Thanksgiving Feast Historic Prices 1912

Thanksgiving meals have changed somewhat in the last 100 years, but many of the ingredients stayed the same. A good feast still needs turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie. I have become interested in old newspapers and I decided to check out some historic food prices for the Thanksgiving feast.

Most of the prices listed are from old newspapers in Milwaukee, since I am located in Wisconsin. Many of the ads listed the regular prices and then the sale prices, so when possible I have used the regular prices. When I only had sales prices I used those, but this should give a pretty accurate picture since even today many people buy Thanksgiving ingredients on sale just before the holiday. Prices for cranberries would typically be cheaper since that is a local product, the same for the dairy and other farm items, but the prices should be close to the national average.

To put these numbers in context, the average wages was between $800 and $1,000 a year for middle class Americans and the majority of that income was spent on food. Housing was a much smaller percentage of expenses at the time.


Poultry and Fish

ingredient
1912
adusted prices
2012
turkey, by the pound
.25
5.74
2.49
chicken, by the pound
.15
3.44
2.49
chicken, whole stuffed and roasted
.65
14.92
5.99*
ham, by the pound
.16
3.67
2.99
goose, by the pound
.18
4.13
6.99
duck, by the pound
.21
4.82
6.85
fresh oysters, pint
.20
4.59
19.98**

*2012 chicken is a rotisserie chicken that is not stuffed.


** oysters used to be plentiful and very cheap, they were very popular as a budget meal. This price is actually rather high since the price is from Wisconsin, where the oysters had to be imported. The price would be much lower on the coasts.

Produce

ingredients
1912
adjusted prices
2012 prices
fresh cranberries, pound
.11
2.52
1.50
potatoes, 10 pounds
.22
5.05
5.99
celery, bunch
.13
2.98
1.49
oranges, 1 dozen
.18
4.13
3.75
apples, dozen
.18
4.13
3.99
yams, 10 lb
.25
5.74
9.90
onions, lb
.03
.72
.33
lettuce, head
.09
2.07
1.49
 
 
 
 

BEVERAGES

ingredients
1912
adjusted
2012
apple cider. gallon
.43
7.52
5.29
coffee, lb
.21
5.03
5.50
cocoa, lb
.29
6.94
3.59
wine
.45
10.40
8.99
 
 
 
 

DESSERTS

ingredients
1912
adjusted
2012
canned pumpkin, 15 ounces
.04
.96
1.50
plum pudding
.25
5.74
11.99
fruit cake
.38
9.09
15.75
mincemeat
.18
4.31
8.99
 
 
 
 

Side Dishes and Other Ingredients

ingrdients
1912
adjusted
2012
dill pickles 16 oz
.13
2.98
2.50
olives 16 oz
.07
1.68
1.99
canned corn 16 oz
.07
1.68
1.29
butter, lb
.37
8.85
4.20
sage
.04
.96
4.99
flour, 5 lbs
.18
4.31
2.49
sugar, 5 lb
.25
5.74
3.11

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