Cheaper Than Thoreau

Thoreau Cabin. This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License

Thoreau Cabin. This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License

Our Parents Were Cheaper Than Thoreau!

Henry David Thoreau boasted of having lived simply. He built his cabin for $28.12. But our parents beat him. They built their house, the one they are moving back into this summer, in 1957 for $5,000 in materials. In 1957, average hourly wages were 65 times as great as in 1850, so we can say the cost of materials and the value of the dollar was in the same proportion. Sixty-five times Thoreau’s $28.12 is $1,827.80. But Dad and Mother housed five people, not just one. So they would have had to spend more than $9,135, ($1,827.80×5), to have outspent Thoreau. He was a profligate!

“I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by fifteen long, and eight-feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace opposite. The exact cost of my house, paying the usual price for such materials as I used, but not counting the work, all of which was done by myself, was as follows; and I give the details because very few are able to tell exactly what their houses cost, and fewer still, if any, the separate cost of the various materials which compose them:– “

Boards........................... $8.03 1/2 mostly shantly boards.
Refuse shingles for roof
and sides, ..................... 4.00
Laths, ........................... 1.25
Two second-hand windows
with glass, .................... 2.43
One thousand old brick, .......... 4.00
Two casks of lime, ............... 2.40  That was high.
Hair, ............................ 0.31  More than I needed.
Mantle-tree iron, ................ 0.15
Nails, ........................... 3.90
Hinges and screws, ............... 0.14
Latch, ........................... 0.10
Chalk, ........................... 0.01
Transportation, .................. 1.40  I carried a good part on my back.

Still, they disallowed us getting free school lunch.

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