Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 3, 1865

Shipment of cotton at SavannahDiary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia

Tuesday–Jan 3rd

We had a very pleasant night and it is clear and warm. Four of us got a pass to go to the City today, there was any amount of provisions selling at the market house. I will here state some of the prices. Potatoes were selling at $8 per bush or $24 per barrel. Apples were $1 per doz. Cheese was 1.25 a 2.00 per lb Butter 1.50 Apple Butter per qt. cans 2.50 Sugar 50 @ 1.00 per lb. Rice .15 @ 25 cts per quart letter paper from 50 @ 1.00 per quire envelops 80 @ 1.00 per package etc. etc. etc. The City covers over a large space of ground but the buildings are not very close together. The Savannah river is a muddy nasty stream. I went down to the dock and saw them selling Oysters in the shell at $3 per bush I also saw a steamer going down the river loaded with discharged soldiers just starting for home, there was a nice brass band aboard playing and it came very near making me homesick but I got over it again. I bought $4 worth of Rice and $3 worth of Sugar and 75 cts. worth of Potatoes went back to camp and we had a feast you had better believe. The day has been very warm and pleasant but it is cloudy this evening and a sprinkling a little. Read 4 Chapt. in the Testament today.

Inflation can be a difficult concept.  Prices in the past seem absurdly high, but more often absurdly low.  During war everything changes, of course, especially as cash money becomes scarce.  With some help from a friendly on-line inflation calculator, these prices in current funds would amount to about:

  • $8 bushel (50 lbs) of potatoes = $120 ($2.40/lb) / $24 barrel = $360
  • $1 doz apples = $15
  • $1.25 cheese = $18.76
  • $1.50 apple butter = $22.51
  • $3 bushel of oysters on the shell = $45
  • $4 worth of rice = $60
  • $0.75 worth of potatoes = $11.26

In a couple days from now, Orrin relates he’s earning $16/month from the Army, about $240 today.  A skilledblacksmith might earn $1.64 a day in 1860, about $42 today.  That doesn’t buy many potatoes today, but even fewer then.



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