Picture of life on a South Dakota farm based on what can be seen in a probate document

Daniel Ulvog with horses. Date unknown but before 1945. Photo courtesy of Sonia Pooch.

In 1945 my paternal grandfather departed this vail of tears. The probate document filed for his estate the next year provides a financial glimpse of life on a South Dakota farm in the mid-1940s.

This was a time of low productivity with all the members of a large family working all day every day to keep the farm running.

Farmers were starting to transition from horse power to tractor power.

It was also a time of self-sufficiency: Raising the oats and hay to feed the horses to work the fields to raise the corn and hay to feed the pigs and cows to sell for money to pay for the farm.

I will use my accountant eyes to see what can be learned from just a probate filing.

Discussion in this series:

Continue reading “Picture of life on a South Dakota farm based on what can be seen in a probate document”

First estimate of value of my grandfather’s estate at close of probate

House on a farm where Ulvog family lived for a while, back when my dad, aunts, and uncles were growing up.

The probate document for my paternal grandfather listed the assets in his estate. What is the total value of his estate? Let’s ponder that question.

Values for some items are listed in the probate document. Prices of asset purchases and sales during the time between his death and filing of probate document can be used to estimate other values. For example, I estimated values for livestock at this earlier post.

Here is a summary of the assets:

livestock       4,508
oats and corn       1,794
tractors          450
tractor drawn equipment          150
horses          400
horse drawn equipment          140
other equipment          180
car          300
 —–
total assets, without $400 liability       7,922

 

My estimate for the value of the individual items in his estate as listed in the probate filing are accumulated below. I’ll update this analysis later if I can get better definition for value of some assets.

Continue reading “First estimate of value of my grandfather’s estate at close of probate”

Cash-based income statement of farm in 1945/1946 – part 4

Daniel Ulvog. Date unknown but prior to June 1945. Photo provided by Sonia Pooch.

Previous post listed the cash transactions in the estate of my paternal grandfather from the day he passed away until a probate filing was prepared for the court.

The probate filing provides a glimpse into farm life in the mid-1940s.

As you read the summarized income statement and cash transactions below, keep in mind this is the cash activity to feed and cloth a family consisting of one mom and four children still living at home. Notice was one purchase of groceries for $9.60 and only two purchases of clothing. There is no indication of any purchases in November or December which could be considered Christmas presents.

To say finances were tight would be an understatement.

The cash transactions can be summarized into a cash-based income statement as follows:

Continue reading “Cash-based income statement of farm in 1945/1946 – part 4”

Cash transactions listed in 1945 probate filing – part 3

Daniel Ulvog. Date unknown, but before June 1945. Photo provided by Sonia Pooch.

The estate of my paternal grandfather went through probate in 1946 after he died in 1945.  The probate filing listed the cash received and paid from the time of his death until the document was filed with the court.

The filing provides a view of farm life in the mid-1940s. This series of posts uses the filing to take a glimpse into life back then.

Here are the cash transactions listed in the court filing:

Continue reading “Cash transactions listed in 1945 probate filing – part 3”

Prices of farm animals in 1945 – part 2

Daniel and Lydia Ulvog with 5 of 8 children (Gilbert, Lloyd, Olaf, James, Clarice) on Ellefson farm, in late ’30s or before 1945. Photo provided by Sonia Pooch.

The probate filing for the estate of my grandfather, Daniel Ulvog, provides a lot of information about the farm. Let’s look at indicators of the price of farm animals. The filling provides a number of data points.

Here is the listed information sorted by animal with a mean (weighted average), mode (price with largest number of animals), and my point estimate of the price of different animals.

 

Cows:

Sales:

  • $132.07 – 19 head

Purchases:

Continue reading “Prices of farm animals in 1945 – part 2”

Glimpse into economic life on a farm in 1945, provided by probate documents – part 1

Daniel Ulvog on tractor, with sons Olaf (l) and James (r), taken on the rented Ellefson farm in early 1940s. Photo provided by Sonia Pooch.

My paternal grandfather passed away on June 1, 1945, near the end of World War 2.

Disposition of his estate was officially approved by a court, which provides us a glimpse into the economics of farm life in the 1940s.

He died intestate, meaning he did not have a will, so the estate was distributed in accordance with South Dakota state law. His estate went through probate, which means a court had to approve the distribution.

The filing with the court contains a list of:

Continue reading “Glimpse into economic life on a farm in 1945, provided by probate documents – part 1”

Inflation factors during the Civil War and an indication of relative wages in the 1860s.

Manassas National Battlefield Park. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

An insightful indicator of wages during the Civil War can be found in The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy, by William C. Davis. Book also has useful indicators of inflation through 1863.

The northern economy was quite strong during the Civil War, with demand for skilled and unskilled workers in industry creating more lucrative job opportunities in the civilian world than being in the army.

While the pay for a soldier was $13 a month, the author says a man could make four times that much money merely by working as “a sign maker or a clerk in a dry goods store” (location 26210). That stat is credited to American Annual Cyclopedia, 1863, p. 413. A 30 second search on the ol’ internet suggests the book can be had for between $60 and $100.

The ratio of 4x suggests a dry good store clerk could make somewhere around $50 a month.

Continue reading “Inflation factors during the Civil War and an indication of relative wages in the 1860s.”

When pondering the horrible violence of the Vikings, consider the oh so refined civility of the English in the 1700s – part 7

Swinging from the rope was only the second of five painful steps used by the English to punish High Treason in the 1700s. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Yes, we all know the Vikings were horrible, terrible brutes.

Consider the ‘blood eagle’ form of execution. Quite an astounding way to slowly kill someone while imposing exquisite pain.

As you consider that idea, compare those nasty Vikings to the so very civilized and refined and cultured English of the 1770s.

Page 23 of Killing England: The Brutal Struggle for American Independence, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, contains a vivid description of the punishment awaiting anyone convicted of High Treason. I’ll paraphrase:

Such a terrible, horrible person would first be dragged to the gallows by a horse. Then the condemned soul would be hung by the neck, but not until dead. No, the executioner made sure a lot of life was left for several additional steps.

Continue reading “When pondering the horrible violence of the Vikings, consider the oh so refined civility of the English in the 1700s – part 7”

What was the price of gold in 1522 in relation to today’s dollar?

Gold Florin (Fiorino d’oro) coin issued circa 1256 in Florence, Italy. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Previous post explored a comment by Eric Metaxas in his book, Martin Luther, The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, that the first printing of Luther’s translation of the New Testament cost half a gulden for an unbound copy and a gulden for a bound copy.

In that post I calculated that the implied value of a bound New Testament, hot of the press from the first printing, cost something in the range of about $900 in terms of today’s currency.

I’d like to work through what that implies about the value of gold back then.

What is a Gulden?

It is a gold coin used in Germany. A few minutes of research does not quite explain its weight or purity. The most helpful thing I found is an article from Money Museum which describes a number of Medieval Currencies:

Continue reading “What was the price of gold in 1522 in relation to today’s dollar?”

Price tag for the first New Testament printed in vernacular expressed in terms of the cost of a butchered hog

Bible includes the Old and New testament. The 1522 edition included only the New Testament. “Luther Bible” by todd.vision is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I found an interesting way to convert the price of a New Testament bible in 1522 to current dollars.

How does this sound for a price of a New Testament? About $900 for the first and second printing, and around $2,700 for the third printing.

If that grabs your interest, let me explain how I got to that answer.

Prior to Martin Luther translating the New Testament from Latin to German, the only bibles around were in Latin, hand transcribed before the Guttenberg press revolutionized printing, and only available to priests and monks. Even at that, monks had to go to the library to read the likely only copy in the monastery.

Luther translating the bible into German, combined with the merely 70-year-old Guttenberg press technology, meant that the bible was literally opened up to the people.

Prices for the first three printings

Eric Metaxas provides us the key to price those first few printings of the brand new text.

He explains on page 270 of his book, Martin Luther, The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, that the first printing of the book cost half a gulden for an unbound copy and a gulden for a bound copy.

Continue reading “Price tag for the first New Testament printed in vernacular expressed in terms of the cost of a butchered hog”