Indicator of coast-to-coast travel cost and wages for school teacher in San Diego back in 1865

One room schoolhouse. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Docent at the School House Museum in the Old Town San Diego State Historical Park explained the people of San Diego hired a professionally trained primary school teacher in 1865.

Mary Chase Walker had challenges finding a good position in Massachusetts, so she sailed to San Francisco. When the anticipated job there did not materialize, she took a teaching position in San Diego.

Her salary was a quite impressive $65 a month at a time when the average laborer was paid somewhere around $30 a month.

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Travel times during mid 1800s.

General Sherman monument in New York City at Grand Army Plaza. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Here are a few data points from the Civil War era for travel times and logistics as mentioned in William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough. Previous post mentioned some data points for compensation of senior army generals and housing costs.

Travel times

In 1836, when Sherman started classes at West Point, he took a stagecoach for the trip. The journey from Zanesville, Ohio to Washington was three days, traveling night and day. Each stagecoach’s was loaded with nine passages on the inside and perhaps three or four on the roof of the coach.

A quick check on Google maps shows this journey is 345 miles on the modern I-70 and I-68. A trip that took three days and nights, say 72 hours, back in 1836 can now be completed in 5 hours 40 minutes, say just over 6 hours adding in a refueling stop.

That is a drop in travel time by a factor of 12, or a reduction of 92%.

In July 1846, company F of Third Artillery, with young first lieutenant Sherman aboard, sailed from the East Coast to California. They sailed around the Cape Horn. The company consisted of 5 officers and 113 enlisted men. The ship stopped in Rio de Janeiro for re-provisioning.

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Travel time and cost in the Roman Empire

Stanford has an awesome site that shows time and cost to travel in the Roman Empire. You can find it at

ORBIS – The Stanford Geosptial Network Model of the Roman World

If you’ve read my blogs for a while, you know I am a member of the Protestant tradition of the Christian faith community.  As a result, the Roman Empire is of interest, since that was the occupying power in Israel during the New Testament period.

You also know I am interested the impact of technology on the cost of everything, including travel.

You can only imagine what a delight it is to find a web site that overlaps travel costs and the Roman Empire.

Here is a description of ORBIS from its website:

Spanning one-ninth of the earth’s circumference across three continents, the Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents.

Conventional maps that represent this world as it appears from space signally fail to capture the severe environmental constraints that governed the flows of people, goods and information. Cost, rather than distance, is the principal determinant of connectivity.

For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.

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