‘Mad Men’ Inflation Calcuator

Along with many other Americans, I have become engrossed by the show “Mad Men” on AMC. It is enjoyable on many levels. It is filled with seamy affairs and internecine rivalries that threaten to unravel in just about every episode. It is also taut and evocative of the early 1960s. Everyone abides a tacit appreciation for discretion that seemed to be a hallmark of social, professional and familial interaction during this time. Because of this air of secrecy, each episode brings with it a new revelation about a character that moves the plot along. For instance, the dashing Roger Stirling, head of the show’s fictional advertising agency Stirling Cooper is in fact revealed to be succumbing to some serious health problems. Earnest secretary Peggy has a knack for writing clever advertising copy. Anyway, anyone who watches the show knows the rest, the even darker secrets that these characters hold.

Another neat thing about the show is getting a sense of what it was like to live and work in New York in the late 50s and early 60s, and sometimes it seems not too different from today. Corporate ad man Don Draper has a funny confrontation with a beatnik who seems not much different in attitude than today’s New York hipsters one meets in Williamsburg. Snivelly junior ad guy Peter Campbell buys a penthouse with his wife on the Upper East Side, with help from her parents. Today, a Peter Campbell would have likely done what the yuppies here do and bought a similar place in the East Village or Chelsea, but you get the idea.

Curious, I consulted an inflation calculator to figure out how much that $30,000 penthouse would have cost today. Amazingly enough, it would only be $215,766, which is not actually that much for an Upper East Side condo. Campbell’s salary of $3,500 on the other hand would be a meager $25,173 today, probably less than the average starting PR person makes. No wonder he was reluctant to buy the penthouse.

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About elainemeyer
I'm a writer and editor. I work in communications at the Columbia School of Public Health, where I write about epidemiologic research. In the past I've worked as a reporter and studied journalism and history in school.

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