Thursday, July 21, 2011

Family budget of a Coal Miner in 1884

“I went and finished cutting Mr. Holmes wheat this morning which took about 2 ½ hours.  Then we unloaded a load of hay that stood on the wagon and drew in a load of wheat before dinner.  After dinner Will Holmes came with a team and man and we cleared the east lot and got it done about 4 o’clock and drew in two loads apiece for them.”

I found an interesting site that discusses six families and how they budgeted their money in Chicago in 1884.

These six family budgets collected by the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1884 show the range of family incomes and spending patterns within the working class. Although skill level was probably the most important determinant of wages, relatively few male breadwinners were able to earn a “family wage”—enough to support their wives and children decently. Most families pooled their members’ wages in what historians call the “family economy.” The wages of children and teenagers often meant the difference between a modicum of comfort and mere survival, and women who were not working for wages sometimes brought in money by operating home-based businesses such as washing clothes or keeping boarders. Women also contributed to the family’s economic survival by managing the household budget, sharing resources with other female householders, and scavenging for discarded food, clothes, and fuel. Unlike current times, prices were not constantly rising in the late-19th century, and the period’s declining prices (particularly food prices) allowed a modest, gradual improvement in working-class living standards.
I will post one family a day for the next six days
AMERICAN COAL MINER
EARNINGS: Of father $250
CONDITION: Family numbers 7 - husband, wife, and five children, three girls and two boys, aged from three to nineteen years. Three of them go to the public school. Family live in 2-room tenement, in healthy locality, for which they pay $6 per month rent. The house is scantily furnished, without carpets, but is kept neat and clean. They are compelled to live very economically, and every cent they earn is used to the best advantage. Father had only thirty weeks work during the past year. He belongs to trade union. The figures for cost of living are actual and there is no doubt the family lived on the amount specified.
FOOD:
Breakfast—Bread, coffee, and salt meat.
Dinner—Meat, bread, coffee, and butter.
Supper—Sausage, bread, and coffee.
COST OF LIVING:
Rent $72
Fuel $20
Meat $20
Groceries $60
Clothing $28
Boots and shoes $15
Dry goods $20
Trade union $3
Sickness $10
Sundries $5
Total $253

Leesah

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