John Smith’s Bill: Then & Now

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In fact, the rise was not uniform. In apparel, for instance, thanks in part to recent price reductions at Sears, today’s prices were $68 less than four years ago. Victuals were up 17.2 percent, from $192 to $225. Arms were also advanced, from $850 to $1,166, or 37.1 percent. Tools for six showed only a modest increase of $15 over the four years, $1,460 to $1,465. Household implements for six declined a modest $7, from $163 to $156, or 4.3 percent. Sugar, spice, and fruit and provisions for six for the voyage rose $4 from $47 to $51, or just 8.5 percent. There were some oddities in foodstuffs: The bacon was 78 cents cheaper; the Lipton soup cost a nickel more, but each box contained an additional ounce of the product; Kraft marmalade was a nickel less; the beer was 50 cents cheaper, but the beans rose from 57 cents to $1.19, a jump of 108.8 percent for those beans. Because of the new standby fare, the QE2 showed a decrease of $191, down to $999 from $1,190 or 16.1 percent, but using the same type of accommodation as before would register an increase of $2467.50, or 207.4 percent! Apparently the QE2 hopes to encourage couples (the per-person fare for them is up only $380, or only 32 percent). By far the biggest jump occurred in the cost of transporting goods across the Atlantic. While the 1985 rate was $1,218, four years’ time saw a jump of $1,042, or 85.6 percent. This unscientific sample also included some alternative goods where earlier items had been discontinued, and in some cases a much cheaper product was substituted. Nevertheless, the unevenness of the changes over this four-year span was a surprise.

Walter Karp, 1934–1989