Below is an interesting advertisement that we dug up in the Baltimore Sun, printed on Tuesday, October 8th, 1850. The ad is for the steamship Cherokee, commanded by Henry Windle, departing in a few days for Chagres, Panama. Before the Panama Canal was built, ships would have to sail down and dock in Chagres, where the passengers would disembark, cross the isthmus, and board another ship on the other side for continued passage to California and points west. This was undoubtedly a serious journey to undertake.
You could take a nice state room for $100 or steerage for $55. A dollar then is roughly the equivalent of $30 today, so that state room to Panama is $3,000. And that’s only to Panama. Then you need to book passage to California, which appears to be $300 or $9,000 today. That ain’t cheap!