Early 19th Century Upstate New York Food and Labor Costs

face of a prisoner

Early nineteenth-century reports of New York State prison inspectors include information on labor and provisioning costs for prisons. For example, at Auburn Prison in 1834, about 60 quarts of milk was bought monthly for the prison hospital, at a price of 4 cents per quart. Sperm oil for lamps was procured for $1 to $1.25 per gallon (purchases of 30-100 gallons). The report for 1838 shows beef was procured for 4 cents per pound (purchases of 68-264 lbs.) The report for 1842 shows a pound of fowl cost 7 cents ( 7.62 pounds purchased), and a pound of crackers, 6 cents (48 lbs. purchased). A hat cost $0.50 (lots of 1 to 16), and a pair of pants, $1.50 (bought singly).

In 1834, the daily wage rate for common labor on New York State’s Erie Canal was $0.75. ^

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