How much was $600 worth in 1847?

When Lt. William T. Sherman met John Bidwell in 1847, Bidwell was searching for a runaway horse that had $600 in its saddlebags. This was money Bidwell had earned during a summer of surveying land for various people in 1847. The question is: Just how much money was $6oo in today’s terms?

That’s not an easy question to answer.  According to the website Measuring Worth, measuring the worth of historic dollar amounts in today’s money is a complicated business. It depends on what you want to know about that money: how much it would buy, where it would put the owner on the socio-economic scale, how much unskilled labor could be bought with the amount for a project, and so forth.

But the simple answer is: $600 in the United States in 1847 would buy $16,400 in goods today, based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index from 1847 to 2010. Not that there was very much to buy in California in 1847, but it had that potential. Moreover, according to Measuring Worth, $600 was the equal of $247,000 in economic status. Not bad pay for a summer’s work as a surveyor, and well-worth chasing that horse down for.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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2 Responses to How much was $600 worth in 1847?

  1. Charles Smay says:

    Well, looks like I need to add another (your) book to my library!
    John Bidwell’s gold discovery has provided me with several hours of enjoyable research!
    You might be interested in this link to my research website
    Chuck Smay

  2. nancyleek says:

    Chuck— I’ve seen your book on Bidwell’s Bar and was thoroughly impressed with the sheer detail of your research. Thanks for your comment.

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