JF Ptak Science Books Post 2683 [Images are expandable]
There are many points of interest in this little pamphlet that I uncovered on the trail of money, seeing a simple 63-page document covering the endgame of Congressional appropriations back in 1849. Aside from its immediately absorbable and relative simplicity as a general consumable, there are of course the details in the paper trail. The first to register is the cost for running the staff of the Library of Congress, which included a librarian, two assistant librarians, and a messenger for $4,500 a year, which is a bit of a far cry from the LC's 5,000 current employees. The next big bit was the salary of the U.S. president, which in 1849 stood at $25,000 a year.
$25,000 1849 dollars in 2017 dollars explodes quite a bit in reference to its purchasing power, though I can't really find a good indicator of just how much that might be. For later figures closer to the 20th century I enjoy using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (U.S. Department of Labor) Consumer Price Index and Inflation Calculator (or the USDL' BLS CPI calculator) which I think gives a better taste of the value of money over different periods. Looking at that $25k in another way, for most states in the U.S. a day wage for a carpenter (without board) was about 2 bucks, or $40-50 a month, or about .02% of the president's salary. In those terms a craftsman making the same cut of the POTUS salary in 2017 would be making about $8,000/yr. There are many different ways of looking at this but in general I'd say that the president making that money was doing nicely in comparison to the rest of the country. The salary was doubled to $50k in 1873, and then again by 50% in 1909 to $75,000. This is the first level at which the BLS calculator comes into play, equating that salary with about $1.8 million in 2017 dollars. The president's salary (alone) wouldn't reach Babe Ruth's high dollar until 1949, when there was an increase to $100,000 ($1.02 million in 2017 dollars) and then again doubling to $200k in 1969. But according to the BLS tool the presidential salary has been going down since then, even when the president began to make $400k in 2001 (still about $550 in 2017 dollars). The job has a ton of perks, of course, but the dollar end of it (salary alone) has been on the general downside for about the entire history of the payment schedule (in constant dollars)
So getting back to 1849, here's a scan of the next two pages in the report. where we see that the vice president made a small fraction of his boss ($5000 a year versus $25). There was more allocated ($6,000) for a section of "lighting Pennsylvania Avenue" , as well as the White House (then the "President's House") and the U.S. Capitol and grounds...and for compensation for one lamplighter for the same". There was also an allocation of $3,500 for annual repairs and upkeep at the White House and for running the physical aspect of the place (but not staff) for $3500, which included paying for cartage, "manure, leather, nails, tools &c.".
And so on and on it goes, but on for those 60-odd pages, which today wouldn't hold very much info at all unless it was all microdot.In this instance, in 1849, 63 pages would do the trick, outlining the expenditure of $35 million or so. Mostly though I found this interesting for the staffing of the Library of Congress, because at this point, that is all it was--a library for Congressmen. It was still a decade or two away from expansive collecting, and more than 40 years off from having its own building.
The long-titled source for this boxed data: Statistical view of the United States, embracing its territory, population--white, free colored, and slave--moral and social condition, industry, property, and revenue : the detailed statistics of cities, towns and counties; being a compendium of the seventh census, to which are added the results of every previous census, beginning with 1790, in comparative tables, with explanatory and illustrative notes, based upon the schedules and other official sources of information, by J. D. B. De Bow, superintendent of the United States census. Lots of cool data in there...