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Here's what Thanksgiving dinner would've cost a century ago

Thanks to inflation, the price of turkey has skyrocketed since 1911.

By Money Staff Nov 27, 2013 6:07PM

This post comes from Megan Willet at partner site Business Insider.


Business Insider on MSN MoneyThe average Thanksgiving Day dinner this year will cost $49.04, 44 cents less than it did in 2012.


The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates the cost of Thanksgiving around the country every year based on feeding 10 people a meal with a 16-pound turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots, celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee with milk.


But what would the same dinner have cost a century ago?  


The Morris County Library in New Jersey researched the advertised prices of common Thanksgiving goods from November 18-22, 1911 in the NJ newspaper, The Daily Record. They discovered the cost of everything from sweet potatoes to plum pudding on the newspaper's old microfilm, and shared it with Business Insider.


Here's what a Thanksgiving dinner would have cost in 1911:

  • Turkey: $.28/pound ($4.48 for a 16-pounder)
  • Bread stuffing: $.05/pound
  • Sweet potatoes: $.29/6 quart basket
  • Rolls (bread): $.05/pound
  • Butter: $.37/pound
  • Peas: $.05/can
  • Cranberries: $.13/quart
  • Carrots: $.25/6 quart basket
  • Celery: n/a
  • Pumpkin pie: (milk, eggs, flour, sugar, pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon) ~$.84 to make (recipe)
  • Whipped cream: n/a
  • Coffee: $.25/pound
  • Milk: $.05/pint

Pilgrim hat © Siede Preis / Photodisc Green/Getty ImagesTotal cost: ~$6.81


Of course, these prices don't take inflation into account.


That measly-seeming $6.81 suddenly jumps to a staggering $165.29 when you consider inflation (calculated here for 2012 prices).


It's mostly due to the sheer size of the turkey, since a 16-pounder in 1911 prices would cost roughly $110 today.


This year, the same-sized turkey would $21.76, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.


See the full list of prices from New Jersey in 1911 over at the Morris County Library website, and be thankful that your turkey this year didn't cost over $100.


More from Business Insider:


Nov 28, 2013 9:31AM
Stating the price of turkey has skyrocketed due to inflation seems inaccurate.  If the turkey which cost $4.48 in 1911 would now cost $110.00 adjusted for inflation...then the fact that it currently costs only $21.76 would reflect a drastic plunge in price.
Nov 29, 2013 5:33PM
My dad ( now 95 years old) always used to joke that if you couldn't afford a turkey dinner today you couldn't afford to eat period. Turkey at 69 cents a pound is cheap and the traditional sides aren't that much either. I get that people are having trouble putting food on the table but to act like a turkey meal is expensive, not true.
Nov 29, 2013 11:07AM
Actually, in 1911, I'd wager more turkeys only cost the price of the ammunition to shoot it than cost four and a half dollars at the butcher's.....
Nov 27, 2013 8:41PM
I tell people all the time--food prices are CHEAP.  At the beginning of the 1900's, people spent about 40% of their income on groceries.  By the 1950's, people spent about 25% of their income on groceries.  Now, it's down to about 10%.
Dec 2, 2013 5:35PM

In 1913 Henry Ford offered men $5.00 per day to work on his assembly union to join as Ford thought they were communist-inspired.  See a book, Outliers, which writes of the richest humans in history.  JD Rockefeller, over $300 billion in 2008 dollars.  Cleopatra is up there besides two Vanderbilts, et al. 


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