~ a SHILLING a day and a bonus Guinea for extra “high value” information
“They go everywhere and they hear everything,” Holmes says of the Irregulars in A Study in Scarlet, 1887. “They are sharp as needles, too; all they want is organization.”
The Irregulars play a crucial role in three cases, aided greatly by the fact that homeless children (estimated 30,000) were so many and so disregarded on London streets. Given that 12 pence made a shilling, what could you get with just one shilling?
~ four meals of meat, broth and beer or eight simpler meals from a street cart or at an “ordinary,” a working class hall that served simple foods. (No Irregular would have a kitchen.)
~ a shared bed in cheap lodging house for six nights
~ an inexpensive, unfurnished room for one week (one shilling, 4 pence)
~ one copy of the Illustrated London News. An Irregular probably had little or no schooling, but he would have enjoyed the Wild West story of Eagle Joe and the sketches.
~ five loaves of bread
~ 1/2 pound tea
~ one wedding ring, with “as good an appearance;” as 22ct. gold and, after all, “answers same purpose.”
~ week’s worth of wood or coal, if one had a place to burn it
What could you do with a guinea, just over a pound?
~ one overcoat of superior quality
~ one pair boots, one pair socks and three flannel shirts
~ one bed, not the finest well-made, but not the least
~ one pin of diamond and gold, almost
~ one each of 4 of Conan Doyle’s works, hard back, as advertised between the curtains and “How to Open a Cigar Store.” Note that Holmes stories are not featured first, nor are they the most expensive.
Another way to assess that guinea is to see what other people were paid
~ £11/year plus board and lodging would be a wage for a boy who worked as an indoor servant. (Billy, Mrs. Hudson’s page)
~ 18 shillings up to £1 would be a “justing getting by” week’s income for a working family. £1 in 1895 equals £132.35* today, though the numbers are misleading because costs for raw materials, production, labor and transportation have changed. “New fangled” products were more expensive, as they are now. What about the prospect of an Irregular with a bicycle?
~ one Van Cleve bicycle, $65 at the Wright Brother’s factory in North Carolina. (Adjusted for inflation, $1,870 today.)