have survived, rendered to 'J.O. Sargent' in 1840 and 1847, respectively...The 1840 bill was for four dinners (plus an incidental charge of 63 cents) at a total cost of $20.76. This works out to an average of about $5.00 per dinner...The 1847 bill was for six dinners, at a total charge of $55.50...The average cost for dinner this time was more than $9.00, though this increase might be attributed either to the fact that on two occasions, when the bill came to $17.88 and $12.00 respectively, Sargent entertained guests, or splurged on wines. The supplemental charges and costs of wines were what could run the check for a Delmonico repast up and up."
    ---Delmonico's: A Century of Splendor, Lately Thomas [Houghton Mifflin:Boston] 1967 (p. 45)

    Charles Dickens Dinner, prepared by Charles Ranhofer, 1868. Unpriced.

    How much would these meals cost in today's dollars? Inflation calculators provide general numbers. What we don't know? What size were the portions and how many dishes, on average, were ordered.

    Breakfast cereal: the Kellogg's Corn Flake study
    Pioneering 19th century breakfast cereal manufacturers (Kelloggs, Post, Quaker, Ralston) left an indelible mark on American tables. In addition to filling generations of hungry bellies, breakfast cereals provide viable insight into our nation's economic situation. How? Prices and sizes of breakfast cereal products reflect dietary recommendations, agricultural surpluses, supply shortages, and political purpose. We selected Kellogg's Corn Flakes for our breakfast cereal price study because it has survived a century of changing consumer tastes, two World Wars, price fixing investigations, Stagflation and (now) Agflation. It's one of the few constants in a churning bowl of changing norms.

    About Kellogg's: In the beginning, Kellogg's patented foods were served exclusively to the residents of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. According to the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Kellogg brand cereals were introduced to the American public May 1, 1907. An interesting byproduct of this study was discovering the timeliness of Kellogg's advertising. In the earliest years, Kellogg's Corn Flakes were touted for their healthful properties as aids to digestion. During the Great Depression and WWII, Corn Flakes were promoted as meat fillers and milk extenders. In the 1950s and 1960s they were familiar, filling, and fun for afterschool and bedtime snacks. During the health-conscious 1970s these unpretentious flakes led the crusade. Ads laid low during the 1980s-1990s, when pre-sweetened cereals prolifertated. In the 2000s, as we warily watch American corn crops diverted to ethanol production, Kellogg's prices rise again. What story will these prices tell 10 years from now?

    About these prices

    How much did a box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes cost?

    [June 29, 1907] "large size," 10 cents
    [1908] no size, 10 cents
    [1909] no size, 10 cents
    [1910] no size, 9 cents
    [1911] no size, 10 cents
    [1912] no size, 9 cents
    [1913] no size, 10 cents
    [1914] no size, 10 cents
    [1915] no size, 8 cents
    [1916] no size, 8 cents
    [1917] no size, 8 cents
    [1918] no size, 8 cents
    [1919] no size, 12 cents
    [1920] no size, 11 cents
    [1922] "large size," 12.5 cents
    [1923] no size, 9 cents
    [1924] no size, 8 cents
    [1925] no size, 9 cents
    [1926] no size, 10 cents
    [1927] no size, 10 cents
    [1928] no size, 8 cents
    [1929] no size, 7 cents
    [1930] 7.6 oz, 7.5 cents
    [1931] no size, 9 cents
    [1932] 8 oz, 25 cents/four pkgs
    [1933] no size, 20 cents/three pkgs
    [1934] 8 oz, 8 cents
    [1935] 8 oz, 8 cents
    [1936] 8 oz, 20 cents/three pkgs
    [1937] no size, 7 cents
    [1938] 8 oz, 13 cents/two pkgs
    [1939] 8 oz, 13 cents/two pkgs
    [1940] 8 oz, 11 cents/two pkgs
    [1941] no size, 9 cents
    [1942] 11 oz, 8 cents
    [1943] 11 oz, 8 cents
    [1944] 6 oz, 5 cents
    [1945] 11 oz, 8 cents (also: 6 oz, 5 cents & 18 oz, 12 cents)
    [1946] 6 oz, 5 cents
    [1947] 13 oz, 17 cents
    [1948] 8 oz, 12 cents
    [1949] 13 oz, 19 cents
    [1950] 8 oz, 16 cents
    [1951] 8 oz, 13 cents
    [1952] 8 oz, 16 cents
    [1953] 8 oz, 15 cents
    [1954] 8 oz, 25 cents
    [1955] 12 oz, 19 cents
    [1956] 8 oz, 29 cents/two pkgs
    [1957] 8 oz, 17 cents
    [1958] 8 oz, 18 cents
    [1959] 12 oz, 22 cents
    [1960] 18 oz, 27 cents
    [1961] 12 oz, 23 cents
    [1962] 18 oz, 27 cents
    [1963] 12 oz, 23 cents
    [1964] 12 oz, 29 cents
    [1965] 12 oz, 25 cents
    [1966] 12 oz, 25 cents
    [1967] 12 oz, 29 cents
    [1968] 18 oz, 39 cents
    [1969] 12 oz, 29 cents
    [1970] 18 oz, 38 cents
    [1971] 8 oz, 21 cents
    [1972] 18 oz, 37 cents
    [1973] 12 oz, 25 cents
    [1974] 18 oz, 43 cents
    [1975] 12 oz, 45 cents
    [1976] 18 oz, 69 cents
    [1977] 12 oz, 50 cents
    [1978] 24 oz, $1.15
    [1979] 12 oz, 59 cents
    [1980] 19 oz, 99 cents
    [1981] 18 oz, $1.12
    [1982] 18 oz, $1.25
    [1983] 18 oz, 99 cents
    [1984] 12 oz, 89 cents
    [1985] 18 oz, $1.09
    [1986] 18 oz, $1.39
    [1987] 24 oz, $1.99
    [1988] 18 oz, $1.49
    [1989] 18 oz, $1.69
    [1990] 18 oz, $1.99
    [1991] 18 oz, $2.19
    [1992] 18 oz, $1.99
    [1993] 18 oz, $1.29
    [1994] 24 oz, $2.19
    [1995-1996] no prices found yet
    [1997] 18oz, $2.59
    [1998] 18 oz, $2.29
    [1999] no prices found yet
    [2000] 18 oz, $2.99
    [2001-2003] no prices found yet
    [2004] 12 oz, $2.99
    [2005-2007] no prices found yet
    [2008] 12 oz, $2.99
    [2011] 12 oz., $3.79
    [2012]12 oz., $3.79
    [2013] 12 oz., $3.79

    Prohibition-era cocktail prices [1920-1933]
    "...illegal booze was expensive and most drinkers--female or male--could not afford to consume alcohol at preprohibition rates... overhead expenses were immense. The costs associated with intercepted shipments (lost either to rivals or to law enforcement agents), hired thugs, police payoffs, chemists, distillery workers, ships, trucks, and production equipment all mounted up-- so those in the traffic charged plenty. In Northern cities, cocktails that sold for 15 cents in 1918 were 75 cents by the early 1920s. Domestic lager beer, which sold for about $10.50 a barrel in 1918, cost anywhere from 15 cents to $1 or more a quart by 1930 (that is, $160 or more a barrel, depending upon the quality of the beer). Domestic spirits, which averaged $1.39 a quart in 1918, soared to an average of $4.01 a quart by 1930. Prices on imported foreign beverages also rose significantly...no doubt a large quantity of American made liquor was passed off as imported to fetch higher prices."
    ---Drinking in America: A History, Mark Edward Lender and James Kirby Martin [Free Press:New York] 1982 (p. 145)

    Retail prices, alcoholic beverages, USA, 1930
    ---The Economic Results of Prohibition, Clark Warburton [1932]
    [NOTE: This book is chock full of charts, data and economic analysis. FT Libary owns a copy.]

    New Year's Eve 1933, Prohibition still in effect:
    "The lesser speakeasies jacked up their cocktail prices form 75 cents to $1.50, but those which boast no modernistic decorations, Argentine fiddlers, or Marimba bands, were contented to cling to the 50-cent-a-shot tariff, counting on volume of business to provide seasonal profit. The ordinary saloons in the southern section of New York offered cut whisky at 25 cents a drink, with the house buying every third potion. In the 'smoke shops' of the lower East Side and Hell's Kitchen, on the west, the usual pink, blue or gray concoction of redistilled alcohol and tap-water sold for 25 cents a pint, or 10 cents a drink."
    ---"Old Man Rum and Kid '33 Stage Big Show in New York," Washington Post, January 1, 1933 (p. M3)

    Setting new prices, Prohibition repealed, 1934:
    "Washington went shopping for its liquor yesterday. With repeal effective, liquor stores were crowded. Buyers who looked around found a great variation in prices, sometimes as much as $1 and more a bottle. Prices generally were lower than those charged in Maryland stores. With repeal getting off to a slow start when it actually became effective at midnight Thursday, business picked up yesterday and the cocktail hour found drinking places jammed and stores doing a big business. Night clubs and restaurants, which did a slow business during the two yours between midnight and 2 a.m. yesterday, were jammed last night as thousands celebrated...For the most part, crowds were orderly. Yesterday police made 13 arrests for drunken driving--not an unusual day. When Government offices closed at 4:30 p.m. crowd flocked to the liquor stores, which had sprung up overnight in the downtown district, and in some places overflowed into the streets. Stocks were not plentiful...In all, 175 liquor stores had paid their license of $750 apiece to sell packaged alcoholic wares of all kinds. Not all of them were ready for business. Customers repeatedly were told that their favorite beverages were not available but would be in a day or two...most Washington drinkers were keeping up their habit of buying liquor and drinking it at home. Public drinking was strange and new to most of the customers. While most of the buyers were men there were a number of women in the crowds...Few quotations were available on wines and champagnes, because there was none available. Domestic wines sold as low as 89 cents a fifth. The price in Maryland is $1.10. Dixie Belle gin was selling at one of the cheaper Washington stores at $1.19 a quart, as compared with $1.90 in Maryland. Hennessy brandy varied greatly. One store was charging $4.95 a bottle. In another, bottles with the same labels were selling at $3.85. Tom Hardy blended rye sold as low as $1.19 a pint in one store, and in another it was $2.85 a quart. The Maryland price is $1.20 a pint. Crab Orchard straight Bourbon whisky sold here as low as $1.19, as compared with $1.40 in Maryland...At one of the higher priced stores, the following prices were quoted on popular brands if blended whisky by the quart...Four Roses, $3.80...Some of the liquor stores were selling bottles containing somewhat less than two ounces of blended whisky, at from 20 cents to 25 cents a bottle. This seemed to be a particularly popular item and thousands of bottles were sold to customers seeking a novel way of serving drinks. In one Fourteenth street store more customers were buying little bottles, at 23 cents each, than anything else...Cocktail prices ranged from 25 cents to 40 cents. Whisky by the drink was selling from 15 cents for the blended variety to 25 cents for bonded goods. Club prices and restaurant prices were lower than the old speakeasy rates. The Press Club was charging 25 cents for gin bucks, rye highballs and Manhattan and Martini cocktails. Straight drinks of blended liquor were as low as 20 cents and 40 cents was being charged for bonded rye and imported Scotch."
    ---"Thirsty Jam Rum Stores; Prices Vary," Felix Bruner, Washington Post, March 2, 1934 (p.1)

    "Times Square: Cocktail Prices Change With Hour of Day--35-50-75 Cents," Variety, March 20, 1934 (p. 59)
    Compare with
    1946 alcohol prices.

    How much did strawberries cost in the USA 1856?
    Back in those days strawberries were seasonal and many people grew them at home. Our survey of historic USA newspapers confirms fresh strawberries were sold in urban markets late spring/early summer. In 1852 the crop was poor and prices were high. Think: supply and demand. Below please find an article published in the New York Times in 1856. It provides amazing details on the size of market, consumer price points, and business outlook. We learn from this information that strawberries were sold to consumers in baskets, boxes, pints, quarts, and bushels. "Strawberries are the Arcadian dainties with which mother earth blesses us once a year. In their blushing ripeness, they are both pleasant to the eye and grateful tot eh taste. More than this, they are the most healthful of all fruits. Everybody knows how they great Linnaeus cured himself of the gout by freely feasting on them. We presume that all the New Yorkers are afflicted with the gout just now, as the Summer days approach, and are eager to improve the botanist's remedy....New York City is the largest strawberry market in the world, and the strawberry grows in all climates and is sold in all latitudes. It is estimated that fifty thousand bushels of this delicious fruit were sold in this City during the season of 1855, while about twelve thousand bushels were sold in Philadelphia, twelve thousand in Cincinnati, and ten thousand in Boston. During one week last season, more than 400,000 baskets were received daily in this City. From one port in New Jersey, twenty five miles distant, we received by steamboat on a single day, 200,000 baskets. The largest receipt of strawberries by railroad on a single day, that we remember was a load of 893 bushels, or 142,000 baskets, brought in by an evening train on the Erie railroad, a few years since. New York City received last year from all sources, not less than 8,000,000 baskets of strawberries. The value of those, at the wholesale price of 2 1/2 cents the basket, was $2000,000, for which the consumer probably paid double that sum. The size of a strawberry basket is about 'the size of a piece of chalk.' Five baskets were supposed originally to make a quart. But as, like baker's loaves, they become each year small by degrees and beautifully less, it would be hazardous for us to assert how many of these infinitesimal units will make a quart this season. We know of no reason why strawberries should be sold in these thimble measures.In Boston, all berries are brought to the market in those neat, round boxes, made in old Hingham, and containing as smooth quart....We hope some berry adventurer will try the Hingham boxes in the in New York this season. They are certainly cleaner and more inviting than those coarse baskets , and they make a neat and beautiful display of the luxurious fruit. About fifteen hundred acres of choice land, in the vicinity of New York, are required to supply this market with strawberries. Some farmers cultivate thirty and forty acres for this purpose. The average crop form one acre runs from thirty to fifty bushels. Some cultivators have succeeded in gathering, occasionally, one hundred, and even one hundred and thirty bushels from an acre. ..The cost of cultivating the berries, is estimated at $20 and $25 the acre, with the additional expense of $1.50 per bushel for picking. The prices obtained for the fruit by the cultivators range form 12 1/2 cents to $1.50 the quart. The latter price has been paid in Washington City for the earliest berries raised in that vicinity. It is probably that the nature of the strawberry and its cultivation is not yet thoroughly understood. A crop of 30 bushels an acre is about equal to a corn crop of 10 bushels on the same ground, which, as every farmer knows, is a very poor product. If our farmers understood the nature of the strawberry as well as they understand the nature of corn, they could easily raise 300 bushels on an acre as 30. Then these delicious berries would be cheaper and more abundant every year."
    ---"Strawberries," New York Times, May 30, 1856 (p. 6) [NOTES: (1) Hingham boxes were used in Boston.]

    Campbell's Tomato Soup prices
    Food ads published in local newspapers are the best sources for identifying brand-name retail prices. NOTE: while this is primary data, the prices are random samples from various places, years, seasons and months. Below please find prices from Campbell’s condensed soup product introduction: 1897 to 2012. We stuck with one flavor (tomato) and product type (canned condensed soup). Whenever possible, we included product weight (varies from 10 oz to 10 3/4 oz). A true price comparison should be done by weight, not packaging (can).
    Inflation calculators put these prices in context.

    [1897] 10 cents/can
    [1900] 5 cents/can
    [1905] 6 cents/can
    [1907] 25 cents/3 cans
    [1908] 9 cents/can
    [1909] 10 cents/can
    [1911] 10 cents/can
    [1913] 10 cents/can
    [1915] 10 cents/can
    [1917] 10 cents/can
    [1920] 15 cents/"tall can"
    [1922] 8 cents/can
    [1925] 25 cents/3 cans
    [1926] 25 cents/3 cans
    [1929] 9 cents/can
    [1931] 20 cents/3 cans
    [1934] 20 cents/3 cans
    [1935] 20 cents/3 cans
    [1937] 20 cents/3 cans (10 1/2 oz)
    [1939] 7 cents/can
    [1943] 25 cents/3 cans
    [1944] 9 cents/can
    [1947] 44 cents/4 cans
    [1949] 10 cents/1 can (10 1/2 oz)
    [1950] 32 cents/2 cans
    [1953] 32 cents/3 cans
    [1954] 33 cents/3 cans (10 1/2 oz)
    [1958] 10 cents/can (10 1/2 oz)
    [1959] 10 cents/can
    [1962] 10 cents/can
    [1963] 10 cents/can
    [1964] 20 cents/ 3 "tall" cans
    [1965] 11 cents/ca (10 1/2 oz)
    [1968] 11 cents/can (10 1/2 oz)
    [1969] 8 cents/can (10 1/z oz)
    [1970] 10 cents/can (no. 1)
    [1972] 10 cents/can (10 1/2 oz)
    [1975] 1.0/5 cans (10 1/2 oz)
    [1977] 19 cents/can (10 oz)
    [1979] 10 cents/can (10 oz)
    [1980] 97 cents/4 cans (10 1/2 oz)
    [1982] 1.00/5 cans (10 1/2 oz)
    [1985] 1.00/4 cans (10 3/4 oz)
    [1988] 1.00/3 cans (10 3/4 oz)
    [1990] 1.00/3 cans
    [1992] 98 cents/3 cans (10 3/4 oz)
    [1999] 1.00/2 cans ( 10 3/4 oz)
    [2000] 55 cents/can (10 3/4 oz)
    [2001] 59 cents/can (10 oz)
    [2003] 38 cents/can (10 3/4 oz)
    [2004] 88 cents/2 cans (19 3/4 oz)
    [2007] 1.00/2 cans (10 3/4 oz)
    [2009] 1.0/2 cans (10 3/4 oz)
    [2010] 4.00/6 cans (10 3/4 oz)
    [2011] 69 cents/can (10 3/4 oz)
    [2012] 1.29/can (10 3/4 oz)
    [2014] 1.09/can (10 3/4 oz)
    SOURCES: ProQuest Historic Newspapers, NewspaperArchive.com & Acme Supermarket, Randolph New Jersey, USA

    Who "invented" this product?
    "Campbell's Soups were developed in the 1890s by Dr. John T. Dorrance, a chemist from Philadelphia. Dorrance earned his PhD at the University of Gottingen in Germany, then stayed on in Paris to learn about French cooking, especially soup making. Meanwhile, Dr. Dorrance's uncle, Arthur, was a partner in Joseph Campbell's Camden New Jersey, canning company...Dr. John T. Dorrance turned down offers of professorships from Cornell, Columbia, and Bryn Mawr to work with his uncle in the canning industry, not only because of the lucrative salary his uncle offered, but because he had developed an idea while studying in the kitchens of Paris. He believed that condensed canned soup would be a very attractive product for three basic reasons: it was less expensive to ship, it took up less shelf space, and it was infinitely more convenient. Campbell's tomato soup was introduced in 1897 and was instantly popular...And at just 10 cents a can, Campbell's Soup cost one-third as much as ready-to-eat soup....The distinctive red and white label--inspired by Cornell University's school colors, was introduced in 1898..."
    ---"Campbell's Soup," Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands, Volume 1: Consumable Products, Janice Jorgensen editor [St. James Press:Detroit MI] 1994 (p. 90-93)
    [NOTES: (1) The Campbell’s Company was founded in 1869. Company history & timeline (2) Recommended reading: America's Favorite Food: The Story of Campbell Soup Company, Douglas Collins [Harry N. Abrams:New York] 1994.]

    Coca Cola & Pepsi prices
    Tracing price histories for specific products (even ones as famous as Coca Cola and Pepsi) can be a complicated project. Why? Point of purchase (vending machine, grocery store, restaurant, army PX?), product size (10 ounce cans, 8 ounce glass bottles, 2 litre plastic bottles), and economic factors (sugar availability) all play significant roles. Most products do not maintain a uniform presence throughout the years. Unless the company itself has conducted such a study, the best you can do is approximate. If this is the case, base your study on price per ounce rather than container.

    A note about canned soda:
    Coca cola began selling its products in cans in 1940, two years after the first soda in cans (Cliquot brand ginger ale) went to market. Our research indicates these cans cost 5 cents each. About Coca Cola in cans:

    "Coca-Cola had tested their product in cans as early as 1940. They tried a 16-ounce and 32-ounce cone top can with a red, green and white logo that read "canned specially for use at home and on outings." Coca-Cola began selling cans to overseas armed services in 1955 and, in 1959, test marketed cans in five U.S. cities. By 1960, however, it was Royal Crown that was selling the most canned soft drinks. Inspired by the new competition, Coca-Cola began using and promoting cans on a large scale soon thereafter. The soft drink maker even introduced a new label design specifically for their canned product called the "Harlequin" which featured a pattern of diamonds and proved popular with consumers."
    Can Central

    Survey of historic U.S. prices for Coca Cola and Pepsi
    Notes: We include unit size whenever possible; some old newspaper advertisements exclude this piece of data. Pricing for these two products is generally competitive, meaning they are approximately the same on average. A sale one week for Coca Cola is likely be matched the next by Pepsi.

    [1886]
    When Coca Cola was launched in 1886, it was offered free to customers in drug store soda fountains. This popular period marketing strategy soon created a demand for the product. About Coca Cola.
    [1887-WWII] Value of a Dollar states the price of Coca Cola (by the glass or bottle) was five cents. This book extracts its information from advertisements.
    [1942] Advertisement placed in the Daily Record [Morristown, NJ] newspaper, Pepsi .05/bottle
    [1944] Daily Record, Coca Cola, .05/bottle
    [1945] Daily Record, Pepsi, .23/six 12 ounce bottles
    [1949] New York Times (June 22, p. 35): Coca Cola, 5 cents bottle, 25 cents 6 bottle carton, $1.00 24 bottle carton
    [1950] "Five-cent soda pop like the nickel candy bar, soon may become as rare as the whooping crane. From New York to San Francisco one of the most staunchly held price lines in U.S. economic history is now crumbling rapidly. That's the keynote of shop talk being swapped here this week by 1,000 pop bottlers gathered for a convention of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. It's a matter of moment to 150 million Americans. Last year they guzzled 24 billion bottles of pop. All bottlers are divided into three groups these days--those who've already raised prices to six, seven or ten cents a bottle and those who want to boost prices but haven't quite worked up enough nerve; and a smaller fraction who are trying to hold the line. Higher production costs are squeezing them all...'This may be an evolution instead of a revolution, but prices of soft drinks are sure to go up like everything else has since the war. The nickel is obsolete...Places like Chicago and New York are almost universally selling soft drinks for 7 to 10 cents a bottle. It's just like the 5-cent phone call that now costs 10 cents in many places...The score pad to date...shows a patchwork price pattern across the United States. In many cities in the state of Washington, soft drinks cost a dime a bottle. Philadelphians pay 7 cents while folks in Colorado Springs shell out 6 cents. In New York they're liable to pay anything from a nickel to a dime...Key to the price problem is the amount that bottlers charge retailers. For as long as most bottlers-- or their fathers--can remember, the price has been 80 cents for a case of 24 small bottles. At that price, a retailer grosses $1.20 a case by selling the bottles at 5 cents each...The cost increases which nag the bottlers are many. They begin with the syrups or concentrates that bottles buy from the manufacturers, such as Coca-Cola, Nehi, Seven-Up, Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Mission Orange. Syrup prices are tied to the price of sugar--and raw sugar now sells at $6.25 a hundred pounds in New York. The pre-war 1939 aerate in New York was less than $3...Bottlers also have to calculate such costs as labor, bottles, cases, delivery trucks, tires, gasoline and machinery...'Coca-Cola does 50% of the soft drink business. It has the tremendous advantage of its volume of sales as well as having only a six-ounce bottle. Thus, it can sell at 5 cents long after we can,' says G.R. Fitzgerald, sales director of the B-1 Beverage Co. of St. Louis. 'They are putting a lot of dealers out of business with their 5-cent price.'..Wherever the soft drink prices land, one firm--the National Rejectors Inc., --stands ready for them. It's displaying here a device for bottle-dispensing machines that can answer almost any coin-changing problem you can put to it. A buyer of a six-cent soft drink...can deposit a penny and a dime in the machine and get a nickel back. Or he can insert a dime and receive four pennies. Or a penny and a quarter will bring him four nickels."--- ---"Nickel Soda Pop: It's Disappearing Fast as Costs Push to Six and Ten Cents," Millard Purdy and James Thurber, Wall Street Journal, November 2, 1950 (p. 1)
    [1964] Daily Record, Coca Cola, .27, two 12 oz cans
    [1968] Value of a Dollar, Pepsi, .59/6pack of 10oz bottles
    [1970] "The price of a glass of Coca-Cola rose five cents at many soda fountains here. In Atlanta a spokesman for Coca-Cola Co., said the increase was prompted by some New York wholesalers who last week boosted the prices they charge for a gallon of Coke syrup to $2.25 from $2. He said Coke itself hasn't changed the prices. For many New Yorkers the step means they'll be paying 20 cents for a small glass of the soft drink instead of 15 cents, and 30 cents for a large glass instead of 25 cents."--- ---"Price of a Glass of Coke Rises 5 Cents in New York," Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1970 (p. 3)
    [1972] Daily Record, Pepsi, .69/six-pack 12 oz cans
    [1974] Daily Record, Pepsi Cola, .88/6 12oz cans
    [1982] Daily Record, Coke, .99/1 litre bottle
    [1985] Daily Record, Pepsi, .89/2 litre bottle
    [1992] Daily Record, Coke, 6.98/two 12-packs 12 oz cans
    [1994] Daily Record, Coca Cola, 3.99/two "12" packs
    [1995] Daily Record, Coca Cola, .59-.99/2 litre bottle
    [2002] Daily Record, Coca Cola .99/2 litre bottle
    [2005] Daily Record, Coca Cola, 1.09/2 litre bottle
    [2009] Daily Record, Coca Cola, 3.99/8-pack; 16 oz bottles
    [2011] Daily Record, Coca Cola, 1.89/67.6 oz bottle
    [2012] Foodtown, Cedar Knolls, NJ, 1.89/67.6 oz bottle
    [2013] Foodtown, Cedar Knolls, NJ, 1.99/2 litre bottle

    If you need to obtain a price for a Coke or Pepsi for specific location/time your best bet is to check old newspapers for grocery store advertisements. Your local public librarian can help you identify/obtain old newspapers. Large national papers (New York Times) contained food advertisements in the early years. These are searchable via databases.

    If you are studying the "Cola Wars" (competition between Coca Cola and Pepsi) we recommend:

    Marketing students will find hundreds of articles on the "cola wars" in consumer/business magazines, trade journals (Beverage Digest, for example), and newspapers. Ask your librarian how to access these databases. Some of these should be accessible from your own computer. All you need is a library card or student ID.

    The "Hershey Bar Index"
    Tracking the prices of "regular" candy bars is a complicated project because over the years the definition of regular (ie, size and weight) has also changed. Contrary to popular opinion, the size of the average chocolate bar is not ever-shrinking. The price? Is a function of global trade.

    The Hershey Company was kind enough to supply us with price/weight data for their famous Hershey Bar from 1908-1986:

    [1908] 9/16 oz.....2 cents
    [1918] 16/16 oz.....3 cents
    [1920] 9/16 oz.....3 cents
    [1921] 1 oz.....5 cents
    [1924] 1 3/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1930] 2 oz.....5 cents
    [1933] 1 7/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1936] 1 1/2 oz.....5 cents
    [1937] 1 5/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1938] 1 3/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1939] 1 5/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1941] 1 1/4 oz.....5 cents
    [1944] 1 5/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1946] 1 1/2 oz.....5 cents
    [1947] 1 oz.....5 cents
    [1954] 7/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1955] 1 oz.....5 cents
    [1958] 7/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1960] 1 oz.....5 cents
    [1963] 7/8 oz......5 cents
    [1965] 1 oz.....5 cents
    [1966] 7/8 oz.....5 cents
    [1968] 3/4 oz.....5 cents
    [1969] 1 1/2 oz.....10 cents
    [1970] 1 3/8 oz.....10 cents
    [1973] 1.26 oz......10 cents
    [1974] 1.4 oz.....15 cents
    [1975*] 1.05 oz.....15 cents
    [1976] 1.2 oz.....15 cents
    [1977] 1.2 oz......20 cents
    [1978] 1.2 oz.....25 cents
    [1980] 1.05 oz.....25 cents
    [1982] 1.45 oz.....30 cents
    [1983] 1.45 oz.....35 cents
    [1986] 1.45 oz.....40 cents
    [1986] 1.65 oz.....40 cents

    [1991] .45
    "Last year, candy makers raised the price of candy bars 5 cents, to an average of 45 cents. The previous hike was in 1986."
    ---M&Ms Plans to Nickel and Dime the Competition, New York Newsday, April 8, 1992 (p. 41) [NOTE: product weight not referenced in this article]
    [1995] .50
    1.55 oz., Value of a Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States 1860-2009, Scott Derks [Grey House Publishing:Millerton NY] 2009 (p. 641)
    [2003] .80
    1.55 oz Hershey Bar purchased at Quik (privately owned convenience store), Randolph NJ...80 cents
    [2007] .79
    1.45 oz.,Value of a Dollar
    [2008] .59
    1.55 oz., Super FoodTown (regional grocery chain), Cedar Knolls NJ
    [2009] $1.10
    1.55 oz., 7-Eleven convenience store, Randolph NJ
    [2010] .95
    1.55 oz., Acme supermarket, Randolph NJ
    [2011] .99
    1.55 oz, Super FoodTown, Cedar Knolls NJ
    [2013] .99
    1.55 oz, Super FoodTown, Cedar Knolls NJ

    Great Depression vs. WWII

    "Nickel candy bars still cost a nickel. But their cost has soared since CU last tested them in 1939. That's a paradox only until you examine the facts. The paradox vanishes with the words, "hidden price rise." Here's an example of how the hidden price rise works for candy bars. Let's say you are in the habit of buying Mars' Forever Yours candy bars. Chances are that you haven't noticed any appreciable difference in bars you've been buying for the past four years. But had you --like CU--saved the labels, here's what you'd find: in 1939 your nickel bought four ounces of Forever Yours. Now the nickel bar weighs ony 2 1/4 ounces. In other words, if you bough the candy bar by weight, they way you buy sugar, you'd be paying almost 9 cents instead of 5 cents for a four-ounce bar. The sad truth is that price ceilings of candy, as set by the General Maximum Price Regulation last March, have not halted the boosting of prices. And the Office of Price Administration recently tried--and failed--to get a permanent injunction against Mars, Inc., because the company had reduced the weight of its candy bars 11 per cent last May. The Federal Cout judge who heard the case ruled that "slight reductions" in weight of candy bars sold in March did not constitute a violation of OPA regulations, and therefore he dismissed OPA's application for an injunction. OPA is appealing the case; unless the decision is reversed, price control will be seriously threatened.

    Reduction in Weight CU's survey of prices and weights of popular brands indicates that reductions in the weight of candy bars have been far from "slight." CU was able this year to buy 20 of the kinds of candy bars studied in 1939. of the whole assortment, Tootsie Rolls were the only ones that hadn't shurnk in size. A two-ounce Tootsie Roll used to cost 5 cents; it still does. But the other bars which were tested then and now showed a hidden price increase averaging around 23 per cent. CU's analysis of candy bar prices revealed some other interesting facts. The least expensive of the rapidly disappearing milk chocolate bars in the present survey--aside from the six-ounce bars priced at two for 25 cents (which CU hasn't found in the stores for several months)--was Hershey's 3/4-ounce bar. These used to cost three for 5 cents; not many stores sell them for a straight 2 cents each, and some, for 3 cents each. At 2 cents they are a good buy. Their cost per ounce is 2.7 cents, compared with 3.1 cents per ounce for Peter's ( 1 5/8-ounce bar), the lowest priced 5 cents bar CU found, and 3.3 cents for Hershey's 5 cents (1 1/2-ounce) bar. Puffed milk chocolate bars were found to be more expensive than unpuffed bars of either the same or competing brands. But for utter extravagance in candy buying CU cites the penny bar. Hershey's penny bars of milk chocolate cost from 6.3 cents to 6.7 cents an ounce. As for milk chocolate with almonds, Aero (made by Hershey) was both the best buy and the worst, depending upon how it was bought. The 5 cent bar was comparatively cheap, costing 3.3 cents an ounce; the penny bar, on the other hand, cost 10 cents an ounce. CU's shoppers found that there was no abundance in the stores of any kind of candy bars. The supply varied from day to day, as evidently most retailers sold out one shipment long before the next one arrived."
    ---"Candy Bars," Consumer Reports, April 1943 (p. 94-95)
    [NOTES: (1) CU=Consumer's Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. (2) This article offers a chart comparing the weights and costs for the following candy bars: Tootsie Rolls, Hersehy's Milk Chocolate, Suchard Bittra, Suchard Milka, Oh Henry, Hershey's Milk Chocolate with Almonds, Butterfinger, Milky Way, Nestle's Mlk Chocolate, Peter's Milk Chocolate, Nestle's Puffed Milk Chocolate, Nestle's Milk Chocolate with Almonds, Baby Ruth, Love Nest, Baker's Milk Chocolate, Mounds, Mr. Goodbar, Rockwood's Sweet Chocolate with Fruit and Nuts, and Forever Yours.]

    How many different sizes of Hershey bars were there in 1975? According to this article: "Candy Bars Size Much Smaller," Newhouse News Service, Times-News [Twins Falls, ID], June 1, 1975 (p. 19) a 15 cent Hershey bar was 1.05 ounces. Our survey of historical USA newspapers from 1975 also returned these sizes & prices:
    Giant, 8 oz, 66 cents
    6 pack, 15 cent size, no ounces, 69 cents
    Junior size, 18 pack, no ounces, 98 cents [Halloween]
    30 bar pack, 15 cent size, no ounces, 1.47 [Halloween]
    Hershey Bar miniatures, 9 oz bag, no product count, 1.29
    5 cent bar, no ounces, 3 for 10 cents

    McDonald's hamburger prices
    A comprehsive study of McDonalds hamburger prices through time is a complicated topic. The ultimate authority is the company. Articles in newspapers, magazines, and wire services typically report major changes, and promotions (dollar wars, reduced price when purchased with other products).

    If you are researching the price of McDonald's hamburgers in the United States these sample prices will get you started:

    [1955]--15 cents
    "On that cold, cloudy first day of business 30 years ago, Mr. Kroc's No. 1 McDonald's sold $366.12 worth of 15- cent hamburgers, 19-cent cheeseburgers, 20-cent milkshakes and 10- cent sodas and orders of fries."
    "THE MCBURGER STAND THAT STARTED IT ALL," SHIPP, E. R., New York Times, Feb 27, 1985, pg. C.3

    [1964]--15 cents
    "1964: St. Paul's first McDonald's restaurant opens, on Fort Road. A burger costs 15 cents. "
    ---Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) September 29, 2002

    [1968]--18 cents
    Source: Value of a Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States 1860-2009, Scott Derks [Grey House Publishing:Millerton NY] 2009 (p. 643)

    [1972] We find several articles about a scandal concering the McDonald's food prices and the Federal Price Commission, no simple hamburger prices quote in tje New York Times. Sample here: "Quarter pounder priced at 55 cents." --"McDonald's Told to Reduce Prices," New York Times, June 3, 1972 (p.21)

    [1974]--30 cents
    ---Value of a Dollar

    [1975]
    This year was special for McDonalds. Not only was the company celebrating 20 years of business, it was opening new restaurants worldwide. In the USA, basic McDonald's hamburgers cost 30 cents (Daily Mail, Hagerstown MD, May 1, 1975). Several USA newspapers confirm McDonalds celebrated its 20th birthday April 20, 1975 by selling hamburgers at original price: 15 cents. McDonalds pricing in foreign countries is yet another matter. Newspapers reporting 1975 Hong Kong launch stated "Items are priced quite comparably to those in America: the equivalent of a 32 cents for a regular hamburger and 70 cents for a Big Mac." ("Big Mack a Smash in Hong Kong," The Capital Times [Madison WI], October 25, 1975 (p. 3). McDonalds also splashed that year in London's Piccadilly. "Golden Arches on the European Horizon? A cheeseburger and tea? 'le big mac' on the Champs Eylsee? McDonalds has come to Europe...Nexst Saturday, McDonald's opens officially its second fast-food shop in Britain...Until the appearance of McDonald's the avaiability of pure-beef American-style hamburgers here had been limited to the recent wave of chic, crowded and expensive hamburger joints such as the Hard Rock Cafe, the Great American Disaster and Yankee Doodle. Compared with the $1.50--or higher--price for such elegant burgers, the basic sells in London for 45 cents, about the same price as as the less Americanized hamburgers sold in the 600-ship Wimpy chain. McDonald's Golden Arches Restaurant Ltd. gets is beef patties made to order by a British meat company. A baker in the English Midlands makes the rolls. But the cheese has to be imported from Germany, the milkshake mix from the Netherlands, the potatoes from Canada and the pickles from New York." ("The Big Mac in Piccadilly Circus?" Barbara Crossette, New York Times, April 13, 1975 (p. 62)

    [1979]--38 cents
    "Plans by the McDonald's Corp. to lower its hamburger prices by a nickel drew plaudits Monday from the president's chief inflation fighter, who said it would save the firm's customers millions of dollars. The firm said it would do its part to fight inflation by instituting a 10 percent cutback in prices of its regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers at its company-owned stores. Effective Tuesday, hamburgers will drop from 43 to 38 cents and cheeseburgers from 48 to 43 cents."
    ---AP Newswire, August 20, 1979

    [1984]--50 cents
    ---Value of a Dollar

    [1987]--62 cents
    ---Value of a Dollar

    [1990]--75 cents
    "'Value Pricing' resembles a department store's bargain basement. At McDonald's...The selections tapped for long-term price reductions are believed to include the plain hamburger, which now sells for 75 cents or more..."
    ---"Discount Menu is Coming to McDonald's As Chain Tries to Win Back Customers," Wall Street Journal, November 30, 1990 (p. B1)

    [1991]--59 cents
    "The new "Low Down Value" menu will discount several key items to 59 cents, including the basic hamburger..."
    --- "MCDONALD'S 'LOW DOWN VALUE' MENU," Dan Koeppel, Brandweek, 1 January 1991 (p. 10)

    [1995]--85 cents
    ---Value of a Dollar

    [1997]--$1.90 & 55 cents: "Burger price wars"
    "The Arch Deluxe didn't bring new customers into its stores, so now McDonald's Corp. appears poised to try something old -- price cutting. The fast food company will pitch a new promotional price-cutting scheme to its franchise operators in a video teleconference today. According to Dick Adams, the head of an association of McDonald's franchisees, the company has been "trying to convince its franchisees that it's the right way to go for a couple of weeks." The bait designed to lure customers through the golden arches is a 55-cent Big Mac, available only if purchased with a soft drink and french fries, menu items that yield relatively high profit margins. Normally the Big Mac sells for $1.90. At the new price, when a customer orders a small drink and small fries the franchisee would only break even, said Adams"
    ---"The 55-Cent Big Mac Tack; McDonald's Proposed Price Cut Represents a Reversal of the Arch Deluxe Strategy," Martha M. Hamilton,. The Washington Post,, Feb 27, 1997. pg. E.01

    [2000]--89 cents
    ---Value of a Dollar

    [2007]--89 cents
    ---Value of a Dollar
    [NOTE: the book Value of a Dollar includes both charts detailing both historic price and prices expressed in 2007 dollars.]

    [2013]
    Single hamburgers are not on the menu in our local McDonalds (Cedar Knolls, NJ). Hamburgers are bundled with a Happy Meal. 2 Cheeseburgers are specially bundled; not for single purchase. [In store visit, June 11, 2013].

    There is plenty of interesting information regarding McDonald's pricing strategies. If you need more information ask your librarian to help you find this book: McDonald's: Behind the Arches, John F. Love [Toronto:Bantam Books] 1986. If you want to learn more about the global economic impact of McDonald's food prices you might be interested in the Big Mac Index maintained by The Economist.

    Nabisco's Oreo cookies
    We Americans love our
    Oreos!

    [1913] 10-25 cents/no size
    [1922] 32 cents/lb
    [1931] 32-35 cents/lb
    [1932] 25 cents/lb
    [1934] 27 cents/lb
    [1936] 10 cents/pkg
    [1948] 15 cents/4.5 oz
    [1949] 14 cents/4.25 oz
    [1950] 34 cents/11 oz
    [1952] 35 cents/11 oz
    [1953] 23 cents/7.25 oz
    [1954] 21 cents/7.25 oz
    [1955] 39 cents/11.75 oz
    [1956] 33 cents/11.75 oz
    [1957] 35 cents/12.75 oz
    [1958] 33 cents/11.75 oz
    [1959] 37 cents/11.75 oz
    [1960] 45 cents/lb
    [1961] 45 cents/lb
    [1962] 49 cents/lb
    [1963] 45 cents/lb
    [1964] 39 cents/lb
    [1965] 43 cents/lb
    [1966] 43 cents/lb
    [1967] 49 cents/lb
    [1968] 45 cents/lb
    [1969] 51 cents/lb
    [1970] 45 cents/15 oz
    [1971] 55 cents/15 oz
    [1972] 49 cents/lb
    [1973] 49 cents/15 oz
    [1974] 55 cents/15 oz
    [1975] 89 cents/15 oz
    [1976] 99 cents/19 oz
    [1977] 89 cents/15 oz
    [1978] 79 cents/15 oz
    [1979] 1.05/15 oz
    [1980] 99 cents/15 oz
    [1981] 1.69/19 oz
    [1982] 1.65/19 oz
    [1983] 1.85/19 oz
    [1984] 1.79/20 oz
    [1985] 2.17/19 oz
    [1986] 1.69/20 oz
    [1987] 1.99/20 oz
    [1988] 2.49/20 oz
    [1989] 2.49/20 oz
    [1990] 2.69/lb
    [1991] 2.39/lb
    [1992] 1.99/20 oz
    [1993] 1.19/5.8 oz
    [1994] 2.49/20 oz
    [1995] 1.09/4.8 oz
    [2004] 2.99/lb
    [2008] 4.29/18 oz
    [2012] 4.59/15.5 oz
    [2013] 4.59/14.3 oz
    SOURCES: food ads published in major U.S. newspapers included in ProQuest's Historic Newspaper database, 2000+ recent prices from FoodTown, Cedar Knolls NJ.

    Local historic food prices
    Contact your public library and historical society and ask about the availability of old newspapers, store ledgers, menus, and personal diaries. Be specific. Tell them which date(s) and place(s) you need. Your librarian can confirm availability or direct you to the closet holding library. If you are a teacher/scout leader assigning this project, please call ahead to alert the librarians you class is coming. This is a great project for students who have not yet had the pleasure of looking through old microfilm. Your librarians many also have other sources they can gather and have waiting for your student. If your library does not have old newspapers, your librarian can help identify which papers were published in certain towns for a specific time period. She can usually borrow the paper (on microfilm) for you. This is especially helpful if you are compiling prices for another city, as is often the case with birthday and anniversary presents.

    Please note: finding local historic food prices is a great project, as long as you can be flexible with the food items. Why? Prices in newspaper ads reflect seasonal availability, popular demand, company promotion, and product surplus. Some products rarely go on sale (a bag of Hershey's Kisses), making their prices almost impossible to track. If you want to compare food prices based on newspapers ads you will have the most success if you stick with the basics: bread, butter, ice cream, steak, bacon, eggs, cereal, soda, canned vegetables, grape juice, oranges, etc. Don't waste your time scanning through weeks of microfilm looking for one specific brand. Pricing is competitive; store/generic brands are always a little cheaper than national brands. It also makes sense to pick a week (first week in May?) to deflect the seasonal nature of food pricing.

    Online sample courtesy of the Morris County Library, Whippany NJ: How Much Did It Cost In Morris County, NJ? [annual survey, 1900+]

    Historic food prices for other countries

  • Australia
    [1850s]
    Gold Rush [Ballarat, Victoria]
    [1867-1999] Victoria
    [1901-2002] Tasmania

  • Canada
    [20th century] Retail food prices have been culled by the Canadian government from the 20th century forward. They are reported in a number of government documents. Unfortunately, most of these documents are not uploaded full-text and free to the Internet. Summary of our findings:

  • Germany
    [1938]

    "Berlin...Lotteries and bookmaking are legal in Germany, one in which everybody with a healthy appetite places at least two bets every day, is the food lottery. Coffee and rolls are a sure thing for breakfast, but anybody will give odds on what he will get for the two other meals. Those to whom eating is a pleasure, as well as a necessity, no longer ask themselves: 'What shall I eat today?' but mentally speculate: 'What can I get today?' Nomads who eat in restaurants, and know the headwaiter's first name, and tourists need not take the food gamble so seriously. A restaurant menu usually has enough suggestions to make the average customer forget what he intended to eat. Schlichter's, where I ate the other night, offered twenty-six fish and meat dishes as specialties in addition to steaks, chops and a hundred other regular items...If present conditions continue long enough, the home-loving Germans, certainly the city dwellers, will be transformed into a race of diners-out. Those who have the responsibility for filling the home pots and pans are the hopeless addicts in the daily food gamble, as an extract from a housewife's diary shows: 'Sunday--half a lemon decorated my grilled flounder at the hotel--such extravagance--and every order in the dining room was enough for a starving stevedore, naturally much of it uneaten and wasted; tomorrow we start housekeeping. 'Monday--At breakfast we decided on pork chops for dinner. None of the neighboring shops had pork, but one did produce two small, not too juicy beefsteaks...Vegetable trays had only green beans, kohlrabi and green peppers. No sho had onions or lard... 'Tuesday--Bought three eggs, which a girl clerk had apparently had hidden behind the counter. A woman wanted two pounds of fresh green beans which were inside the store, but the proprietor, arrogant since people must take what they can get, said she could not have them until the stale ones outside were sold. Got some lamb chops, the first I've seen, and the stores had stew beef and pork which can be boiled in sauerkraut. 'Wednesday--Tried to get more eggs but was told there would not be any until next week, if then... the city was out of onions...[and] garlic...'Thursday--Found a small grapefruit...to vary the usual peaches, plums, and grapes...Also good tomatoes and lettuce for salad, which appear about twice a week...The [store] proprietor... made sure that we would not feed [rice] to our dogs before he would sell a pound. He sold me two oranges, though his orders were to sell the German apples first. 'Friday--Good fresh fish for dinner but shopped in vain for lemons, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, green beans and carrots on the trays...still no onions. 'Saturday--One store had a leg of lamb for roasting, and others had a supply of beef and pickled pigs feet. Windows of those handling smoked meats are full of hams and countless varieties of sausages, but cold lunches become monotonous. All had green corn in husks, an idea from America, but at caviar prices. A dissapointment when cooked, for it was field corn, tasteless and woody. 'Sunday--Ate in a restaurant and from the way they are crowded most of Berlin must be dining out...In Berlin the early bird at the weekly market or stores gets the chops, if there are any...Some days they cannot get pork, an other days it may be mutton or another staple. Butter and lard already are rationed, and talk is that the police will issue cards for meat before the Winter is over. Each adult is allowed half a pound of butter and as much lard, each week, if there is any lard. Each ration card is good at a designated store. The supply of adulterated butter is sufficient...Peacetime rationing of meat and other foods, if it goes further, might have unpleasant results. Little if any of the supply is wasted now, as stores rarely have any which is not sold, and the thrifty German, at present prices, is not buying more than absolutely needed. Most Germans always have bought from day to day. Few have ice boxes. In Germany, not only meat but almost all vegetables, fruits and other foods are sold by the pound. An American pound is 9-10ths of a German pound and a dollar is worth 2.49 5/8 reichsmarks. Store prices of a few typical articles (per American Pound unless stated otherwise) are: Beef tenderloin, 68 cents; beef pot ropast, 36 cents; soup beef, with bone, 31 cents; soup beef, boneless, 43 cents; hamburger, 38 cents; goulash veal, 45 cents; pork tenderloin, 54 cents; pork kidneys, 38 cents; mutton chops, 41 cents; boiled ham, 65 cents; chicken, 45 cents; smoked eel, 86 cents; head cheese, 36 cents; liver sausage, 65 cents; Summer salami, 70 cents; coffee, $1.08; bread, 8 cents; butter, 58 cents; fresh tomatoes, 8 1/4 cents; lettuce (head), 4 cents; green corn, 9 1/3 cents; green string beans, 9 cents; princess string beans, 14 1/2 cents; dry onions (peck), 51 cents to $1.13; cabbage, 4 cents, mushrooms, 26 cents; eggs (dozen), 60 cents;...peaches 18 cents; pineapple (one) $1.80; cantaloul, 68 cents; bananas, 18 cents; grape fruit (one) 20 cents; cream (quart), 41 cents; sugar loaf 16 cents; sugar, pulverized, 14 cents; apples, 16 cents, German Camembert, 36 cents...These prices are for the American or other foreigner who lives in Germany and who pays 40 cents for a reichsmark. The also are the prices for the German whos basic wage is between $17.50 and $26.50 in a week of forty-four hours. Pay of skilled workers is higher and, with the present shortage of labor for industrial and urban construction, may work two shifts a day...Germany never grew all the food it needed, and the balance must be imported...Gresh foods from neighboring contries always supplemented what the home farmers grew, and now Germany has cut down on food imports. The excuse is that the country needs its foreign exchange to import war materials. True or not, that is what the people believe and tell each other."
    ---"Daily Food Gamble is Lot of Germans," Junius B. Wood, New York Times, September 19, 1938 (p. 7)

  • India
    Indian Domestic Economy/R. Riddell (English author), download book & skip to noted pages. Also includes weights, measures, and money (value, exchange rates)
    [1848] Bombay prices current (p. 455-460)
    [1848] Bengal price current (p. 467-501)

  • Italy
    Ancient Rome: Natural History/Pliny, Books 12-16. (prices included in food notes)

  • United Kingdom
    [1209-1914] English prices and wages
    ...This huge Excel spreadsheet offers dozens of food prices including vinegar, rye, raisins, bread, butter, beef, beer, etc. Note column headings & units (pound of bread), then scroll down to your target year. AMAZING!
    [1270-1955] Grain prices (wheat, barley, rye etc.)
    [Medieval period] Food & livestock
    [1550-1780] Prices, Food and Wages in Scotland 1550-1780/AJS Gibson & TC Smout [book]
    [17th century] British provisions prices (Southampton)
    [1660-1950]Bread prices London, average retail & industry notes [18th century] London prices, mid-1700s
    [1861] Book of Household Cookery, Isabella Beeton (some recipes include average cost)
    [1888] Cost of Living
    [1909] Mrs. Beeton's Everyday Cookery, 11th edition (p. 37-44) prices for beef, mutton, pork, veal, lamb, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, dairy produce, ham & bacon, fruit, grocery (nuts, candied peel, dried fruit, coffee, tea, mustard etc.), tinned provisions (jams, fruit in tins, jellies, tinned meats, soup, milk, vegetables), sauces & pickles (ketchup, chutney, curry) & grain/prepared foods (arrowroot, pea flour, oatmeal, rice, tapioca). Some prices are for name brand products (Leibig's beef essence, Harvey's sauce,
    [1914, 1947, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2004] Consumer Price inflation, 1947-2004, Office for National Statistics prices for flour, white bread, milk, cheddar cheese, sugar, ham, coffee, lamb, etc.


    FoodTimeline library owns 2000+ books, hundreds of 20th century USA food company brochures, & dozens of vintage magazines (Good Housekeeping, American Cookery, Ladies Home Journal &c.) We also have ready access to historic magazine, newspaper & academic databases. Service is free and welcomes everyone. Have questions? Ask!

    About culinary research & about copyright
    Research conducted by Lynne Olver, editor The Food Timeline. About this site.


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    © Lynne Olver 2000
    20 April 2014