Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written eleven nonfiction books, two novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Springfield: The Seamy Side of the Queen City, Murder and Mayhem in Missouri, and The Siege of Lexington, Missouri: the Battle of the Hemp Bales.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Price of Gas and Corn

Nearly everyone is complaining about the price of gasoline nowadays, as it approaches four dollars a gallon, and I admit that I'm right there with them. It really takes a bite out of the old pocketbook when you have to pay well over $50 for a fill-up. It's especially a hardship on people who commute back and forth to work a considerable distance each day.
Yet, when viewed from a historical perspective, the price of gasoline is really not all that far out of line from other goods and services. I can recall paying as little as 17 or 18 cents a gallon for gasoline during the 1960s, but that was during the so-called "gas wars" that were relatively common in those days. The usual price was more like 25 to 30 cents a gallon. Until recently, the price of gas nowadays was in the three dollar per gallon range. So, you might say that gasoline has only gone up by approximately a factor of ten. I can think of many other products that have gone up at least that much. For instance, I recall that the going price for a candy bar when I was a kid was a nickel. Nowadays, a Snickers bar costs over a dollar if you purchase it at the local convenience store. That's a factor of twenty! Things like health care and higher education have probably increased that much as well.
The price of some things (notably U. S. agricultural products), on the other hand, have not increased even ten times. In doing historical research on another topic, I recently ran onto an advertisement of the Jefferson City Market, wholesale and retail dealers in groceries and other provisions, in an 1858 edition of the Jefferson City Inquirer that gave the price of various commodities at that time. A bushel of shelled corn, for instance, ranged from 75 to 80 cents. That, I'm assuming, was the retail price. So, it's hard to compare that price to the price of a bushel of corn today, because corn is usually not sold by the bushel at the retail level (at least I've never purchased it that way). The wholesale price for a bushel of corn nowadays is in the seven dollar range, I think, and that's after a fairly dramatic increase in recent years. So, you might say that the price of corn has gone up only somewhat more than a factor of ten in over 150 years. If that were true of everything else and yet we all still had the same income we do today, most of us would be rich.

3 Comments:

Blogger Betty Craker Henderson said...

My poor husband is one of those who complains constantly about the cost of gasoline but doesn't seem to see how the other prices compare. I need to read your notes to him and perhaps he'll stop and think. Naturally he doesn't listen to me. Can you imagine?

April 25, 2011 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Betty, I haven't read your story in the Mysteries anthology yet, but I intend to do so soon. Congratulations on its publication.

April 28, 2011 at 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Title Loans said...

It was reported yesterday that the price for vegetables weren't going to sky-rocket like it was thought. So, at least we have a little hope. Gas does seem "ridiculous" compared to what it used to, but then again, what doesn't?
Ava

May 3, 2011 at 2:24 PM  

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