Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas Shopping 1908 and a Giveaway

I remember Christmases as a child and the fun of looking through the catalogs for gifts and ideas. I still enjoy catalogs for inspiration and to see new products. This year, I noticed my copy of a 1908 Sears, Roebuck catalog and wondered how it differed from catalogs today. I also wanted to see what sellers thought would be important to their buyers in the early twentieth century.

Various Sears Factories
Various Sears Roebuck Factories

Even the opening of the catalogue is much different than any I see today. Here are their rules for ordering.

USE OUT ORDER BLANK, IF YOU HAVE ONE. If you haven’t one, use any plain paper.

TELL US IN YOUR OWN WAY WHAT YOU WANT, always giving the CATALOGUE NUMBER of each article, and be sure to state size and color where required. Enclose in the letter the amount of money, either a postoffice money order, which you get at the post office, oan express money order, which you get at the express office, or a draft, which you get at any bank; or put the money in the letter, take it to the postoffice and tell the postmaster you want it registered.

The directions go on to give explicit instructions for those who live in the country – the mail carrier can take the letter and money and purchase the money order for them—and even letting them know translators would be on hand if they didn’t speak English.

The most prominent goods in the opening pages of the catalogue are the cream separators. There are several pages, showing the separator being used and describing its use.

From there you can turn to several pages of choices showing sewing machines and sewing machine cabinets, along with tools to repair them.

Conveyances take up many pages early on. The fanciest are saved for the last. The 
first ones don’t have all the frills but are serviceable and of lower price. Then come the models with lights on them for night driving, covers to keep off the elements, and plush seats to make the ride more comfortable. 

There is a section after that for wagons, horse equipment and saddles. The detailed pictures of the hose in the harness and the various saddles for sale are beautiful drawings.

There was an entry I found fascinating—the cotton and leather fly traps. My dad told me the story of meal time on their farm in the earlier 1900’s. He said at meal times, his mother would have them open the door and wave towels to shoo the flies out so they could sit down to eat. Flies on a farm were a big annoyance. I wonder how well these fly traps worked.

Musical instruments were displayed in abundance. Pianos, violins, guitars, woodwind instruments and brass. Once again, the drawings are very detailed and vivid.

I can’t begin to list everything in the catalog. There are almost 1,200 pages of goods. From groceries to houses to guns, they have everything a family might need. They guarantee their shipping costs are low and the money saved on purchases price will more than make up for shipping, which was to be paid when the items were delivered. 

The biggest difference in this catalog and the ones I looked at as a child and even nowadays had to be the toy section. The 1908 catalog had three pages of toys. Those were almost all dolls and various board games. This showed the major change in living conditions from then to now. Back then survival and comfort in home goods and work necessities were the main concern, not what toy to get to please the child.

Items for 8 cents
with checkerboard at bottom.

In the very back there were several pages of marked down items. They had pages of goods for 2¢ all the way up to 8¢. You can see on the page of 8¢ items, they have a checkerboard.

Items for 2 cents

Did you enjoy looking through catalogs? Do you get ideas from them? What do you enjoy looking at the most? Leave a comment and your email address on the blog to be entered to win a copy of my novella, Crazy About Cait

Holding a grudge makes it impossible to work with him but she has no choice.

1860’s California

Cait Sullivan can’t believe her father had the temerity to hire Jonas Hall to take over her job—managing and training their famed horses. Not only that, but her father expects her to work with Jonas and listen to his advice. Cait understands the importance of selling their horses to offset the cattle loss during the drought, but to hire Jonas is like a slap in the face after the way he broke her sister’s heart. Jonas has to hide the fact he’s always loved Cait, and that he’s asked her father’s permission to win her hand in marriage. Now he must convince the fiery-tempered lass he isn’t the villain she thinks he is, and she is the bride God has for him.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:


  1. How fun that you have such an old toy catalog!!! Those catalogs were a highlight of my life both as a child and then a parent. I always looked over the selections carefully, trying to figure out what items to set my hopes on. Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you, Connie. This is an amazing catalog and fun to peruse. Merry Christmas to you.

  2. I love catalogs. I remember my folks getting the Sears catalog while we were growing up, and we all took turns looking at it and making out our Christmas list. Merry Christmas, Nancy.

    1. I remember that too, Linda. Merry Christmas to you.

  3. I have a Fall 1909 Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog. It's not the original. It was printed in the 1970s and they said they selected some of the most interesting pages. IT still has an enormous amount of items in it. I can't get over how cheap everything is compared to today's prices. It would be nice to go back in time and purchase these items. I love looking through these types of books and magazines.

    1. Janet, I love those old catalogs. The drawings are so detailed. I'd love the prices, but the wages back then - not so much. Thanks for commenting. Don't forget to leave your email to enter the giveaway.

  4. I can remember as a kid looking through Sears and Roebuck catalogue. Mom would give each of us five kids a pencil and a piece of paper and have us each write down five things that we really wanted. Soon it became for me, things that I wanted to give to others. Some times we got one of those gifts some times not. But it sure was fun. Im sure mom thought "keeps them busy for a bit too" LOL
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    1. Lori, I think we did something similar, and you're right, I'm sure my mom wanted to keep us occupied. lol Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Catalogs are wonderful primary sources -- thank you for sharing yours. And thank you for the book give away. Barb (I don't know how to change the google name)

  6. I live looking through catalogs. I sure miss that Sears Christmas catalog.
    mauback55 at gmail dot

  7. I find them very interesting.