### How well off were Waltham Watchmakers in 1857?

QUESTION: According to the information I have skilled watchmakers at Waltham in 1857 earned about \$1.50 per day, about \$450 per year, at the Waltham watch factory. (I base this on a 6 day week with about 10 holidays making about 300 work days.) Measuring Worth gives: real wage or real wealth value of that income or wealth is \$13,000.00 relative labor earnings of that commodity are \$89,300.00 (using the unskilled wage) or \$211,000.00 (using production worker compensation) relative income value of that income or wealth is \$189,000.00, relative output value of that income or wealth is \$2,100,000.00. Production worker compensation is the obvious comparison, but I think it is far too high. For example:https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/wages-high-skilled gives \$54,240. https://www.statista.com/statistics/243814/total-compensation-per-employee-in-the-us-by-industry/ gives \$86,642 for manufacturing. Have you any suggestion, comments to clarify this problem?

ANSWER: I can understand you desire to put things in the perspective of an annual wage, but by doing this you are introducing precision that is not there and making the process too complicated.

You have three pieces of information.  The workers earned \$1.50 a day, from the MeasuringWorth website that the hourly wage for production workers in 1857 was 7¢ an hour and in 2017, for \$32.39 an hour.  The missing link is the number of hours a day the watchmakers were working.  I would guess ten as they were highly skilled. If that is true the that is 15¢ an hour or more that is double the 7¢ average. If they work 11 hours a day, the it would be 13.6¢, still roughly twice the average.

Clearly watchmakers were very skilled workers and earned a premium.  So you should conclude that in today’s dollars their relative wage was about \$64.80 an hour.  If you want you can use the to give a weekly or annual wage, but now you are making more assumptions that are not necessary if your goal is to show how well they are paid.  Most everyone can identify with what an hourly wage of that amount would mean.

### Churchill: Walking with Destiny – pound comparisons are backwards

QUESTION:  In Andrew Roberts’s new biography, Churchill: Walking with Destiny, there is a paragraph at the beginning that gives the reader calculations for what the Pound Sterling was worth from the time of his birth to the present.

Either this is muddled or I am hopelessly confused.  It would make more sense (to me, at least) if it were to have begun “1 pound when Churchill was born in 1874 would have been worth 80 pounds today,….etc.”

The matter is of serious interest to any reader of this very interesting book since the 1000 pages of Roberts’s text deal with Churchill’s inheritance(s), his contracts with various publishers over the years, his subaltern’s pay, etc., etc.  Even setting the information out in some kind of table would help since the amounts range from a 5 pound bet to book advances worth millions.

ANSWER:  You are correct that this is backwards from the way we talk about relative value and the phrasing is misleading.  What we would say is that £1 from 1874 has a relative value of over £80 today.  Of course if Mr. Roberts had consulted our website he would have been able to give his readers a much richer comparison of values in the past.

From the UK Relative Value Comparator

If you want to compare the value of a £1 0s 0d  Commodity in 1874 there are four choices. In 2017 the relative:
real price of that commodity is £88.25
labour value of that commodity is £501.30
income value of that commodity is £685.20
economic share of that commodity is £1,586.00

If you want to compare the value of a £1 0s 0d Income or Wealth , in 1874 there are four choices. In 2017 the relative:
real wage or real wealth value of that income or wealth is £88.25
labour earnings of that income or wealth is £501.30
relative income value of that income or wealth is £685.20
relative output value of that income or wealth is £1,586.00

If you want to compare the value of a £1 0s 0d Project in 1874 there are three choices. In 2017 the relative:
real cost of that project is £93.68
labour cost of that project is £501.30
economic cost of that project is £1,586.00

### Rich man with prostitutes in 1865 England.

SECOND PART OF QUESTION. About the same time the police arrested a well dressed man who seems to have been waylaid into the area. He was surrounded in a pub by a group of prostitutes. When he arrived at the station he was found to have £62 on him and thanked the police for rescuing him! In today’s money how much would that be?

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ANSWER You might find the relative values of £62 in 1865 to be unrealistically large.

If you want to compare the value of a £62 0s 0d Income or Wealth , in 1865 there are four choices. In 2017 the relative:
real wage or real wealth value of that income or wealth is £5,635.00
labour earnings  of that income or wealth is £40,580.00
relative income value of that income or wealth is £51,220.00
relative output value of that income or wealth is £131,600.00

The labour earnings and relative income of £40,000 to £50,000 seems to be an unwise amount to carry anywhere today. I think, however, there are probably some gentlemen today who feel they need access to that amount of money quickly. But remember that in those days there were no credit cards or ATM machines, the ways we now can tap our wealth at most any time.  In those days carry cash would be the only choice.

### A shilling and sixpence for a prostitute in Victorian England

QUESTION. I am researching for a serious study of one of the worst parts of our town in the mid Victorian period. I think, by a roundabout way, I have found out that in 1865 a prostitute charged a man 1/6d for her services which is about £50 in 2018. Is that about right?

ANSWER. The comparator will give you:  If you want to compare the value of a 1s 6d  Commodity in 1865 there these choices. In 2017 the relative:
real price of that commodity is £6.82
labour value of that commodity is £49.09
income value of that commodity is £61.96

The first problem with this question is that a google search will tell us that the charge for the services of a prostitute today can vary from £5 (or less) to £150 (or more.)  So I guess we would have to know the range of prices in 1865 to know where to place this.  The relative real price of less than £7 sounds pretty grim. That is the answer inflation calculators give. I like your choice of the labour value of about £50 because it is work for the prostitute.

### Rebuilding a church is 1810

QUESTION: I am investigating a church history in the UK whereby a rebuilding cost was £1,200 in 1810. Can you please suggest what figure I should use as a modern idea of this cost.

My audience will be local people, people who have connections with the former owners of the 3000 acre estate, descendants of former residents, descendants of those buried in the local churchyard. Our church was founded in about 1300 and has been rebuilt about three times.

If you want to compare the value of a £1,200 Project in 1810 there are three choices. In 2017 the relative:
real cost of that project is £79,480.00
labour cost of that project is £992,500.00
economic cost of that project is £5,225,000.00

I think you tell your audience that while an inflation calculator would say that the £1,200 in 1810 represents about £80,000 in today’s money, but the relative cost of hiring workers to do the rebuilding would be about a million of today’s pounds.  In other words, that £1,200 would have hired a large number of workmen’s hours and that may have been the biggest part of the cost.

### What is today’s relative value of a Boston estate in 1846?

QUESTION: I love your website and refer to it often. I use it for translating wealth in genealogical research, along with other metrics. For example, in individual’s estate was valued at \$50,000 in 1846, Boston MA. What would that estate ‘feel like’ to a modern reader? Your range of equivalent values was so great that I took another tact. I researched ALL of the estates probated in that year in a quick and dirty survey. Turns out that the \$50k estate was in the top 10% of probated estates that year, and one recognizes that MOST estates of the time had no real estate, i.e. only personal goods passed to family members. Therefore, this estate was in the top 10% of the top 20% of households. I gave it a “feels like” value of \$25 million in today’s dollars. It’s a sum that makes one ‘rich’ but not at the top of the heap by any means. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them. Translating for modern impact is hard!

ANSWER: An inflation calculator would give you a real price of \$1.6 million, clearly way off.  The income value is \$29 million. Which make some sense.  But I like your technique better. What you are doing is taking the relative value of houses and that makes much more sense that using some other index such as the CPI.

### A loaf of Bread for a penny in 1880

QUESTION:  I find it so interesting using your currency converter. However, I’m never sure which measure is best to follow for what I need. I hope you can help. For example, if a penny could buy a loaf of bread in the 1880s, what measure would I use to see how much that would be now? I’m interested in what it would have cost a person in terms of how much they were earning compared to how much they were having to spend out on the bread, if that makes sense. From all the reading and research I’ve done so far I think I should be looking under the commodity section, and on either ‘labour value’ or ‘income value’, but I’m not sure of the difference between the two. I really would appreciate some help with this. Also, which measure would I use to see how much a person’s wage would be equivalent to now? I think that I want to see it in the way of how much a person would be able to buy with the wage, rather than just the inflation rate. For example, I want to see how much they would have earned so I can they see how much of that would have been spent on rent, food, etc.

ANSWER:  I always say the right measure (and there are usually more than one) depends on the question.  You have done a fabulous job of thinking what questions you want to answer, so you have the right answers, and that is the answers.  Here is what the comparator says.

If you want to compare the value of a £0 0s 1d Commodity in 1880 there are three choices. In 2017 the relative:
real price of that commodity is £0.38
labour value of that commodity is £1.88
income value of that commodity is £3.06

That the real price is so low indicates that relative to other consumer goods, bread is much cheaper today.  The labour value is generating a relative wage value of the loaf of bread in 1880 and say it would correspond to almost two pounds today.  The average income today is more than just current wages, so the relative cost of that loaf of bread as measured by average income is over three pounds.

### The purpose of this blog

This blog will be used to discuss the issues of the comparators and data sets that are hosted on the MeasuringWorth website.  Many of the postings will be feedback questions we get, and the answer I have sent to the author of the question.  I think in many cases the questions and replies will help other users.  If you have a question or comment you think would be useful to share, please use the Feedback or Contact Us forms.

Thank you.