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 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.
|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.
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: nancyjfarrier.com.