Monday, August 3

American Life Through Catalogs

For the past several weeks I have been reviewing many vintage booklets, catalogs, pamphlets and books in my personal library.  My how they accumulate over the years.  I remember several estate attics with corners stuffed with so many wonderful old catalogs that the floor boards creaked when I hauled them all downstairs!  

These were a staple in American homes in 20th century.  I remember being a teen in the 60s and spending wonderful time going through the pages of mom's JCPenny's and the Sears catalogs.  It was common to have a Spring Summer and then a Fall Winter editions,  What a great way to learn new trends and color schemes for the season.   Two of my favorites, The Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs, are so jam packed with goodies I dare say there isn't a thing you couldn't find in them!  


Sears home shopping catalogSears Spring Summer catalog


 Literally everything from the kitchen sink to the corners of the garage!  I marvel at how much time and money it had to take to produce aa 800 to 1200 page volume twice a year.  And every season - they change.






By 1990, with the ease and excitement of online shopping from the home computer, the catalog excitement surely faced it's demise.   Looking at these volumes now, there is a new appreciation for the story they tell. Perhaps the most striking idea came to me that these are complete encyclopedia's of mainstream American middle class households and life.   Going through a large mail order catalog shows every nuance of color, pattern, artistic style, materials used to name a few. When you start to string together year after year of these editions, it is easy to see the changes most homes and family members moved through.  These massive volumes are great resources for dating collectibles!

1970s colors and prints

home furnishings


With the current trend of megga online shopping stores, I doubt we will see these types of books published again.  I guess that's why I love my vintage treasures.  They really are a stroll down memory lane ... even when the power is off! 




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