It Ain’t Cheap!

In the summer of 1904, Fairbanks was comprised of small crudely built log cabins, tents, stumps and mud. People were beginning to arrive in larger numbers and the brand new little town on the river was about to boom.

It was expensive to live here in those days. We have taken a newspaper article from 1904 that gives the prices of basic commodities in Fairbanks and converted them to be what that same thing would cost in today’s money. The conversion was calculated with a $28.21 inflation rate per dollar from 1904 to 2018. This eye-opening exercise illustrates just how expensive it was to ship goods from the lower 48 to the interior region of Alaska at that time.

The writer of the information was Morton Stevens, who was a member of Men’s Igloo No. 4.

Goshen, Indiana Mid-Week News- July 26, 1904


Interesting Letter From Morton E. Stevens in Alaska Regarding Conditions.

Hon. E. H. Stevens has received a very interesting letter from his son, Morton E. Stevens, regarding the conditions in Alaska, where he is now located. He is connected with a firm which has holdings worth a great amount of money, and own from 28 to 30 mines. Where he is at present is 3,000 miles north of Seattle, Washington, and is 14 or 15 miles north of the Arctic circle. The letter is written from Fairbanks, Alaska.

He says that every marketable commodity is very high priced, and gives a list of the prices paid for certain articles, some of which follow:

(Remember this has been converted to what it would cost in today’s monetary values.)

Cigars- $14.25 each
Glass of Beer- $7.25
Mixed Drink- $14.25
Eggs- $14.25 each
Steaks- $113 to $127 each
Coffee- $7.25 per cup, with bread -$7.25 extra
Bowl of Oatmeal- $14.25
Order of Hotcakes- $14.25
“Outside” Newspapers- $14.25 each
Laundry- $28.25 to wash a white shirt
Shave- $14.25
Haircut- $28.25
Sugar- $7.25 to $8.50 per pound
Salt- $14.00 per pound
And other prices in proportion.

Morton Steven’s account of the hardships endured in reaching the mining territory make it seem remarkable that many will venture to make the trip, by steam, by rail, on foot, and on horseback, transferring very often from one to the other. He transferred three times on the Tanana River, owing to low water.

Note: The prices listed would most likely be in an even dollar amount as coinage was not generally used here in the early days due to the expense of shipping heavy coins North. Most businesses just rounded up to the next dollar amount to keep everything in paper currency. In 1906, there was about $832 million dollars of gold (in today’s values) shipped out from the Tanana Mining District, to the lower 48. Also in 1912, a cord of wood delivered to your home or business would cost in today’s money between $215 to $385, depending on where you lived or worked. This pricey History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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