Docent at the School House Museum in the Old Town San Diego State Historical Park explained the people of San Diego hired a professionally trained primary school teacher in 1865.
Mary Chase Walker had challenges finding a good position in Massachusetts, so she sailed to San Francisco. When the anticipated job there did not materialize, she took a teaching position in San Diego.
Her salary was a quite impressive $65 a month at a time when the average laborer was paid somewhere around $30 a month.
Her journey to California involved sailing from New England to Panama, taking a railroad ride across the isthmus, then finishing the trip by sailing north to San Francisco.
Fee for that trip (per the museum’s brochure) was $365.
So here are the prices:
- $365 – travel costs from New England, across Panama, finally to San Francisco
- $65 per month – pay of educated teacher in San Diego in 1865
- about $30 per month – wages of “average” worker in the area at the time
This info gives us the cost of traveling to California expressed in months salary:
- 5.6 months – wages for educated teacher to pay for trip
- 12.2 months – wages for average worker to pay for the trip
- Add in the lost wages for long journey.
Miss Walker’s employment in San Diego ended after one year. It seems, according to the brochure, she had a bit too much racial tolerance for the time. A month after she was let go she married the school board president.