Mary’s Musings

Christmas shopping, 1902 style

Posted:  Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 7:00am
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Other than a few smarty-pants who have their Christmas shopping all done, most of us are still at it, trying to figure out what to get for those on our list who pose a challenge.In the days before department stores and malls, thousands of American families turned to their Sears catalog to make their purchases. It was also the main source for most of their everyday needs, too.

We decided a fun place to “shop’’ would be the 1902 Sears catalog. It’s one of our favorite books with its 1162-plus pages full of everything you can imagine, from dolls to commercial milk wagons, violins to windmills.  Perhaps you saw a news story a few months ago of an Iowa homeowner about to restore his house who discovered that it had originally been purchased in the 1920s from the Sears catalog. Between 1908 and 1940, Sears reportedly sold between 70,000 and 75,000 home kits offering 447 styles, with prices ranging from $191 to $5800. They were often shipped by train, and came with very detailed instructions on how to build them.So, you see, Sears thought of everything back in those days, because they pretty much had a corner on the market, with homeowners not close to city stores dependent upon them for nearly all of their needs.

Time to shop. Here are some of the items we found which could make affordable Christmas gifts.

A 26-piece silverware set with engraved single initial for $4.95

Acme professional snare drums (six) with sticks, $4.95

A folding porch chair with adjustable back, 84 cents

Men’s Morgan leather saddle, $4.20

Victor golf clubs Bulger driver, putter, and mid-Iron club, $1.25 each

A full-sized brass bed, $19.95

Men’s double breasted felt lined duck coat, $2

14-foot sheet metal hunting boat, 36-inch beam, $17.50

3x5 Delmar camera, $3.68

Kenwood bicycle, $10.95

Carpenter chest with saws, planes, and scores of miscellaneous tools (90 pounds total), $13.95

Burdick sewing machine, $12.95

Dining room chairs, 95 cents each

American Maid rag doll, 50 cents

Men’s white dress shirt, 60 cents

Ladies beaver cape, $1.98

We can’t afford the American Home upright parlor grand piano at $98.50 or Royal top buggy, $54 (besides, we don’t have a horse),  but we would be interested in one of the new-home kits for less than $10,000  if they were still available. Don’t we all wish!!! It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it, that after all these years, malls are losing business and the trend today is online/catalog shopping or in small-town stores – right where America started.