Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/52

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42
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

glorious bimetallic days, the farmer got but twenty-five cents a bushel for his wheat. In those times the western farmer lived chiefly by consuming his own products, buying almost nothing. It is too clear for argument or dispute that it has been railroads, telegraphs, produce exchanges, and such-like means of facilitating exchange, and not gold or silver, that have caused the fall of the great staples in commercial centers—a fact easily verifiable by any western man who will consult the oldest residents of his town.

In a late number of The Forum, that excellent statistician, Mr. Edward Atkinson, has given a most interesting table which, in the present connection, I can not do better than copy. The table was constructed to show at a glance the variations in price of the principal commodities as expressed in gold.[1]

Prices, Wages, Purchasing Power.

1845. 1860. 1865. 1870. 1880. 1890.
Meat 79·4 100 197·0 174·3 103·6 99·6
Other food 82·8 100 240·3 146·3 116·9 103·5
Cloths and clothing 97·1 100 299·2 139·4 104·6 82·4
Fuel and lighting ...... 100 237·8 196·5 100·2 92·5
Metals and implements 110·8 100 191·4 127·8 96·3 73·2
Lumber and building material 106·7 100 182·1 148·3 130·9 123·7
Drugs and chemicals 121·0 100 271·6 149·6 113·1 87·9
House furnishings 102·3 100 181·1 121·6 85·2 69·5
Miscellaneous 114·8 100 202·8 148·7 109·8 89·7
Average of all prices 102·8 100 216·8 142·3 106·9 92·3
Average of all wages 86·8 100 143·1 162·2 141·0 158·9
Average wages by importance 85·7 100 148·6 167·1 143·5 168·2
Salaries of city teachers 74·8 100 134·7 186·3 182·8 186·3
Paper money 100·0 100 49·5 81·1 100·0 100·0
Gold price of silver bullion in London 95·3 100 99·0 98·2 84·7 77·4
Purchasing power of wages 84·4 100 66·0 114·1 132·3 172·1


In brief, the table shows that the prices of many commodities rose very much between 1845 and 1865, and afterward fell a little lower than the 1845 level; while wages, on the contrary, not only did not recede, but continued to advance after 1865. It shows another interesting fact—that 1865 is the date ivhen prices began to fall, and not 1873; and thus discloses the purely artificial nature of the effort to make the era of cheap prices coincide with the "demonetization of silver" in that year.

In Mulhall's History of Prices (page 7) the author brings together in a short comparison a statement of the views of various authorities on the subject of the rise and fall of prices.

  1. For the excellent discussion as to the price variations of the different commodities, the reader must be referred to the article itself, which is a good antidote for the reckless assertions and hasty theories current on this subject.