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.”

Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.

Model of Santa Maria. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Wages paid to the crew and a current understanding of crew list for Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas is provided at Columbus Ships Crew.

Crew size:

  • 41 – Santa Maria
  • 26 – Pinta
  • 20 – Nina
  • 87 – total

Of particular interest to me is the pay information provided in the article. It also lists reference points for gold and silver.

Will list that info here for future reference. All amounts are maravedis, which was the Spanish currency at the time. This data is for 1492 in Spain.

Continue reading “Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.”

Salary for top level military leaders during and after the American Civil War

Postage stamp images of Union Generals. From left to right; William T. Sherman, U.S. Grant, and Phillip Sheridan. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This may not be ancient finances, but salary paid to the senior level military commanders in the 1860s and 1870s provides a worthwhile point of reference.

William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough is a delightful biography of the general. Gen. Sherman was a prolific letter writer. This book looks at his thoughts and feelings by diving into his personal and official correspondence.

The book also provides multiple comments on his compensation level and financial conditions. For his entire married life he struggled with finances, with his large and growing salary never been able to quite keep up with his wife Ellen’s taste for the good life.

Following posts will mention some comments in the book on cost of nice housing, gifts to public figures, travel times, and logistics.

Compensation levels

While serving in the Army in California, Sherman formed a partnership and funded a retail store. He was making $70 a month. Each of the three men in the partnership chipped in $500 and drew out $2,000, make a profit of $1500 each.

Continue reading “Salary for top level military leaders during and after the American Civil War”

Roman legionnaire’s pay over time. Increases are an indication of debasement of currency.

Marching Roman legionnaire reenactors. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Pay for a legionnaire soldier in the Roman army increased substantially over time, from 225 denarii a year around the turn of the millenium to 600 denarri in the early 200s.

The amount of silver in a denarii was also steadily reduced over that same time. That is called inflation, which as we know from other reading, was driven by Roman Emperors intentionally debasing the currency as a way to help finance the empire.

A Wikipedia article, “Imperial Roman Army” provides data to analyze the gross pay and real pay over time.

First, let’s look at the declining value of a denarius. Here is the silver value of each coin, measured as the number of denarii minted from each pound of silver, along with my point estimate of the year of the change:

Continue reading “Roman legionnaire’s pay over time. Increases are an indication of debasement of currency.”

Payroll cost for a Roman Legion – Part 2 of 2

The 5th Legion” by mikecogh is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What might the payroll cost have been to staff a Roman Legion?

Previous post outlined the standard staffing of a Roman Legion in about 100 A.D.

The same Wikipedia article described earlier provided the relative pay of different positions. That allows for calculation of the total pay for a legion expressed in units of pay for a common soldier.

If we combine that calculation with the standard pay of 225 sesterces per year for a soldier, as mentioned here, we can calculate payroll for a legion.

Here is the relative pay calculation:

Continue reading “Payroll cost for a Roman Legion – Part 2 of 2”

Payroll cost for a Roman Legion – Part 1 of 2

Line of Roman soldiers advancing in battle formation. Shields up, swords drawn. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

What was the payroll cost to staff a Roman Legion?

Earlier post discussed that until around 81 A.D. a Legionnaire was paid 225 sesterces a year.

With the help of a Wikipedia article, we can make a guess at the total payroll for a Legion. (A side note, amusing to me, is that several of the sources of this article are books I’ve previously read.)

As the first step, let’s look at the estimated staffing of a Roman Legion in about 100 A.D. Keep in mind this is assuming the Legion is fully staffed, which was never the case, as I’ve read in several places. This is also for a legion with 50 centuries instead of the authorized strength of 60 centuries earlier.

Staffing for Roman Legion in about 100 A.D.:

Continue reading “Payroll cost for a Roman Legion – Part 1 of 2”

Average pay for Roman Legionnaire

Silver Roman denarius. About one and a half day’s pay for a Legionnaire. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Another indication of average pay for Roman foot soldiers can be found in Wikipedia’s article Imperial Roman Army.

This pay rate applied during the reigns of Emperors Augustus and Vespasian, which means until about 81 A.D. After that point, debasement of the currency led to inflation and rising pay for soldiers. More on that later.

For general framework, this is the pay structure in effect during the time of the New Testament.

Here is a recap: 

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