More telling than any cost of living statistic in the Berkshires about the rising cost of food, is an old grocery flyer (vintage 1902), found this week by Edward M. Holmes, an employee of Housatonic. Bill lists per dollar of groceries then available at the old MacDonald’s, Housatonic, which would cost even the most frugal housewife today, at least $ 2.07.

Even at the current price of $ 2.07 for the listed grocery store, a housewife would likely find it difficult to purchase two of the items listed, a lamp fireplace and six common wicks, which cost 13 cents on the dollar.

Mr. Holmes, now a clerk at Snyder’s, Housatonic, was then a clerk at MacDonald’s, run by his uncle, RH MacDonald, who was one of South Berkshire’s best-known traders.

Most amazing about the 1902 Grocery Bargain Sheet is the offer of three pounds of sugar and a quart of fancy beans, free. The other items are: three glass goblets, 1 cent; 3 dozen clothespins, 2 cents; 2 ounces of nutmeg, 10 cents; a pound of fig bars, 13 cents; a pound of baking soda, 7 cents; two pounds of coffee, 17 cents; two dozen lemons, 10 cents; two bars of laundry soap, 6 cents; a packet of washing powder, 5 cents; two pounds of rice, 10 cents; a pound of prunes, 5 cents; a market basket, 1 cent.

Many of the items on the jet’s bill are much more expensive today than they were 36 years ago. Lemons are six times more expensive; glass cups about 15 times more expensive; clothes pins, five times higher; coffee, twice as expensive, and the market basket, 10 times as expensive. Only nutmeg, fig bars, soda, rice, and laundry soap maintained price parity with the year 1902.

This story within history is selected from the archives of Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle



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