Resource Spotlight: Money Matters

This sort of thing is always fun:

Inflation Calculator: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Inflation Calculator: 1774-present

Great stuff for writing about U.S. pocket change!

The first one only goes back to 1913, which is the first year the bureau began keeping this sort of statistic. But it is the BLS, so I like to use it whenever I’ve got more recent frames of reference.

The second tool, a feature of business news/economics website DaveManuel.com, uses data from Oregon State University. I’m sure there are lots of these if you need earlier dates, although the earlier you go, the harder it can be to arrive at true equivalencies.

Still, both of these calculators are nice to have around if you’re writing about money and your ancestors. For example, in 1877 a Patrick Connors (who I think was my great-great-grandfather Patrick) took the New York State canal commissioners to task over damages to his property from Erie Canal flooding. The initial claim was for $900, or about $19,000 today. The case dragged on for several years. In 1884, Patrick’s widow Bridget Connors accepted an award of $75, or about $1,785 in current cash.

If you’re going to write about what your ancestors were paid/were fined/inherited, your first priority is to be as accurate as possible about the actual, historical amount. But giving a present-day equivalent can certainly heighten your readers’ understanding of the lives your ancestors lived.

Resource Spotlight provides a look at handy toolbox items I’ve bookmarked over the years.

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