Manitoba Historical Society
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Calculation of the Cost of Living at Red River in 1819

by John Pritchard

Manitoba Pageant, April 1962, Volume 7, Number 3

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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From Selkirk Paper, Provincial Archives of Manitoba

Calculation of the expenses of a man and his wife, together with a man and a maidservant residing on Red River.

Wages of the servants for one year


Cost of 2 horses and the harness

Six buffalo will weigh about 2190 lbs. which will give to each person 1½ lbs. of animal food per day. Each buffalo will cost 3 plues, (Average value of a plue is 3/)


Total cost of the six buffalo will be


One net with its back lines will cost about


One hundred fishhooks will cost about


4 lbs. gunpowder and an equal portion of shot will cost

The net, hooks and ammunition will procure as much fish, waterfowl and other birds as the family will require. The manservant employed in the fields and gardens will raise in the first year sufficient wheat and culinary articles for the support of the family and payment of his tools. Two men in three months will build a very comfortable house, their wages and maintenance will amount to about £20.


To finish and furnish the house will cost about £30 - Total

15% upon £50 is £7 1/ so it will be


£58 5

Suitable clothing for a gentleman and lady for one year



£88 5/

Suppose an income of £100 per annum, there will remain to purchase tea, sugar, etc. £11 15/. Ale may be brewed in the country abounding with hops. If the lady is a good housewife she may make her own wines, raspberries, currants, strawberries and other fruits abound in the plains. The sturgeon will supply isinglass, and the maple sugar, and if recipes are wanting I can furnish some excellent ones.

It is proper to observe that this calculation supposes the gentleman and lady to be inactive, therefore any advantages arising from the exertions of either will meet contingencies not herein provided for.

In regard to the employment of the manservant I am confident if his efforts are well directed that in the fourth year the produce of the farm he has cultivated will amply supply the wants of his master's family, and perhaps in some measure reimburse the expense of the preceding years.

N.B. The fat of the buffalo will furnish soap and candles, and the servant man the firewood.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

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