What’s a Dollar a Hundred Years Ago Worth Now?

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, December 27, 1912:  Sold Mollie’s calf today. It wasn’t a very big one and I rather feared my fortune would be pretty small, but after all it weighed one hundred and forty-four lbs. Received a neat sum of $11.56. I am real proud over what my purse that Ruth gave me contains. Over fourteen dollars.

Source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (June 15, 1911)

Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (June 15, 1911)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Mollie was Grandma’s cow, and it had a calf on November 15.

Grandma’s parents apparently taught their children the value of money by giving each child a cow. I think that if the cow had a male calf, the child got the money from the sale of the calf—and their personal herd grew if a female calf was born. (See previous post on teaching farm kids that value of money.)

And, we now know that Grandma’s sister Ruth was the person who gave her the purse. I bet it was stylish—and that it looked great filled with cash. Grandma was in the money. I hope she spent it wisely.

According to an online Inflation Calculator website, a dollar a hundred years ago is worth about $23.40 today.

So in real dollars Grandma sold the calf for the equivalent of $240 now. And if she had $14 in her purse, she’d have $328 today.

18 Responses

  1. Whoo Hoo! She’s rich!

  2. WOW!!! … Congrats Miss Muffly

  3. My son’s girlfriend was raised on a farm. When she graduated from high school, she was given the option of receiving a gift of $2,000 or a cow. She chose the cow since her fortune could then grow. This was in recent times in Virginia. I had never heard of this before and now there’s your post…… Thanks for sharing.

  4. We do the same thing with our boys; only this year we had to sell most of the yearlings because of the drought. They still got their money. Their jaws dropped to see that she only received $11 dollars. Love you posting.

  5. She really is in the money!! :)

  6. If it hadn’t been for the Federal Reserve Act, the following year, a dollar would be worth roughly the same amount now as it was then. Inflation, back then was based mostly on supply and demand, whereas today, the value of a dollar is based on the activity of the Federal Reserve and how much money they’ve printed. You get a much stabler economy when money is based on gold and silver, rather than the backing of nothing but the faith of the people in their currency.

  7. Good for her! It really puts things in perspective when you think of what is bought today with $240, or $328! Thanks, Sheryl!

  8. That’s really interesting Sheryl. I wonder if you could by more with $14 in 1912 than with $328 today? Seems I rarely leave Safeway without spending at least $200 and that’s not much. Great that they actually gave their kids the opportunity to be responsible for their own money.

  9. Wow. That’s a lot of money for a girl my age to be walking around with…Good for her. :-)

  10. […] well, if he felt prosperous enough to give Grandma a five dollar bill for a graduation present. This would be the equivalent of about $120 […]

  11. […] was the third year in a row that Mollie had a male calf. On December 27, 1912, Grandma […]

  12. […] Or maybe she hoped that her cow Mollie would have another bull calf she could sell. For example, on December 27, 1912 she […]

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