How to Get Health, Wealth and Comfort… in 1890

by J. Money - Published February 15, 2019

It’s time to go back in the financial time-machine again!

This time to 1890 where this magnificent pamphlet was created to help you get more health, wealth and comfort at the turn of the century…

peerless rockville pamphlet 1890

[“Peerless Rockville: How to Get Health, Wealth, Comfort” by Henry N. Copp]

There’s a hidden agenda inside (the publishers want you to buy a lot in their new community they’re building in the countryside!), but sales tactics aside, the financial nuggets in here are always tried and true no matter what century we’re talking about ;)

And the fearmongering littered throughout only makes it that much more interesting, haha…

Here are my favorite clips from it:

On saving money…

“Ninety-nine persons in a hundred can become wealthy only by the old road of economy, and the sooner they make up their minds to this ofttimes disagreeable fact, the better it will be for them.”

“Now, then, where can you economize best? Plainly just where you can get the best health, namely, in the country. The temptations there are expensive dress, costly amusements, and high living are far less than in the city. Americans are ruined by their desire to make as big a spread as their neighbors, to give as large amounts in church, and on subscriptions, orchestra chairs in theatres, &c. The dread of being called mean or penurious is a frequent cause of unnecessary expenditure.”

“Have you ever thought how few people trouble themselves to remember, and nobody cares a picayune, how you dressed five years ago? Do you suppose anybody will think the better of you for wasting your money in the year 1890 or 1891? Whereas, if you save your money and give up your pleasures for a few years, the fact that you are a real estate owner will insure the respect of all your neighbors and acquaintances.”

“Most people want to have “a good time.” It takes only a little while to appreciate the fact that wasting money is not the best kind of “a good time.” There is a joy and comfort to every man and woman in saving a little money every day and every month, to know that if sickness and death come to him he will not be dependent upon charity in the one case, nor will his family be compelled, in the other, to beg from a heartless world.”

On growing wealth…

“The wisest patrimony a man can leave his family is a good sized lot or lots in a growing village near Washington in addition to a life insurance policy. “Land is the basis of wealth,” and the sooner a young or middle-aged man or woman gets hold of real estate, the sooner will he or she become wealthy and the larger will be his or her estate at death.”

“To make a profitable investment, one must buy where people will make their homes. In other words, a profitable investment can only be made in a locality that will some time be occupied by houses. This is the sure and only test. A person who buys lots simply because they are cheap, frequently would do better to put his money in the fire, as there he would not have to pay taxes on it.”

“Look at a few figures: 75 cents a foot is about the lowest price for a lot on the city outskirts. 3,000 feet cost $2,250. About the cheapest brick house that can be put up for an ordinary family will cost $3,500. Total $5,750. Annual interest $345; taxes, water, and repairs not less than $25 more. Here is a monthly cost of $30 or interest and taxes. How is a man on a small salary to pay the principal? Allowing $20 a month on the principal, more than 0 years will be required to own his own house in the city.”

“Now see how easily a man can acquire a home in a suburban village. A lot 50 x 175 feet can be bought for $400 (from 3 to 5 cents a foot) in a desirable locality near a growing town at $5 a month, frequently without interest and no taxes until paid for. A handsome frame house with 6 to 8 rooms can be put up for $2,500, payable $30 a month. Here is a monthly expense of about $35, allowing $6 a month for car fare (which is less than he will usually spend on horse cars in the city), the purchaser will be spending less than $45 a month, or about what he now wastes, yes, wastes, in rent. In six to eight years he will have a proud satisfaction of owning his own home. And these few years will pass quickly and pleasantly. Keep in mind the fact that they will be sure to pass whether he buys or rents.”

rockville residences 1800s

On the unhealthiness of city living…

“Do you appreciate what is ruining your eyesight? Do you know the cause of that constant irritation in your throat? Are you aware why your ears require attention so frequently? The fine dust arising from the asphalt pavements is doing much to injure the delicate membranes of the eyes, throats, and ears of Washington residents.”

“Hundreds of cubic yards of sewer gas are arising into the atmosphere hourly. The thousands of chimneys are belching forth tons of poisonous gases into the air daily. The Potomac water is often slimy and brown with mud and all that it implies.”

“Walking on hard sidewalks jars and irritates the spine, physicians say, and affects the nerves generally. the many and varied noises of a city are said to be the cause, to a considerable extent, of insomnia and other nervous troubles.

“How about the children? Why have they thin hair, saucer-like eyes, sunken cheeks, and emaciated arms and legs? A few months in the country will generally show that it is not a lack of constitution, but the destructive environment of city life, that gives them their present unhealthy appearance.”

On the unhealthiness of city outskirts living…

“What refined lady wants to buy a house near a dirty shanty whence lice, bed-bugs, roaches, and other vermin are likely to overrun her household? What man wants his children to associate with the unfortunate offspring of dirty, ignorant, profane, and riotous neighbors? Living near them, his children must be polluted by the contact.”

“By purchasing within Washington’s limits, on the outskirts, among freight-yards, brick-yards, pig-pens, &c., you can save all railroad fare — every cent of it; and after enduring such nuisances for twenty years or so, until the growth of the city sweeps them away, you will be the owner of some valuable property, even if your children all die in the meantime.”

On the unhealthiness of low valley living…

“It is surprising to hear people, apparently otherwise sensible, say, “Malaria doesn’t affect me.” Such a person ought to hunt out some small-pox or yellow fever locality to live in. There would be just about as much good judgement displayed. A man who will deliberately take his wife and children into a malarious neighborhood to live ought to be sent to an asylum for the feeble-minded.”

So where are sensible, good judgement displaying people best to live?

“A location in cool Rockville, 500 feet above Washington, promotes sound sleep at night during the summer. Mind and body are so refreshed next day as to enable a man to think and work fast, and make more money than he otherwise would. This is only the immediate money-value of the case. When health and social advantages are compared with the inducements held out by other localities, Rockville will persuade thoughtful people every time. And nice, sensible, thoughtful people are the ones the West End Park desires to secure for residents.”

“Not the least of the many advantages which Rockville possesses is the cheapness of living compared with the same expenses in Washington. It is in the midst of a rich farming country. Milk, eggs, butter, fruit, and produce are sold at much lower prices, and, mark you, how fresh and pure they are. This fact is worth more than money. It costs but little to keep a cow and to raise chickens. In a good sized family, these four articles of food — milk, butter eggs, and poultry — go a long way towards maintenance.”

“In addition, when the temptations to spend money presented in every show window in Washington and by every poster on its walls are removed, the economy of Rockville living is decidedly increased.”

“It has 1 National Bank; 3 newspapers and printing offices; 3 hotels; 8 boarding houses; 6 general stores; 1 grocery story; 1 dry goods store; 2 drug stores; 1 jewelry store; 1 furniture store; 1 millinery store; 2 tin and stove stores; 2 meat stores; 1 tobacco and cigar store; 1 barber shop;  1 tailor shop; 3 blacksmith shops; 1 ice cream saloon and bakery; 4 livery stables; 2 wood and coal yards; 2 building associations; 3 real estate agencies;  3 painters and frescoers; 2 paperhangers; 5 contractors and builders; 3 shoemakers; 2 harness maker and carriage trimmer; 2 dentists; 1 civil engineer and surveyor;  2 undertakers; 1 monument works; 3 allopathic and 1 homeopathic physicians; 11 lawyers; 8 churches; and 5 public schools.”

“The pleasures as well as the advantages of a home in the country cannot well be over-estimated; the bracing atmosphere, freedom from the heat, noise, dust, and crowds of the city, the pure and health-giving water, the bright emerald of the fields, trees, the fragrant flowers, the seclusion where genuine rest may be found, and where the children may sport in unrestricted happiness, present attractions that must strongly appeal to every thoughtful person.”

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west end park - rockville md

So there you have it :) Move to the country, avoid malaria and saucer-like eyes, keep your children alive, and sleep peacefully under the stars while you’re health and wealth are all the better for it, haha…

If anyone wants to pick up a copy of this titillating 24 page document, you can score it for the princely sum of $1.99 at Rockville’s historical society, and then take a stroll through this no-longer-countryside hamlet to see what the fuss was about ;)

Lots of changes go down in 100 years, but the foundations of money always stay the same! It really isn’t that complicated!

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For more fun time warps, see:

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Frankie @ Fully Franked Finance February 15, 2019 at 5:31 am

Love the fresh ( / ancient) perspective! Reminds me a bit of the short book ‘The richest man in Babylon’ – the messages seems to carry more weight in this old school language :)

Every dollar counts, so I’ll save my $1.99 and rely on your well selected extracts which cover the key points…

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2 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 5:49 am

Haha, that works…

Richest man in Babylon is one of my top 3-4 favorites :)

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3 Kate February 15, 2019 at 6:27 am

“What refined lady wants to buy a house near a dirty shanty whence lice, bed-bugs, roaches, and other vermin are likely to overrun her household? What man wants his children to associate with the unfortunate offspring of dirty, ignorant, profane, and riotous neighbors?”

I love this copywriter! I might use this next time I need to sell up and move!

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4 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 9:41 am

He sure does have a penchant for drama ;)

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5 Justin February 15, 2019 at 7:26 am

Wow, crazy to think people were buying houses/land in the ‘burbs back in the horse and buggy / trolley car days. Anything to save a buck! Or $6 since you’ll be paying trolley fares.

I love that kind of stuff. Motivates me to find out more about my own neighborhood that started construction in the 50’s. The 1950’s.

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6 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 9:44 am

It was the trolleys and then the trains that really changed the landscape of living too! Towns started sprouting up all around the different stops they made! And then when the routes changed many of them crumbled :(

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7 Paul February 15, 2019 at 8:44 am

“many advantages which Rockville possesses is the cheapness of living compared with the same expenses in Washington”….. I guess everything in comparison but cheapness is not a word I have ever heard anyone describe anything in Montgomery County with.

I wonder back in 1890 if horse and buggy lined up in traffic jams like today, at all times? Just got a mental picture of everyone being morally offended by the smell with their top hats a monocles…. etc…

Anyway, morale of the story, Montgomery County Sucks, Howard County is the best, no other county is even worth mentioning. The End. Can you tell I hate MoCo?

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8 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 9:46 am

Haha… you guys do have one of the cutest little towns in the country (Ellicott city), I’ll give you that. At least on days when it’s not raining!

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9 Paul February 15, 2019 at 10:25 am

You should have seen it before all the floods. Its basically a shell now… Having grown up not too far away in Columbia, I have so many fond memories of being a teenager getting into trouble at night there. I even worked in old Ellicott City for a short time in college.

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10 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 4:13 pm

I fell in love with it after the 1st flood, so if it was better than that then color me impressed!

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11 Christine February 15, 2019 at 8:57 am

Love this! Thanks for sharing! I live near Rockville now and wish I could buy property at 75 cents a foot in Washington! More like $300…or more. And Paul, don’t be a hater! Though I’m curious about the virtues of HoCo! You may need to write Peerless Howard.

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12 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 9:48 am

Nice!!! If you live within walking distance of The Town Square there then you’re actually in this scenic West End Park ;) You had have to add a few zeros to those purchase prices, haha…

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13 Paul February 15, 2019 at 10:54 am

Christine, Ill give you this, if I were to move to MoCo it would be Laytonsville. Such a cool town, reminds me of a legit Midwestern town with a main street and the way the houses are laid out. I drive through it to get to the metro, it looks like a really cool place (at least from the outside looking in). Virtues of Hoco: #1 first and foremost, is its not MoCo, #2 if you have kids for the amount of money you pay to live there you’d think you’d at least get good schools. but no, MoCo schools are rated very poorly. #3 HoCo schools are rated #1 in MD and MD is rated #1 in the US, so… The rest depends on if you like city or country. I live in the western part of the county bordering MoCo, Carroll, and Frederick. I like that I can be out in the farm land but also accessible to Columbia and Frederick. I used to live in the Columbia area for about 25 years. When I was a kid it was great, but now the population has exploded to the point where I cant stand it anymore. red lights every 10th of a mile, reminds me of Gaithersburg and Rockville but about 20% less busy. both counties are prohibitively expensive but you get slightly more here. I live in a 2400 sq ft (4000 sq ft total finished) home on 3 acres and we paid just under 600K back in 2013. For that price in MoCo you could get the shed in someone else’s backyard. If you like City, you could probably live your life in Downtown Columbia without the need for a car (you still need one but most days you could probably get by walking, biking, or taking public transit).

Also, as a transplant from a small town in the Midwest, looking back, I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in an environment modeled after Rouse’s vision of racial and economic diversity. It has completely shaped my life for the better and is part of the reason I think about moving back to the eastern part of the county as the western end is not so much that way. That is really the only thing I don’t like about having moved away from Columbia. I have 4 kids and I would like that for them as well but I just don’t think I could stand the busy lifestyle anymore. All of this is really hard to explain to people that didn’t grow up there, but when I talk to old high school friends about it, its like we just all kind of get it…

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14 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 4:20 pm

I haven’t checked out Laytonsville or Columbia yet, though I do love me some Frederick! Oh – and drove by this quaint little town called “Brookville” the other month here in MoCo – so beautiful!! And been around for over 200 years apparently!

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15 Millionaire Mob February 15, 2019 at 9:21 am

Love this analysis and perspective. I love city living and miss it a lot. I recently moved out to the burbs. Driving everywhere has been awful.

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16 J. Money February 15, 2019 at 9:49 am

I’d live in the city again in a heartbeat if I didn’t have a million kids… But at long as I can walk to *somewhere* decent from my house I’m okay until they’re all off to college :)

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17 Heather February 16, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Oh my goodness! I grew up in the town next to Rockville. This description of the “ countryside“ is not what Rockville is today at all. It is basically an inner suburb of Washington DC that has all of the evils of the city that this pamphlet argues against. What a riot! Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Now I have to share it with all of my childhood friends.

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18 J. Money February 18, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Haha right??? I used to live there too, and now you have to go a handful of miles out before you can reach the current countryside :)

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19 Chris @ Mindful Explorer February 16, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Such a cool historical find, it appears times may change but the struggles we face or the notions we hold true remain the same.

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20 Mr. Tako February 18, 2019 at 5:14 am

Highly entertaining J$, although I’m not so sure all the “facts” espoused in this pamphlet hold true anymore. For example, there are plenty of ways to build wealth without owning real estate or land.

Is the country-side still cheaper? Well, maybe if I owned a cow and a chicken, but if you visit a country town today they have the exact same chain grocery stores. The prices are the same too, exactly as you would find “in the city”.

As far as gardening in the country goes… well I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the economics of gardening. My own personal numbers over the last 9 years seem to indicated that the cost of gardening is roughly comparable in price to just buying groceries at the store. Vegetables are pretty cheap!

As far as the country being healthier… well, that’s probably still true. ;)

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21 J. Money February 18, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Haha yeah – at least it feels healthier :)

The internet’s def. made it easier to diversify investments too… Whether in career or wealth, etc. We’re still fully invested in index funds and don’t have any real estate, but the wife is starting to itch for some – ack!

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