Lighting a lamp in Minneapolis was a pricey proposition.

Yesterday we looked at the cost of electricity in Wichita, Kansas in 1923. Today we'll look at the cost of electricity in Minneapolis in 1926, ninety years ago.

Minneapolis General Electric charged ten cents per kilowatt-hour for the first three kilowatt-hours used over the course of a month, per room. Per room?

So the number of rooms in your home impacted your electric rate and bill. Because the utility charged seven and a half cents per kilowatt-hour for the next three kilowatt-hours. Again, per room.

And especially because the utility charged three cents per kilowatt-hour for any excess consumption. That's any electricity used above six kilowatt-hours over the course of a month. Per room.

(American households in 2016 use that much electricity, six kilowatt-hours, in about four hours, on average.)

Consider a modest Minneapolis household in 1926 with three rooms. This family gets to the cheap three cent rate after using eighteen kilowatt-hours.

Then consider a Minneapolis McMansion in 1926 with six rooms. This family gets to the cheap three cent rate after using thirty-six kilowatt-hours.

All this was the variable energy charge. The fixed charge was a dollar per month per customer.

Suppose that family with a six-room home used fifty kilowatt-hours in a month. The energy charge was $1.80 for the first eighteen kilowatt-hours, $1.35 for the next eighteen, and $0.42 for the remaining fourteen.

The energy charge totaled $3.57. And the fixed charge was $1.00. Total bill, $4.57.

That's twenty-two percent fixed, seventy-eight percent variable. For most families, with small homes and small total bills, the percent fixed was closer to fifty percent or even more.

A dime in 1926 was like $1.35 today. So the cost for a ten-cent Minneapolis kilowatt-hour in 1926 was effectively $1.35. And the cost for a three-cent kilowatt-hour, the lowest block of the decidedly declining block rate structure, was effectively forty cents.

It's amazing the cool stuff that's in the Library of Congress, where you can find the Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly once or twice weekly.

Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly

E-mail me: mitnick@fortnightly.com