Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The cost of Beans

Typing my fingers to nubbins this week. ;) Today the words accumulated slower because I had to go on a research mission for a bit. My character is heading over the White Pass from Skagway, Alaska into Yukon territory. The Canadian Mounted Police set up a check point at the Canada border and didn't allow anyone beyond that point without either four months rations and $500 or six months rations and $200. This was in 1898. That was a lot of money to carry and the price of the rations if the gold seekers didn't bring it with them was double what it was in the lower 48.

So my goal was to figure out how much my heroine needed to pay for her 6 months supplies. I used a replica 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue to find prices. They even sold food out of these catalogs.
The suggested rations were 400 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of beans, 100 pounds of bacon, 100 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of tea, 30 pounds of coffee and 150 pounds of mixed fruit. Then salt, pepper and cooking sundries.

There were several kinds of flour, I went with the one that was the easiest to figure- $1.48 for a 48# bag. Doubled that to $3 for 50# and my character would pay $24 for the flour. Dry beans were $.03 a lb so double that to $.06 times 100 you get $6 for dried beans. But I figured they were hiking most of the time and wouldn't have time to cook beans so I found a price for canned baked beans.  3# cans were $1 a dozen so figure $2 for a dozen and say they go half and half. Half dried and half canned so the canned beans would cost: so 24 cans of beans would be $4. Bacon was harder to figure. They had it and other canned meats in the catalog. You could get bacon for $.60 a pound so I figured $1.20 in Skagway. Making it $120 and the most expensive item to purchase.  Sugar depended on the price they (Sears & Roebuck)p purchased it for. They didn't give a price in the book. I guessed it at $.40 a pound. Tea was- again depending on what you picked - $.35 a pound, so $.70 for my story. And coffee was $.20 to .35 a pound. Again, I doubled that. and last was the canned fruit. Those ran anywhere from $.08 a can to $.28. And I doubled that.

The total I came up with to purchase the supplies for the trip was around $300, plus they had to have $200 in their pocket. That was a lot of money to have just to get to the Yukon gold country and then risk your life and hope you found gold.

While I think I could have handled traveling across the continent with a wagon, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made a Yukon gold seeker!  Would you have put that much at stake to try and find gold?


bn100 said...

Interesting research for supplies

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the blog, Paty. Don't you just love those old catalogs? I could look at them for hours.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Lysette! thanks for stopping in.

Hi Charlene. Yes, the old catalogs are a lot of fun to browse.