In an essay last year in Forbes, Venkatesh Rao talked briefly about Alexander Holley, one of the steel-making pioneers who worked closely with steel magnate Andrew Carnegie -- not as a peer, but in today's parlance, a rent-a-CTO.
That was then, this is now. In today's terms (Late 1800's USD adjusted for inflation to today), that's just about $125K up front, and $62,500 per year. That's even lower than what most software engineers make today.
He was the greatest steel-plant designer of his time; the uber-10x-hacker of steel-making. When Andrew Carnegie turned his attention to steel, and raised $700,000 to build the pioneering Edgar Thompson plant, Holley stepped up immediately to handle the technical end. Charles Morris describes the event in The Tycoons:
Holley was engaged almost immediately; he had made the first contact himself as soon as heard of the new plant. His offer — $5000 for the drawings and $2500 a year for construction supervision — was one that could not be refused.
It is critical to note two things about Holley’s role. First, he negotiated a significant (for the time) but low-risk remuneration package (amounting to about 1% of the capital raised, but as cash rather than equity). Second, he made sure he wasn’t tied to Carnegie via risk-capital, and offered his services as a highly paid mercenary, within a time-bound model. He was what we would call a rent-a-CTO today.