Tuesday, April 27, 2021

LIVING ON 12 CENTS A DAY by Marisa Masterson



Research recently led me to the first few years of the Good Housekeeping magazine. Did you know it was first published in 1875? I had no idea it was that old. Its original issues advertised corsets even! 
No fun covers yet at that time. The contents were listed on the cover like you would see now. 


In one issue, I found the results of a study on how much nutrition a man needed and where he should get that. Sounds boring, right? 
What interested me was the listing of prices. For an author who writes historical fiction, primary sources like this one with actual prices is like hitting gold for a miner. 
The article suggests that the normal man would live on 12 cents a day. I love this line from it. "If a man wants to gorge himself, and spend almost 22 cents a day on his stomach..." 
How can anyone live on 12 cents each day? It wasn't only a matter of things being lower in price (comparably) in the year of this article (1885) but also what the person would eat. 
The source of protein was very different from ours today. Steak, hamburgers, Kentucky Fried Chicken. None of those. 
According to the study from Wesleyan University, the average man would eat 1/2 pound of beef neck and 1/4 pound of beans to get his protein. After all, beef neck was only 8 cents per pound! A real buy!


The largest part of his diet would come from potatoes. He should be eating 2 pounds of these each day. I think this remains true for some people today. For me, I grew up eating potatoes daily, though not that large amount. Even McDonald's promotes eating potatoes as they group french fries with their sandwiches in meal deals.


To read more about this study or the recommended diet for 1885, you can find this magazine online. Simply click on the icon to the left. No membership or library card is required and it is interesting reading. (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015023904959&view=1up&seq=179)

Since I have you thinking about the 1800s, here's a new read to consider. 





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