~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~
The tourists leave DC around the time school starts, which means that going downtown on a Saturday becomes something doable again for those of us living here. It’s quite impressive with all the towering monumental structures in their white marble. As I took a break in the shade next to – yes, you guessed it, the National Archives! – I wondered how much it would have cost to build those same structures today.
One of my favorite websites is Measuring Worth – Relative Value of the U.S. Dollar. In addition to calculating worth of the dollar from the 1774, it provides 7 different ways to conceptualize the difference. Perhaps the purchasing power of $12 in 1800 is what you need to know. Or maybe the economic status associated with an amount like $400 in 1860. Maybe you want to know how big of a business investment $50 was in 1920. The site also has some great examples of how these different conceptualizations work: George Washington’s salary, the cost of the Civil War, and Babe Ruth’s contract are broken down in very interesting ways.
I’m not a numbers person, but the relative value of things is really important in building context for our ancestors, and making their realities accessible to us. This is a fabulous tool to help you do that.
So how much would it cost to build the National Archives today? It cost $8.5 million in the 1920s. The purchasing power of that today would be $110 million, and the economy cost (relative importance of the item to society as a whole) would be $1.38 billion.