History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

Time Line

PRODUCE PRICES IN THE MID-19TH CENTURY

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

     I'm sure the fine ladies of today know most of the produce prices and keep track of the everyday sales. At this time we will travel back to mid-19th Century and check the prices of yesteryear.

     Around 1835 corn sold from 20 to 25 cents per bushel. At times the price was set lower than that. Pork was put on the market at $2 per hundred. Lard sold for 8 1/2 cents per pound, and butter and tallow sold at 8 1/3 cents per pound. Turkeys ranged from 37 1/2 cents to 50 cents each. Hens were 8 1/3 cents each; eggs 6 1/4 cents per dozen. Mutton was seldom used only in case of sickness and suggested by the doctor. Venison and wild turkeys were abundant in numbers and acquired very cheap. Venison hams were secured and would be dried for spring use. Flour sold from $2 to $2.50 per hundred pounds; it was extra good in those days

     The local rivers and streams flourished in fish at that time with the grand delicacy being brought to town in great abundance. Fish in present times are not near as abundant as they were in olden times. The large drum fish were nearly free from bones except the ribs and backbones, in essence, they provided a delicacy to those folks of the past.

     Tree sugar was made in large measures with its main use as sweetening of the foods. It was also made for molasses. Honey was also found in great quantity. The wintertime found dried apples and peaches being used in making pies.

     Canning of fruits had not yet been invented. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and dewberries were somewhat scarce. Gooseberries were nonexistent and grapes were in short supply. Apple butter had not yet been introduced.
Brown sugar sold for 25 cents per pound, and was rarely used except for specific cases. Preserves and jellies were seldom used, and pound cakes were used only at parties and weddings. "Goodies" in that day and time would be termed as too extravagant on the standard table. Molasses was transported in barrels from New Orleans and sold at $1.00 per gallon. Ginger cakes would be made with this delightful sweetening, but these cakes were used sparingly. These folks of the past claimed that their children were much healthier without the added sweets.

     Fruits were plentiful they being apples, peaches, and pears, along with cherries which grew abundantly on the local farms. It seems that the growing of the fruits was more suited in the past than in the present. Peaches were plentiful every year and every three years there tended to be an overflowing crop.

     Sugar cane was commenced in our country in the late 1850s. It was planted in gardens with only three or four short rows being planted by each family. At this time the art of making molasses was unknown. The method used was to cut it into small pieces and into small parts and beat it. It would then be boiled and strained through a cloth. The juice was then boiled down as jelly was until it was thick. The color was green and the thought of it being molasses was second thought.
 
    A few years later a process was 'invented" which was composed of large wooden rollers about two feet in diameter. They then placed cogs in the rollers and placed them in a frame, which did not produce a "really" reliable setup. Two weeks were spent, working from daylight to dark, to make about 35 gallons of molasses. When they had finished they were very proud of their hard work and results.

     Spinning wheels and looms were utilized by nearly family in the country until about 1865. The ladies raised their own cotton, completely fabricating it and then coloring it with their own homemade dyes, striping it according to their own tastes. Weaving it into their own clothes was a joyous occasion for the whole family.

     They also raised their own flax and spun and wove it into tablecloths, towels and linens. The ladies also fabricated a supply of flax jeans, and linen for clothing for their husbands and sons. They also made countless yards of flax and tow lining for sale, it being used for sacks and bed ticking. It brought from 16 1/3 to 25 cents per yard.

     Large flocks of sheep were raised and many yards of woolen cloth and jeans were made which sold for $1.00 per yard. This commodity was sold to stores with the primary wearer being the gentlemen. Broadcloth was also kept in the stores with the purpose of making suits for the men. It sold for $12 to $14 per yard. It was about two yards in width and it took about 3 yards to make a suit. With the accumulation of all this, and the tailor's charge for making a suit set at $8, a fine suit of clothes would cost about $50. The cloth was very long lasting and would keep for years.

     The ladies manufactured a fine lot of jeans, flax and tow linen, and would exchange them with the merchants for silks and other fineries.

     All the ladies did not spin and weave but some tended to be a helpmate for their husbands. Many were employed to assist in the cash flow for the family. Sewing machines were nonexistent in these days and for those ladies that could cut the cloth and make coats, etc., could make money fast.

     Cooking stoves appeared in the early days about 1845. Prior to this method cooking of the meals was by old-fashioned pots and ovens and heated on the fire. Stoves were quite expensive which ranged from $40 to $50. At this price everyone wasn't able to obtain one. At any rate, most folks would rather cook the old fashioned way.

     Pewter was the main ingredient in dishware. When rubbed vigorously the dishes would shine as brightly as the silverware. Pewter buttons were used on gentlemen's wear, with flax thread being used. Cotton boss balls were brought in and sold for 10 cents each, spool thread being absent at that time. Silk thread was bought in skeins which contained 12 needles full, and sold for 10 cents. Buttons were considered a luxury with gutta-percha buttons being established about 1860. These were considered very costly and exceedingly prized by the men.

Time Line



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