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Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

in the 1800s, what was considererd rich? (chines railway workers god only 1 buck- 2 bucks and 50 cents so..)?

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    This is probably a way longer answer than you want, but I'll give it anyway:

    First off, it depended a LOT on whether you lived in the city or on a farm. The vast majority of Americans (more than 80%) lived on farms where they wouldn't see more than a few hundred dollars per year and that's if they were lucky, but then they grew their food and the money was spent for things they couldn't grow or make (and to pay their mortgages and taxes). In the city obviously you had to have more money to live on, but then you could rent an apartment in Manhattan or Washington D.C. for $5 per week (not a nice one, but a room at least).

    It's very difficult to compare money/wages/wealth then to now because most of the country lived on farms and even when you adjust their income for inflation it seems like a pitiful amount, but really wasn't. That said, the usual translation for mid-19th century to present is usually about 25:1, meaning that $25,000 today is equal to $1,000 then/vice-versa, but most families were doing good to see $500 per year, which today would be about $12,500 and would be considered below poverty for a family of several people- BUT they raised most of their own food and houses were very simple.

    RICH as we know it would be something you'd find in the city. A man who earned $10,000 per year would be VERY well off. John Wilkes Booth earned about $20,000 per year from acting and was the highest paid actor in the country.

    The presidential salary was $25,000 from 1789-1873 when it was doubled to $50,000, which was a LOT more then than the $500,000 presidential salary is today in spending power.

    The richest men of the century were Cornelius Vanderbilt (who left $100 million+ when he died in 1877, which would be Bill Gates money today) and his son who left twice that 8 years later, then Andrew Carnegie and J.D. Rockefeller were moving close to billionaire by the end of the century, which would be an unfathomable amount of money today (and almost no income tax like we know it).

    So short answer, starting around $1000 per year during the mid 19th century you were doing okay (not great), $5,000 was really comfortable, and by the time you had a 5 figure salary ($10,000+) you were at least very upper middle class. However, there was a tiny percentage (1% of 1%) to whom that was chump change and whose wealth, not adjusted for inflation, was still enormous even by our standards (the robber barons with their $50 million+ fortunes).

  • 1 decade ago

    JP Morgan was considered rich. So was Andrew Carnegie, so was Rockfeller. They were major bankers and industrialists in the later 1800's. Check out Robber Barons

    A well off person, who worked for a living had a substancially lower income. Maybe One to two thousand a year. It was enough to keep a good house, educate your young, and hire servants and not want for any thing.

    A middle midde class person made about half that. They still lived very well

    Things went down hill from there.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Just being able to travel round-trip from one country to another is pretty significant. The Chinese workers, for example, could only travel one way at a time. They could save their money and sail back to China, but they had to wait for years in order for that to happen. If you were well-off, you could afford to travel to Europe, spend the season there, and come back - even sending your sons and daughters there too! I also happen to think that you were probably considered to be rich by the amount of real estate you owned. Owning a house is good, but owning a mine is even better!

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  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    What Is Considered Wealthy

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