It’s fine to be known to just about everyone and to have its place in the history books, but you have to eat well too. You have to support your man, and it won’t pay for itself. So how much did famous historical figures earn? Did they have big nuggets or could they have asked for an extra zero or two on the payslip? Well that’s what we’ll see.
1. Michelangelo won 1000 ducats to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
The Pope paid him 3000 ducats, but Michelangelo had to pay for all the material as well as his assistants, and in the end he only had 1000 left. Knowing that it took him 4 years to produce the work , that’s 250 ducats a year. And 250 ducats was still quite comfortable at the time (these were gold coins that were worth much more than our current currency). But he could still have received more for someone of his caliber.
2. Marilyn Monroe received $18,000 for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Attention huh, 18,000 dollars in the 50s that’s about 175,000 dollars in purchasing power today, don’t forget that inflation has been there. It’s still ridiculous compared to the salary received by Jane Russell who played in the same film: 100,000 dollars. The difference comes from the fact that Marilyn was already in contract with Century Fox (which paid her 1500 dollars per week, anyway) while Jane Russell played freelance. And for once, $100,000 in the 1950s was a lot of money.
3. George Washington received $25,000 in salary in 1789
This gave the President of the United States a purchasing power equivalent to that of a person who would have 4.5 million dollars today. Not disgusting huh? I wonder what he bought with that. Surely a big car and albums of Jul. It can be seen in his face that he liked speed and kidding.
4. Albert Einstein received $10,000 in salary in 1933
With inflation, that’s about $178,000 today. The salary was paid by the University of Princeton who wanted Albert to be the best paid guy on the whole campus whereas Albert himself had asked for a small salary. He wasn’t a lazy guy, Albert.
5. Charles Dickens received £400 in 1836 for his first book
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club earned him the equivalent of $238,000 today. Dickens was paid 1 quarter penny per word. Once all combined, well it was a nice jackpot. Afterwards, he couldn’t write the word “hello” 100,000 times in a row to earn more money, he still had to write something that made sense. You have to be a bit logical.
6. Mozart earned 3000 guilders in 1786
So, how much would you say that’s for a modern-day Wolfgang? That’s about $400,000. It’s both very good and not crazy at all for a musical genius like him. Today there are guys 100 times less talented who earn 10 times that, but life is unfair. I would even say that life is unfair. So I said it twice.
7. Beethoven earned 4000 guilders in 1809
Which amounts to a nice $530,000 these days. Again, the salary is not up to the talent of the guy, but he had to do electro dance music if he wanted to make a lot of money. Hey yeah buddy, that’s what pays off.
8. Jane Austen received £300 for her novel Mansfield Park
It’s really not crazy since it’s around 50,000 current dollars. With her fame, today she would receive much more for a book from a publishing house with a nice percentage on each sale. But hey, don’t forget that Jane Austen was much less well known during her lifetime, and for a woman of her time, £300 was still very comfortable.
9. Leonardo Da Vinci received 400 ducats a year from Francis I
That was at the end of his life. Before being paid by the King of France, his salaries fluctuated rather between 50 and 100 ducats per year, which was much less comfortable and above all not at all up to the value of his works today. Knowing that some believe Mona Lisa around 450 million dollars, it gives an idea of the money that Da Vinci could make if he came back to life in 2021.
10. Charlie Chaplin was broke
From 1918, Chaplin was earning around $125,000 per film, or $2 million if we follow the course of inflation. Thereafter his income continued to rise and when he died in 1977 he bequeathed $100 million to his last wife Oona O’neill, or $415 million today. We must believe that the guy has managed his career rather well even if he remains far from the highest salaries of movie stars.