Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Page from the Fall 1915 Sears Catalog: "Everything For Your Xmas Tree"

[From the Fall 1915 Catalog: Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.]
As I sit here, wrapping up my Christmas shopping and looking at my Christmas tree, I think about how Americans shopped for Christmas in the past.  I can remember when the print Sears catalog  was available.  For a long time Sears was where you could buy all kinds of things by mail order, from underwear to homes(!). has a great database of the Sears Catalog, from 1896-1993.  From the database description:
From a printed mailer in 1888 to the final publication in 1993, the Sears Catalog has grown into an important record of what life was like through the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Beginning with mail order goods the company followed the railroad in America’s westward expansion and quickly became a national institution providing a wide variety of goods. This particular database contains images of these historic catalogs over the years.
Do you know what your great grandparents would have worn? What would they have wanted for Christmas? Get an idea by looking at the Sears Catalog through the years. The original 1888 mailer carrying watches and jewelry expanded into a catalog in 1894 that kept growing offering an ever-widening range of products: sewing machines, sporting goods, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages, and clothing. In the late 1800s the catalog began carrying Christmas holiday items leading to its eventual status as the “Wish Book.”
Other interesting facts about the Sears and Roebuck Catalog include some of the people who were involved in the making of it. Big name 40s and 50s film stars Lauren Bacall and Susan Hayward model fashions in pages of the catalog. Also featured are Ted Williams, a major baseball player in the 40s, Al Unser, a race car driver, and Gene Autry, “The Singing Cowboy.” If your ancestor was a member of a fraternal organization such as the Freemasons or the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers you may be able to find pictures of pins created for their organizations. Music history in America also credits Sears catalog with changing American life style because of the inexpensive but quality musical instruments offered through mail order.
Here is more info on the history and significance of the catalog from the Sears Archives site.

As a sidenote I thought it was interesting that the catalog used the term "Xmas."  I have heard this spelling for Christmas can be controversial, and I thought it was a more recent invention, but apparently it was used as early as the mid-1500's and has been used extensively in advertising for a long time, since it doesn't take up as much space, which is at a premium.

© 2014 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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