Westward Expansion: This Is How Much It Cost To Travel West

Back during the days of Manifest Destiny, pioneering wasn't only difficult, it was also expensive. Of course, traveling across the U.S. in the 1800s wasn't the fun road trip down Route 66 that it is today. Pretty much everything was out to kill you. If the weather, snakes, or justifiably angry Native Americans didn't get you, the milk sickness would. But all that trouble came after the headache of figuring out how to pay for it all.

Getting a family of four from Missouri to Oregon wasn't cheap. According to Marshall Trimble of True West Magazine, the journey would set dad back around $1,000 for a family of four. And that's $1,000 in 1845, which, according to the Official Data Foundation's Inflation Calculator would be over $36,000 in 2021. Trimble said that the decision to uproot one's family and head out west was not taken lightly. It was seen as an investment in the family's future. But what, exactly, did all this money pay for? Let's take a look at the average shopping list for families prepping for a trip down the Oregon Trail.

The average westward traveler's checklist of supplies

The 2,000-mile journey out to Oregon took around six months, and that was if the weather didn't get in the way. According to Spartacus Educational, heavy rains could add weeks to the arduous excursion. It also required a lot of stocking up in order to make it through in one piece. The wagon alone could cost as much as $400, plus the beasts of burden. Oxen were the cheapest and easiest to work with, but people also used horses and mules to pull their wagons. The wagon also had to be waterproofed with linseed oil in order to protect the valuable cargo inside.

The typical shopping list for this trip included around 800 pounds of flour, 700 pounds of bacon, 200 pounds each of beans and lard, 100 pounds of fruit, 75 of coffee, and 25 of sugar. Oh, and it also had to haul all of the pots, pans, plates, and other kitchen utensils needed to cook all that food.

Needless to say, there wasn't much room left in the wagon for people, save a small child or two. So poor dad, after spending all his hard-earned money on the wagon and everything in it, had to walk alongside all the way to Oregon, as did the rest of the adults. It wasn't easy or cheap, but for those who made it, the trip paid off in the end.