17 November 2014

Fowl Prices for the Thanksgiving Holiday in 1864

A families menu for Thanksgiving meal in 1864 might have included several sorts of wild birds. To get some wild meat for the holiday meal, it was simply a matter of walking down the street in two of the biggest cities of the U.S.A.

Details for market prices from New York City and Washington D.C. indicate particular prices for this holiday, 150 years ago. These local newspapers gave the cost of goods at the market, so the actual purchase cost is readily known, along with other items that could have been bought.

These are the details for New York City, where an epicure or home cook had a wide variety of game bird species from which to pick and choose for their holiday meal. These prices were reported in the New York Daily Tribune issue of November 19th.

  • ducks, wood, per pair, $1.00
  • ducks, mallard, per pair, $1.25 @ 1.50
  • ducks, canvas back, per pair, $4.50 @ 5.00
  • ducks, red-head, per pair, $2.00 @ 2.50
  • ducks, teal, per pair, 75 c @ 87
  • woodcock, per pair, $1.25
  • partridges, per pair, $1.25 @ 1.50
  • prairie chickens, per pair, $2.00
  • quail, per dozen, $4.25 @ 4.50
  • robins, per dozen, $1.00 @ 1.25
  • squab pigeons, each, 30 c @ 37

Quite a variety of edibles could be found among the aisles of this market! More than ten species are represented in these details.

These details are for the Center (a.k.a. Centre) Market, in the nation's capitol, as given in the Washington D.C. Evening Star issue of November 26th on page three. Among the commodities were:

Small birds, per bunch, 50c. Wild pigeons, per pair, 37 ½c. Blue wing ducks, per pair $1. Widgeons, per pair, $1. Wild turkeys, $2.50. Partridges, doz., $2.50 @ $3.

There were also generic geese and turkeys available.

This historic place dominated the intersection of Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, for many decades. Items in the newspaper convey the reported price for many species of birds from at least 1856 to 1885. Fowl of many sorts were a key feature at many city markets during this era, with a vibrant trade underway, as the birds were harvested in the country and then shipped, usually via railway to the bigger cities, and then actively sold. For local markets, acquisition requirements were a gun, ammunition and a wagon, and a purchaser with cash and a newspaper advertisement.