As I’ve said before I’m a big fan of Ancestry.com. They’ve now added a Century of Vintage Sears Roebuck and Company catalogs. I’ve heard of many ways uses for the Sears catalogs and I’m sure lots of people, given the popularity of collectors items, wish that they had saved them. Here’s a copy of the Press Release from Ancestry:
“This Holiday Season, Relive America’s Yesteryear and Peer into the Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Company
PROVO, Utah, November 30, 2010—Ancestry.com today announced that it is making available the complete collection of Sears, Roebuck and Company catalogs from the spring and fall seasons, spanning 1896 to 1993.
Comprising more than 250,000 pages, the collection is available online for the first time ever, providing a unique glimpse into how Americans lived beginning in the late nineteenth century and beyond—from how they dressed and decorated their homes to how they worked and played.
“One of the most exciting elements of family history is discovering what life was like for our ancestors,” said Quinton Atkinson, director of content acquisition for Ancestry.com. “These catalogs represent a glimpse into the lives of our family members—from the toys they played with to what they wore on their wedding day. We hope our users have fun browsing these nostalgic catalogs and learning more about the different eras in which our ancestors lived.”
Whether interested in browsing nearly 100 years of American fashion and beauty trends, learning about the common tools of our formerly agricultural economy, seeing the progress and adoption of consumer technologies, or reading how the company addressed major historical moments like the Great Depression, users will find a century of America captured in the Sears catalogs.
Within their pages are a myriad of popular retail products through the years—many that may sound strangely unique to us today. Examples include:
• Boss Pig Extractor Forceps (1901)—this handy tool was premiered at the Iowa State Fair and considered the “newest invention of its time.” ($1)
• Profile Chin Strap (1930)—a truly unique beauty product, the profile chin strap was a throat treatment set meant to “keep your throat fresh and smooth—free from surface wrinkles.” ($1.98)
• Houses (1910)—that’s right. For $2,000 and for a limited time, one could purchase an entire home-building kit directly from the Sears catalog. ($2,000)
• Parcheesi (1900)—this popular board game has been around for much longer than it might seem. One could order it from the Sears catalog beginning in 1900. (75 cents)
• The Laughing Camera (1901)—these toy lenses boasted a “whole passing show” that provided more amusement than a circus, with “friends grotesquely photographed.” (15 cents)
In addition to the sheer variety of products offered in the Sears catalogs, they also demonstrate how product selection and pricing has shifted throughout the years.
For example, the 1901 catalog offered 67 different pairs of women’s shoes, and one could purchase a pair for about $2.95. By the 1950 edition, one could choose from 179 pairs of women’s shoes and expect to pay around $7. Today, Sears sells thousands of pairs of women’s shoes, for which one could easily spend a few hundred if not more than a thousand dollars.
“In many ways, the Sears catalogs are iconic in that they represent a changing, evolving America,” said Atkinson. “From erector sets to video games, pocket watches to digital watches, and telegraphs to cell phones, these catalogs illustrate the unfolding and evolution of the American Dream.””