The History Of What Things Cost In America: 1776 to Today


-Total annual cost of Cornell University, including living expenses was $1,400 (1927)
-A Harley-Davidson motorcycle cost $235 (1927)
-A camera cost $80 (1928)
-A Chrysler Imperial Sedan cost $2,995 (1928)

-One pound of coffee cost $0.47

-$1 in 1925 = $12.20 today

In 1925, America found itself in the midst of the “Roaring Twenties,” which saw a heavy emphasis on rampant business growth and consumerism. In 1925, more than 40 million Americans went to the movies each week, there were 20 million cars on the road, and owning a radio was, for most Americans, as important as owning a television is today. In this year, Chesterfield Cigarettes began marketing to women, and Hormel introduced its first processed meat in a can, which would later be called “Spam.”


-Monopoly the game cost $4 (1950)
-One bottle of aspirin cost $0.54
-A Chevy Corvette cost about $3,000
-A one-way flight from New York to California cost $88

-One pound of coffee cost $0.79

-$1 in 1950 = $8.91 today

In the 1950’s the American industrial economy was changing after World War II. With millions of American soldiers now back from the war and settling down with the aid of the G.I. bill, as well as the new 40-hour work week resulting from the New Deal, the economy saw the American middle class heavily bolstered, and a mass migration to the suburbs. In 1950, there was one car for every 3.7 Americans and 5 million homes had television sets, with only 45 million still containing radios. In this year, Coke owned 69% of the cola market.

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-An Apple II computer cost $1300 (1977)
-A six-pack of beer cost $1.49 (1978)
-A microwave cost $168 (1978)
-One movie ticket cost $1 (Chicago, 1978)

-One pound of coffee cost $1.40

-$1 in 1975 = $3.98 today

In in the mid-1970’s, the United States was experiencing one of its worst economic crises since the Great Depression. Oil prices skyrocketed and, in 1978, the price of regular gasoline went above $1.00 per gallon for the first time. In 1975, 120,000 Americans declared bankruptcy and unemployment hit 9.2%. That same year, McDonald’s opened its first drive-thru restaurant.


-A 12 pack of Bud Light bottles cost $8.99 (2003)
-A Samsung 42” television cost $999 (2004)
-One movie ticket in Chicago cost $7.50 (2004)
-One year’s tuition at St. John’s College cost $30,570 (2004)

-One pound of coffee cost $3.54 (2000)

-$1 in 2000 = $1.25 today

When the United States entered the 21st century, the economy was booming thanks to a “dot-com bubble.”  Unfortunately, conditions took a turn for the worst as the tech bubble burst in 2001. The period is marked by many other characteristics however, such as the fact that 60% of American households owned a personal computer. 2000 also saw the beginning of the modern “green” movement, and Honda released its first hybrid vehicle.

-Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter, Douglas A. McIntyre

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