February 23, 2014

Vintage catalog offerings unique

The long-distance mercantile business probably started with the country peddler, who loaded a variety of wares and ointments and set about city and country, offering goods to rich and poor.

Now technology has turned our world upside down and sideways. People can order from a gazillion Internet sites that would scare our great-grandfathers.

Most people over 50 will remember the excitement of the new Montgomery Ward or Sears & Roebuck catalog arriving in the mailbox. If it was Christmas, big-eyed children would flip through its pages, oohing and aahing at the newest PF Flyer wagon or baby doll. Mother would check the newest appliances and father would ponder if he should give up his razor and strap for an electric Remington or Norelco shaver.


A recent email making the Internet circles showed a 1934 Montgomery Ward catalog offering more than everyday items. It offered a house for sale. Model 264B155, a three-bedroom home, sold for $1,092. That included two balconies, two porches, a walk-in pantry in the kitchen, a bathroom upstairs and three closets.

Not to be outdone, the Sears & Roebuck catalog of the same year offered “Modern Home 64,” a large six-room house, built of concrete blocks, for $558.

“For this price we furnish the millwork, lumber, roofing, eaves troughs, hardware and painting material,” touts the ad. “By allowing a fair price for labor this concrete block home can be built for $1,555.”


These same catalogs also clothed the family, from practical to stylish, including shoes.

Their ads came alive:

“Believe me, I’m going through this book from cover to cover,” said a very stylish 1930s woman, sporting a black dress with wide white collar, white gloves and black shoes that only our grandmothers used to wear. The shoes sold for $1.77 and came in black or white. Truth be known, in the past few years, these have come back into style.

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