Saturday, October 26, 2019

Victorian Era Sears Catalogs of the 1800s

An off shoot of the industrial revolution was the availability of goods and services to the masses. Now they were available through mail order. This greatly effected the Holidays. Many gifts were now purchased through mail order. A catalog gave the shopper a wide variety of choices.

In America, retail changed forever with the advent of Sears and Roebuck. It all started in 1880's with Richard W. Sears and Alvah C. Roebuck and their watch business. 




In 1895, Julius Rosenwald, a Chicago clothing merchant, joined the firm. It was then that they expanded their offerings.

They published their first catalog in 1886. It would be 1933 before their first Christmas 'Wishbook' was sent out (which at that time was officially named 'The Sears Christmas Catalog Book'). Here are some catalogs and pages from the 1800's.

One could order Laudanum (an opium based drug)  from Sears in the 1887 catalog.


Christmas Cards were introduced for the first time in the 1898 catalog.


The Homestead Act of 1852 not only opened up the west to settlers, it created the perfect market for mail order shopping. Then in 1896, Rural Free Delivery (RFD) was made available. Instead of having to travel (often far away) to the closest mail office, goods were delivered directly to the farm. And with that, everything a company like Sears, who would later claim to offer from "everything from houses to hubcaps", was available to almost every farm in America.

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