By Albert Simonson
There are still some old-timers who can tell you about low prices back in the Great Depression. How about a new 1935 Buick Straight-Eight Sport Coupe for $855? With the Turret Top feature and Synchro-Mesh at no added cost!
If you want to know how prices were a hundred years before that, you can find out from handwritten interviews of California old-timers, preserved at U.C. Berkeley.
Good land was worth about 1000 dollars or pesos a league, which works out to 23 cents an acre. Viejas went for less than half that. Dollars and pesos were equivalent, as the new dollar was based on the universal peso of world trade.
You could put some tame mares on the land for $2 a head. Or maybe a choice stallion for $5 – 10. Cattle varied from $2 to $5 a head. Bull calves brought $1.50. Hogs went for 50 cents. Unbranded cattle belonged to whichever ranch they were found upon. Bronco horses were worthless and roamed at will. If you had a saddle, you could always find a horse, but staying on him was another matter.
A barrel of brandy set you back $50. People paid mostly in hides and tallow or otter skins to the ships in the port, because pesos were scarce. You could get about $2 for a good cowhide or 25 pounds of tallow. Wine was less costly at $16-25 a barrel. These barrels were small wooden ones of 18 ½ gallons. Madera was popular.
All of San Bernardino sold for $1,000 and was considered a frontier rancho of Christian civilization. Rancheros like Bandini at Rancho Jamul sold out because of Indian predation.
Our own Cockney Bill of Rancho Volcan won the respect of his Indian neighbors and got along well with them. Lassitor at Cuyamaca’s Green Valley did well, too. He hired them as a road gang and paid them with clothing and liquor. Think well of them as you drive through. Lassitor was famous for bad spelling and getting murdered in Arizona, still today a handgun-infested place.
Everlasting life would be a good thing if you could still pick up good deals like San Bernardino and keep it as a long-term investment and not get murdered. But, as the renowned economist Keynes said, in the long term we are all dead, so forget the long term.
And, as my mom said, you won’t take it with you when you go.