I was reading a book Mark Twain wrote about Christian Science. At that time, about 1903, Christian Science was the great new movement of the day. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of CS, was very much alive and in charge. So Twain’s predictions about how huge CS would become seem a bit strange.
But in the midst of the whole book, Twain had one sentence in passing that completely overwhelmed me that had nothing to do with what he was writing about.
Twain pointed out that Henry Lloyd Garrison, of the great abolitionist family, a man who one of the top preachers of his day, received a salary of TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR!
I happen to know that, as in the case of his abolitionist ancestors, Garrison’s salary came largely from “industrialists,” people who worked women and children fourteen hours a day for about thirty cents a day. Unlike a slave, when one of those children fell into the machinery from exhaustion, the “industrialist” had no responsibility for him when he was crippled for life.
This does not justify slavery. But it is noteworthy that the preaching they paid for concentrated on Southern slavery. Jesus said something about a mote in the eye of another.
But just how much WAS a twenty thousand dollar a year salary in 1903?
In pure buying power, it comes to about half a million dollars a year now. And there was no income tax. And I am sure the Reverend got other benefits.
But half a million dollars a year, tax-free, understates it.
As an economist, I think in terms of per capita incomes. In 1903 half a million dollars in buying power was more because the average buying power ofhte average person was a fraction of what it is today.
Let’s say the per capita income in 1903 was five hundred dollars. Garrison was receiving forty per capita incomes. Today that would amount to about 1.2 million or more a year.
Do you have any idea how the average worker for an “industrialist” in America was living at the time?