In 1864, a tall, skinny 17-year-old Joseph Pulitizer, who would become famous as a newspaper publisher after
the Civil War, pocketed close to $200 as a bounty for enlisting in the Union Army.
So was that a lot of money?
Well in today’s dollars that bounty would have a value of about $2,860.
Fortunately we don’t have to consult a university economist to figure that out. There is a website that will do such calculations for us, Measuring Worth.
A Purchasing Power Calculator on the website compares the relative value of a past amount of dollars to a present amount. Of course, when it comes to money nothing is ever simple. Measuring Worth provides seven ways to compute the relative value of a U.S. dollar amount from 1774 to the present. But for most of our needs as family historians, the Purchasing Power Calculator works just fine.
Unfortunately, the calculator doesn’t work for Confederate dollars, only for U.S. dollars. But you can use it to help you understand the worth in current dollars of all sorts of things from the price of barrel of flour to an acre of farmland.
Go ahead. Give it a try!