US CPI data download from 1913

CPI (Consumer Price Index) measures the price level of a market basket of consumer goods and services purchased by households. The annual change of CPI expressed as percentage is called inflation
Thanks to US Bureau of Labor Statistics we can download historical US CPI data for free back until 1913. (Longest timeframe is only available for data that is not adjusted with seasonality.)
  1. Visit http://data.bls.gov/pdq/querytool.jsp?survey=cu 
    • This website needs Java plugin. If you do not have it, visit this Java installation guide.
    • If Java is OK, you will see something like this:
      Starting window for downloading CPI data
  2.  Set up data download and press "Get Data" when finished.
    • If you want to proceed quickly, select "US city average" for "Area" and "All items" for "Items". These are usually OK.
    • On the other hand, CPI can be different per location and items. If you want to know the historical CPI of a specific area or a specific group of consumer goods then select them from the list.
      Starting window set up for getting CPI data.
  3. If both default time frame (30 years) and default output format is OK for you, press "Download .xls" and data file will be downloaded at once. Carry on with next steps otherwise.
    Link for downloading CPI data as .xls
  4. You can change download time interval with the drop down lists marked with red on the image below. You can extend the time frame back until 1913
    • Click "Go" when finished. 
    • You can download data file by clicking "Download .xls" if nothing else needs to be changed.
      Setting download time frame.
  5. You can also change the appearance of the result. Click "More Formatting Options" to do so.
    Link to change output format.
  6. In the next page
  7. Options for changing output format.
    • You can change output format from year-month table to simple columns or rows.
    • You can add time series to output monthly, 2 month, ... annual change in order to have both CPI data and inflation data in the result.
    • If you keep "Output type" as HTML table, then you can download data in .xls. If you change it to Text, then you will get a text file delimited with comma or tabulator, depending on your settings.
    • You can also change timeframe from the default 30 years
  8. Click "Retrieve Data" whey you are done with editing output format.
    • Next page may return multiple tables. Find the tables you want to download on this page. (This result page can be quite long.)
    • You download data file by clicking "Download .xls". (If there is no "Download .xls" link on the top of tables, you have probably chosen text output. In this case you will have to copy and paste text data to a text file using a text editor such as Notepad.)