What currency was used in France, the united States, and Britain in the at an early stage 19th century? What to be the historical exchange rates? how much did points cost? because Napoleon in America sometimes mentions jae won transactions, these were concerns I had actually to look right into when writing the novel. Here’s what I uncovered out.

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Currency in 19th-century France

There were two types of money turn around in France in the early on 19th century: remnants the pre-Revolutionary currency based on the livre together the unit the account; and brand-new currency based upon the decimal franc, i beg your pardon was introduced in 1795 by the French Revolutionary Convention. After Napoleon concerned power, the dropped the revolutionary icons on the coins and replaced them with his very own image. The brand-new currency was retained when the Bourbons went back to power in 1814 and 1815, through the picture of louis XVIII, and also later of Charles X, used instead of Napoleon’s. A guide published in 1826 listed that “the monies the the empire and of the kingdom pass indiscriminately.” (1)

The straightforward units of pre-Revolutionary French currency were together follows:1 luigi d’Or (“Or” means gold in French, so this to be a yellow coin, or a “golden Louis”) = 24 livres1 écu = 6 livres1 livre = 20 sous. The livre was not actually produced as a coin after ~ 1720, however continued come be used as a unit that account. Assignats, a form of document money issued throughout the French Revolution, were denominated in livres.1 sou (or sol) = 12 deniers1 liard = 3 deniers. There to be no 1 denier coin.

The units of Post-Revolutionary money were:1 Napoléon d’Or = 20 francs1 france = 100 centimes.


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A 20-franc Napoléon d’Or native 1803, as soon as Napoleon was an initial Consul. Source: national Numismatic Collection, national Museum of American History


The france was generally equivalent in value to the livre. The native were regularly used interchangeably. For this reason converting in between the two solution was straightforward.1 france = 1 livre100 centimes = 20 sous5 centimes = 1 sou

As for how this worked in practice during the Bourbon Restoration, a traveller’s overview to France in 1822 observed:

The existing coins the France are1. (gold) dual louis, 47 francs 4 sous; the louis 23 francs 11 sous; the twin and single napoleon, or new louis, piece of 40 and 20 francs, many in use.2. (silver) the six, five, three, two and one france piece.3. (copper) the big or dual sou, the sou, and also the half and 4 minutes 1 sou, or pieces of two and also one liard. There are also ancient pieces, make of combined or bell-metal, denominated piece of 6 liards, value one sou and also a half. …

The coins in circulation…are…in silver, piece of 5 francs; piece of 2 francs; piece of one franc; pieces of thirty sous, being half of the ecu; pieces of 15 sous, a quarter of the ecus; and half francs and quarter francs, or 5 sous pieces; in copper, pieces of 5 centimes…equal to the old sou; and also of ten centimes…or one decime, same to the dual sou. (2)

Historical exchange prices for French currency

The prices for converting French currency to brothers or American currency in the 1820s were as follows:

1 louis d’Or = 18 shillings 9¾ pence (according to the 1822 traveller’s guide, the Louis can be convert at par, i.e., at 1 pound sterling)1 Napoléon d’Or = 15 shillings 10 pence1 france = 10 pence25 francs 50 cent = 1 pound sterling5 francs = 1 us dollar. (3)

Costs in early 19th-century France

What can you buy with a sou, or a franc or a gold Louis in repair France? here are some examples from 1819-20:

At Beauvais, a large bowl of coffee v as lot milk, sugar and toasted bread as you wanted: 5 sousA bottle of Burgundy wine in ~ a Paris hotel: 2 francsA chair in a coach indigenous Paris come Bordeaux: 50 or 60 francs, relying on the quality of the roads and also hotels; the latter were contained in the priceAt the market in Nice: beef, 5 sous per pound (“but the pound is composed only that twelve ounces”); mutton, 6 sous; veal and lamb, 7 sous; a brace that woodcocks: 6 francs; fish, from 6 to 16 sous per poundA patent to organize a dance the lasted past ten o’clock in ~ a private house in nice (including a soldier placed at the door): 6 francsAt Montpellier, simple wine the the country (“vin de St. George”) offered from the cask: 5 or 6 sous because that a full quart bottle (after bottling and refining, the vendor charged 20 sous because that a tiny wine quart). (4)

These instances are native 1825:

A dinner in Boulogne “with a good variety of do dishes, a dessert the nuts and fruits, and also a party of red wine”: 3 francsBreakfast at a café or restaurant in Paris: 10-15 sousDinner at the above: 2 francs to 1 NapoléonA momentary (10 year) grave at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris: 50 francsA perpetual grave at Père Lachaise cemetery: 250 francs per metreWage that a workman production silk in Lyons: 2 francs a work (“The merchant…buys the raw silk, and also gives it the end to exclusive families, come be produced in tiny parcels: his profits are immense, and the bad workmen, who are obliged to accept of his very own terms or starve, have the right to barely get a livelihood by incessant toil. It was not uncommon to watch the kitchen, bedroom, and also manufactory that the miserable tenant crowded into the same tiny apartment. In one instance we experienced twenty bars because that winding silk set in movement by one wheel, which was turned favor a tread-mill, by one emaciated individual. His servitude is the the many abject and also pitiable kind, proceeding from 4 o’clock in the morning till 7 in the evening.”) (5)

Currency in the United says in the 19th century

The Coinage act of 1792 established the United says dollar together the country’s conventional unit of money, divided into 100 cents. Coins were produced as follows:Gold: eagle ($10), half eagle ($5), 4 minutes 1 eagle ($2.50)Silver: dollar, half dollar (50 cents), 4 minutes 1 (25 cents), dime (10 cents), half dime (5 cents)Copper: cent and half cent.

According come a visitor in 1819, “esides these, there space in circulation numerous Spanish coins. The gold coins have, like those of England, practically entirely disappeared. Dollars and half dollars space not really plentiful. Every the banks circulate disagreement notes.” (6)


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Obverse of a united state dollar coin, produced in 1796


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Reverse that a united state dollar coin, minted in 1796


Historical exchange rates for us currency

In the 1820s, one united state dollar might be exchanged for 4 shillings 6 pence in british sterling, or 5 French francs.

Prior to the American Revolution, each state had actually used its own currency, or very own valuation of currency, and this tho lingered in some statements the account, as noted in one 1829 hands-on of exchange.

The fixed portion value of each currency, v respect come sterling and the money value that the dollar space as follows:New England currency 133 1/3 per cent dollar, 6 shillingsMaryland currency 166 2/3 every cent dollar, 7 shillings 6 penceNew York currency 177 7/9 per cent dollar, 8 shillingsGeorgia money 103 19/21 every cent dollar, 4 shillings 8 pence

The money of the new England claims is the very same as the currencies the Vermont, Virginia and also Kentucky. That of Maryland as brand-new Jersey, Pennsylvania and also Delaware. Of new York, together North Carolina. The Georgia, as southern Carolina. The very first currency is to sterling together 3 come 4, the 2nd as 3 come 5, third as 9 to 16, fourth as 27 come 28. (7)

Costs in at an early stage 19th-century America

What might you buy with a dollar?

In 1818:

Room and also board in ~ an inn in Albany, new York: $1.50 every dayRent for a house and also shop in “a great situation” in Albany: $500-$700 every yearTaxes top top the above: $20Rent that a small wood house in Albany: $50 to $150 every yearFarmland in ~ 20 miles of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $80-$100 every acre, buildings includedUncleared floor in remote parts of Pennsylvania: 50 cents – $20 every acreHorse in Pennsylvania: $50-$150A saddle: $20 come $150Farm wagon in Pennsylvania: $100-$120Family wagon in Pennsylvania: $70-$90; through springs: $150Annual expense of maintaining a family wagon and also horse: $50Wheat was sold at $1.60 to $2.20 every bushel; Indian corn, 80 come 100 cents; oats, 40 to 55 centsPay of farmhands close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: $14 every month, including board. (“In many instances they mean to sit down v the master, to live together well, and to be upon regards to equality v every branch the the family; and also if this need to be departed from, the scythe and also the sickle will be laid down in the middle of harvest.”)Cost to construct a brick house, 2 stories high, comprise ten rooms in the countryside near Pittsburgh: $4,000 (“as the bricks deserve to be do upon the land and the ‘help’ boarded in the house”)Cost to construct a similar house in the city: $6,000, not included the land. (8)

In 1819:

Rent because that a home in brand-new York: $400-$2,500 per yearA cord (a heap 8 feet long, 4 feet broad and 4 feet deep) of oak timber for fuel: $5 in the summer, $7 or $8 in the winterA cord of hickory: $8 in the summer; $10 or $11 in the winter (“It has been known as high as 30.”)Coal (“which is not much used, other than in manufactories wherein it is indispensably necessary”): $12 come $13 every chaldronFare because that passage ~ above a steamship from brand-new York to Albany, including bed and also board: $7 per personAlbany ale marketed by the brewers: $8 per barrelAlbany ale sold by the tavern and also hotel keepers: $16 per barrelSchoolmaster’s salary close to Auburn, brand-new York: $20 per month (usually rental for 6 months in the winter)Cost of clearing woodland close to Auburn: $14 every acrePrice of ranches in exact same area: $20 come $30 every acreFlour near Buffalo, new York: $9 per barrel that 196 pounds. (9)

In 1820:

Salary the a teacher of Latin and also French in Alabama: $700 every yearCloth in Boston: blue cotton, $8 every yard; Waltham shirting, 26 cents per yard; sheetings, 37 every yardSlaves in Norfolk, Virginia: $300-$400 each. (10)

In 1825-26:

Room and also board in ~ a tavern in Utica, new York: $1 per dayFine for crossing a bridge across the Mohawk River close to Trenton Falls, NY, by horseback or wagon at a pace quicker than a walk: $1A scriptures from the American Bible culture in brand-new York: $1.40A deer in Fairfield, Virginia: $1.50Pineapples indigenous Cuba in Charleston, southern Carolina: 12 and also a fifty percent cents each, $1 for eightToll to cross a leg over a brook near Macon, Georgia: 50 centsTicket to a sphere at the French theatre in new Orleans: $3Admission come a masked round in brand-new Orleans: $1Oranges from Cuba in Mobile, Alabama: 6 cents each

Currency in 19th-century Britain

The official currency of the uk is the pound, also known as pound sterling, or sterling. In the at an early stage 19th century, the denominations in use were together follows:1 guinea = 21 shillings1 pound sterling = 1 sovereign = 20 shillings1 half-guinea = 10 shillings and sixpence (i.e. 6 pennies)1 half-sovereign = 10 shillings1 crown = 5 shillings1 half-crown = 2 shillings and also sixpence1 shilling = 12 pence1 half shilling = 6 pence1 coin = 2 halfpence1 halfpenny = 2 farthings


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The usual symbol for the lb is £. As soon as you read publications or letters written in the 19th century or earlier, friend will often see the pound abbreviated together a lower-case together (l). Shillings were abbreviated as a lower-case S (s), and pennies (pence) as a lower situation D (d). The d was derived from the ancient Roman denarius, basically the roman inn penny. The French denier came from the very same word. Therefore 2 pounds 3 shillings and also sixpence would certainly be created as 2l. 3s. 6d.

The British north American colonies (what is this particular day Canada) provided the same money as good Britain, but the early american currency was worth less. 100 pounds sterling would certainly buy slightly over 111 pounds in the colonies.

Historical exchange prices for brother currency

The pound was the dominant money of the period. Here is the an easy early 19th-century exchange equation:1 lb sterling = 25 francs 50 cents (just think that it as 25 francs) = US$4.56

Costs in early 19th-century Britain

Rather than create another list, ns am going to refer you come an article by James Heldman, dubbed “How affluent is Mr. Darcy – Really? Pounds and also Dollars in the world of Pride and Prejudice” (Persuasions #12, 1990, pp. 38-49). Heldman takes an interesting look at British incomes and costs in the beforehand 19th century.

Comparing historical currencies to contemporary currencies

Determining exactly how much a offered amount of money in the beforehand 1800s would be same to this day is complicated. One has to readjust for inflation, for transforms in family member prices, and for substitutions. Together Heldman points out, the really tough to know how much money used to go. He found that fabric and also clothing show up to have actually been much more expensive in woman Austen’s time 보다 today, when food shows up to have actually been less expensive.

The UK nationwide Archives has actually a currency converter ~ above its website that enables you to around calculate the purchasing strength of the pound in any year native 1270-2017. Follow to this, 1 pound sterling in 1820 to be worth approximately 57.43 pounds sterling in 2017. V 10 pounds sterling in 1820, you would have been able to buy 2 cows, or 11 stones the wool, or 1 quarter of wheat. That would have actually taken a expert tradesman 66 days to knife this amount.

MeasuringWorth.com gives a calculator for converting us dollar worths from 1790 or later on to a much more recent year. Together the website notes, there room seven different ways of act this. Relying on the technique used, the relative value the $1.00 in 1820 varieties from $22.50 come $30,200 in 2019.

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David Steel, The Ship-Master’s Assistant and also Owner’s Manual, 17th version (London, 1826), p. 137.Galignani’s Traveller’s overview Through France (Paris, 1822), p. Xxxviii.Unless otherwise noted, the exchange rates listed in this article come from Steel, op. Cit.

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, and also William Tate, A manual of Exchanges (London, 1829).Examples taken native James Holman, The rigid of a journey Undertaken in the year 1819, 1820, & 1821 (London, 1822).Examples and also quotes taken native N.H. Carter, Letters from Europe, comprising the journal of a Tour v Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Italy, and also Switzerland, in the year 1825, 26 and 27, Vol. I (New York, 1827).William Dalton, Travels in the United claims of America, and component of upper Canada (Appleby-in-Westmorland, UK, 1821), p. 11.Tate, A manual of Exchanges, p. 68.Examples taken from Henry Bradshaw Fearon, Sketches the America (London, 1819).Examples taken indigenous Dalton, Travels in the United says of America, and part of top Canada.Examples taken indigenous Adam Hodgson, Letters from phibìc America, 2 volumes (London, 1824).Examples taken indigenous Carl Bernhard that Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, Travels v North America, throughout the years 1825 and 1826, 2 quantities (Philadelphia, 1828).