McNair | 1870 Census, Family, & Wealth

The McNair Household in 1870

Miles | Age 47 | Profession: Speculator | Place of Birth New York | Value of Real Estate $46,000 | Value of Personal Estate $7,000 | 

Elizabeth | Age 30 | Profession: Keeping House | Place of Birth Massachusetts

Laura | Age 18 | Place of Birth Wisconsin | "Whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic" - "Idiotic"

Theodore | Age 14 | Place of Birth Wisconsin

Frances | Age 8 | Place of Birth Wisconsin

Grant | Age 4 | Place of Birth Wisconsin

Unpacking Victorian Terms


Miles' profession is termed as "Speculator," which can be defined as those willing to accept higher risk in exchange for greater potential returns. A Speculator in essence was an Investor with less traditional risk tolerances. 

This also clarifies Miles' involvement as an investor of the Norwegian Plow Co. during the 1870's.

Industries such as the railways benefited greatly from the investments of Speculators, and it was an era of the legitimization of the stock market. 

Miles' notable wealth, considering he begun his career as a skilled woodworker,  as well as diverse business and property investments, are now better understood.


A startling term, which ranks within an unsavory classification of mental development within Victorian times.

According to Merriam-Webster, an "Idiot" is defined as "Those so defective that the mental development never exceeds that or a normal child of about two years."

In the psychological classification system of Victorian times, this stage of mental development was classified as most regressive, with the terms "Imbecile" used for development beyond that of an "Idiot," but no greater than a seven year old child. The third term of "Moron" was used for those developed beyond that of an "Imbecile," but not higher than the development of a twelve year old.

Framing The McNair's Wealth

It is stated in the census report, that Miles' Real Estate and Personal Estate combined were valued at $53,000 in 1870.

Keep in mind, this is only the value property he owned, and does not account for his income from his businesses nor savings.

Converting that sum through the filter of inflation into today's dollar, this means that Miles McNair owned well over $1,000,000 worth of real estate in 1870.