Find: How Far Would Your Dollar Go in 1915?

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Grocery store ad, Allentown, PA, Jan 1915
Have you ever come across an old sales ad and been surprised at how inexpensive products seemed to be back then compared to how much they cost today? Eggs for $0.27/dozen? Seems cheap. But if you adjust those old prices to their equivalents today, you might be surprised at how they compare.

So let’s take some of the prices in a grocery ad from Pennsylvania 100 years ago (1915), adjust the prices for modern inflation,* and compare the adjusted prices to average 2015 prices.**

Pork chops

1915 ad price: $0.25/2-lbs ($0.125/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $2.95/lb

2015 average price: $3.99/lb

Bacon

1915 ad price: $0.20/0.5-lb ($0.40/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $9.45/lb

2015 average price: $5.59/lb

Peanut butter

1915 ad price: $0.25/2-lbs ($0.125/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $2.95/lb

2015 average price: $2.91/lb

Grocery store prices, Georgia, 1915
Eggs

1915 ad price: $0.27/dozen

1915 adjusted price: $6.38/dozen

2015 average price: $2.11/dozen

Potatoes

1915 ad price: $0.30/30-lbs ($0.01/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $0.24/lb

2015 average price: $0.67/lb

Rice

1915 ad price: $0.25/6-lbs ($0.042/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $0.99/lb

2015 average price: $0.69/lb

Those eggs for $0.27/dozen don’t seem so cheap now, do they? Interested in finding out how much other items cost back in the day? Search or browse on Newspapers.com for more ads.

* 1915 adjusted prices were calculated using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator.

**Average 2015 prices were pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) Detailed Report Data for January 2015, pg. 215, Table P4: “Average retail food prices, U.S. city average and four regions.”

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46 thoughts on “Find: How Far Would Your Dollar Go in 1915?

  1. I love this! Actually, I’d love to see this in a series of articles. One for each decade or something.
    Now I know why my grandmother was raised eating so much gravy and everyone had their own laying hens!

    • But what did a computer cost in 1915. A radio, a TV, ELECTRIC LIGHTS, flush ttoilets —

        • Actually Suz, you’re showing your ignorance of just what compute means…

          computer means “a person whoe computes” later, when a machine was designed to compute, they adopted the same word. so in 1915 “Computer” was a job type/description.

          I’m giving a wild guess here but I’d bet their cost was around $75 a month (avrage wage was $650 or so a year for men but a Computer was a specialty that, though more than today, few men were gifted at while many businesses needed)
          please I’m only referring to the calculating skills of men since no self respecting Lady of 1915, would think to work so closely with the vulgarity displayed by businessmen at the work place)

    • I grew up on a working ranch that was also a farming operation. We had 18,000 acres of land partially owned and partially leased. We ran about 2,000 cattle, 400 horses and 200 sheep. My grandmother sheared the sheep and spun the wool into thread which she would then weave on a loom to make us woolen coats and shirts for the cold weather. We raised our own vegetables and my mother, aunt and grandmother canned them before they went into the root cellar to keep cool. We also had around 200, chickens and about 100 hogs. We had around 500 laying hens and the rest were for the greatest fried chicken on Earth. We were totally self sufficient except for gasoline for the tractors and we bought that 250 gallons at a time in an elevated tank with a hose like you would see on a gas pump today. We also employed 30 cowhands and farm helpers . They were given room, board and paid $15 a week and they thought they were in tall cotton. Yes things were a lot less expensive in the 30’s and 40’s, but we worked our butts off for what we had. There was no such thing as a 40 hour week and we worked from can see to can’t see. My father had only one rule. NO WORK ON SUNDAYS except to feed the stock and that we did early before Church. Some of the workers went with us to the little church in the woods and other spent the day resting and sleeping. he thing I remember most though, is that our family was happy and so were our workers. They really were the good old days in my mind and we NEVER locked our doors when we were away from home.

      • Dan, Thanks for the trip back to what I consider better times. It’s true, hard work was the essence of your success, but your ratio of contentment was also higher. I long for a time machine to revisit those days…

      • Thank you for sharing your true story. It made me smile. I was born in the late 60’s & was thinking those were the best years ever. So simple so natural so true.

  2. It always blows my mind to see the prices of things back in the early days. When I was a young girl, I remember grocery shopping with mom. She was a penny pincher, and with 4 kids she went for the section with the day-old bread and pastries. She paid 10 cents a loaf! It’s hard to believe that even buying 10 loaves for a dollar, and a dollar was a lot of money back then! I’m feeling ancient right now! How much is bread these days? Things have sure changed as has the world. My first job at age 15, at G.C. Murphy’s was probably less then $1.00 an hour. Now a fast food chain pays $8.00 and up! Bring back the good old days! We didn’t have as much, but we were happy!

    • Hello Ronda,
      It’s my understanding that in 1956 the minimum wage was raised from 75 cent to $1 an hour. Both Dems and Republicans felt that the wage should be half of what a good paying job was back then. I was born in 1959. By the time I had a decent paying job in 1980. My postal job pay was $10 an hour and minimum wage was $3.10 an hour. Today I would think a decent paying job is $28 an hour and the minimum wage is 7.25 an hour.
      So as the decades past on. Minimum wage was half, then a third and now 25% of what a good paying job is.

  3. The real test is to apply these costs against the minimum wage of the same period. I remember when an ice cream cone was 5 cents, 10 cents for a double dipper. Coke was 5 cents. The family of four wnet to the movies on Saturday nite and had a coke at the Goody Shop afterward – all on a dollar. My first job was at 25 cents per hour in a five and dime store. I could work only 14 1/2 hours week because of the child labor laws. That was $3.63 per week. I made more than that delivering the local newspaper to about 100 customers per week. The newspaper cost me 1.75 cents and was delivered to the customer for 3 cents, a profit for me of 1.25 cents. Those were the good ole days.

    • In the 1950’s I had a paper route in Santa Monica, Ca., delivering the Santa Monica Outlook. My route had about 120 customers. I made about $30.00 a month.
      I have no idea what bread cost then but a decent bicycle cost me $65.00. A donut off the Helms Bakery truck cost a nickle.
      Converting all that to today’s dollars, as a kid I had more buying power than the average adult has today. It WAS the good ole days!

  4. To adjust to “today’s prices” is to miss the point about how much our dollar has been devalued. We still use the same currency and buy the same products but government generated inflation has decreased our buying power, and it is questionable whether our income has kept pace.

    • That is what the “1915 adjusted price” line is about. It adjusts the 1915 price to current value of the dollar.
      The result is that there are mixed results, with some things such as Pork Chops and Eggs being more expensive, while Bacon Rice are cheaper.
      Some inflation is natural. The greatest jump was in the 70s with the oil embargo. NOT government generated.

  5. This is why when cleaning my mom’s home I saved different things to compare. Even in my own genealogy paperwork I saved a grocery receipt (copy to save before it fades) from each year to show how life has changed!

    • Saving a Sunday newspaper with the ads, a grocery receipt or two, every year – is a GREAT Idea…. Nice tip!!! Thanks 🙂

  6. My 92 yr old Dad remembered passing a Dept store in Chicago in 1930. In the window was a men’s outfit, suit, shirt, tie, socks,, underwear, topcoat, & hat for $20! The whole outfit, from the skin out! I myself remember getting into the Sat matinee for $.35, & dreaming of the day when I could have a whole dollar to buy my own popcorn, & soda, that I didn’t have to share. Ah, the good old days!

  7. You can sure tell where the government’s subsidy money goes, can’t you? Take a look at the adjusted 1915 prices compared to today’s prices.

  8. I really wish I could become a member but there is not enough money for this membership and all my bills I was hoping to see my Mother’s marriage and Divorce papers from my half sister;s Father as to what his name was but guess that won’t happen thanks anyway.
    I also had hoped to see the newspaper which had my fathers death location with the two firemen one was holding a hose. I can’t find it anywhere because I don”t know the name of the paper that shot the picture.

    • You know, you ought to consider joining Ancestry for just one month @ 35 bucks, and create a family tree, which you can always access for free even after your month is over & you cancel. You’ll find lots of info on your family there if you click on help buttons or call Ancestry’s customer service– all will be saved on your tree. After your month is out, join newspapers.com (for a month) & add some clippings to your tree from dates you have discovered in the census documents on Ancestry. You’ll end up with a tree on Ancestry which you can always access, and later add to when you have the $, for another (very fun) month. N.b.: I don’t work for Ancestry. Just a satisfied off-and-on user. Best luck!

      • Be careful of what family info is posted on-line; a freind just googled her daughter’s name, and her complete family tree (which she has never posted) showed up with children, grandchildren and relatives (all still alive). She had done some research on-line during a free-trial at genealogy.com and had no idea they were gleaning all the information which then ended up on-line. Big shock!

  9. As a kid in the late 40’s, early 50’s I went to the movies with 25 cents, 15 cents for admission and then I had to decide whether to spend the remaining 10 cents on a soda or box of popcorn. I usually went for the soda from the vending machine because every 10th cup or so had a sticker on the bottom for a free popcorn and I had pretty good luck with that. Those were the days!

    • In the 1930s I went to the movie for ten cents. After you were age 12 it was more so most of us never told when we were age 12 until we reached age 13

  10. I wish the article mentioned the average salary of that period. As a nurse with a graduate degree in 1960 the top salary was in VA hospitals and was $100/week. Bread was expensive at approx $0.89 a loaf. Go back an additional 50 years to compare COL prices vs. income.

    • Where did u buy your bread? I used to go get bread, milk & cigarettes (for my mom) with $1. & get change and that was in the early to mid 60’s

      • In 1965 you could buy a pack of cigarettes in NC for $.35. If you bought them at Eckerd’s Drugs you spent only $.25 a pack. Minimum wage in 1965 was $1.65 an hour.

    • In the mid 60’s in a fairly small town in Pennsylvania, bread there was 6 for a $1.00 at the day old bread store. A ‘sale’ would get you 10 for $1.00, which meant 4 loves in the freezer, 4 in the fridge and 2 on the table. Also meant we had lots of sandwiches for lunch, toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner, bread pudding etc… To this day, I still hate bread that was stored in the fridge or freezer!

  11. Let’s go back to 1915…how much was the average person making per day? Let’s just say $2.00 per day. A dozen eggs cost $0.27 that leaves $ 1.73 for that one day left. Let’s say that person worked 6 days out of 7 days. He just purchased eggs. At the end of the 6 day week he has made before taxes a total of $12.00- $0.27 = $11.73 to buy bread, meat, fish or pork then maybe some sides like veggies, pay rent and utilities and gas for his car. What does he have left. I believe it would be in the negatives

  12. How about adding an built-in inflation calculator to your website. there’s room for it.

    • There are web sites that will tell you the value of a dollar for each year, as well as the minimum wage of a particular year, but I have to agree with Mike, having it/them on your site would be a nice ‘add-on’.

  13. If we never had inflation. Newspapers.com annual subscription would cost $3.00 and the best iPhone would cost $40.00

  14. The index does not correct for technology and how has made it easier to process the products listed here, in 1915 eggs were collected by hand, therefore requiring more human interaction,

  15. I guess I put my comment in the wrong place. In the 1930s I went to the movie on sat. afternoon for 10 cents

  16. So if the adjustment was made then in my understanding a single dollar was worth so much more than compared today’s dollar, which means we are losing more money than we realize , so this whole time our government has been fooling us and stealung our money. Smh. No wonder why so many people on welfare or ssi or ssdi, and with technology no jobs like the past plus our children don’t want to work. We are lazy and forgotten the true nature of our own abilities. With technology and lack of true knowledge. I say America is falling….Yea i agree old days where so much better, and i am still young.. Born 1979…

  17. If you went back to the ‘good ol days’ you’d find out things weren’t quite as rosy as some of you are portraying them. Before the New Deal and Great Society, few companies had pensions, and there was no such thing as Social Security and Medicare. The few people who didn’t die of diseases that are today preventable, and who didn’t have a family to care for them, had no means of support, and had a miserable existence for the rest of their lives. When the government takes money out of your paycheck for Social Security and Medicare, they aren’t ‘stealing’ it. They are funding a program that will give you some degree of economic security in your retirement. Oh, and if you weren’t white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, you were probably subject to varying degrees of socially sanctioned discrimination.

    • I totally agree with you. Except for the part about Social Security. Mr. Regan turned Social Security into a ‘bank’ for the govt. Unfortunately it hasn’t been paid back thus the reason it’s always being threatened & people are told it’s draining the budget.

      • Right you are. Interestingly, for the middle class, economically the best ol’ days were from the 50s through the 70s, when the US electorate saw the wisdom of progressive taxation and the judicious use of the federal government to better our lives. It’s no accident that that era followed the Depression and World War II, when the US government stepped in to save us from two successive disasters and people saw it as an agent of good. From 1980 on, we have relentless regressed to a new Gilded Age, where the few hog the spoils and the many remain economically stagnant. A great propaganda machine has developed that claims the federal government can’t do anything right, and yells “class warfare” when someone like me points out those hard economic facts. Simply put, when the middle class grows, the whole economy benefits, including the fat cats. Trickle down doesn’t work.

  18. How much did a CEO make back in the good old days? Enough to own his own private jet? Oh, that’s right, there was no such thing back then..And we common people didn’t need enough income to pay for cable TV, cell phone service, internet access etc.

  19. If you are doing your family Genealogy you can go to the LDS Church where they have a computer room. That’s the family research center. There they will show how to get an account & password free. Along with that you can use the ancestry.com free. I have my family tree started with there center plus I use the Ancestry alot. The only thing that they require you to do is share your information with them. The LDS Church do have all of our names with numbers. They do indexing of everyone in the United States, our history. It’s fun, they do have classes that are very interesting & helpful. So don’t take my word for, just do it. Have fun.

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