Monday, March 07, 2011

Deerskins to Shillings: What stuff cost in the 18th century

Instead of having to track down various websites or book resources that give lists of what this or that item was worth in the late 18th century when I find myself needing to insert such historical tidbits into a scene, I'm proposing to start my own list here on the blog.

This Fair Trade post will be for me and anyone else in need of knowing, say, what a prime beaver skin was worth on the North Carolina frontier in 1785 (six shillings). I plan to update it periodically (and give a shout out when I do), with my sources cited.

Feel free to copy and use this information as you may need. New information, links, or sources will be added at the top of the list, so you won't have to wade through older stuff to find it. If you know of a website where such lists exist, please post a link in the comments section and I'll add it to my compilation.

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Fair Trade List  
or
what stuff cost in the 18th century

1785. If you had to pay land taxes on the North Carolina frontier in 1785, and had no hard money (specie or coin), or paper currency circulated by the state, you could lawfully pay your tax by the following means:

clean beaver skin = 6 shillings
cased otter skins = 6 shillings
uncased otter skins = 5 shillings
raccoon and fox skins = 1 shilling, 3 pence
woollen cloth = 10 shillings per yard
bacon, well cured = 6 pence per pound
clean tallow = 6 pence per pound
clean beeswax = 1 shilling per pound
distilled rye whiskey = 2 shillings and 6 pence per gallon
peach or apple brandy = 3 shillings per gallon
country made sugar = 1 shilling per pound
deer skins = 6 shillings

~ from History of the Lost State of Franklin, by Samuel C. Williams. 


1700s (mid century) The First Foot Guard's 18th century cost of living website lists many everyday items and their value during the mid 1700s, London.


2 comments:

  1. Great list, Lori! I always find it fascinating they they paid for things "in kind" at times.
    Wish that was more our economy today.

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  2. Carla, It was a strange sort of limbo the country was in until we started minting our own coins. I don't have the exact date for that but believe it was something like 1792 or 93.... What's fun about that is it gives fiction writers so much leeway about how business transactions and work situations could be conducted.

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