Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Trip to the Turn of the Century

If you'd like an interesting way to take a look at turn of the century American history, find out if your library has a copy of a reproduction of an antique Sears, Roebuck and Co catalogue. We checked out a copy of the 1902 catalog that was published by Bounty Books in 1969.

James and I flipped through the pages from cover to cover, and commented on some of the amazing prices and interesting objects. We saw an early record player, in the "Talking Machine Department," and a piano could be purchased for $59.45, a guitar for $2.45, and a little wind instrument called the zobo was only 8 cents.

There were bicycles, guns, farm equipment, books, a basketball and basketball goal (an iron frame with cotton netting basket which appeared to be closed at the bottom).
There were buggies and wagons and sleighs to be drawn by horses, and an amazing "electric belt" which was battery-operated and worn around the waist as a health treatment.

This device was said to enable its wearer to "face the world anew," for $18.00. And what's more, the catalog said, "$18 will bring to you health and strength, vigor, manliness and happiness . . ." all with a money-back guaranteed 10-day trial.

There was a vapor bath cabinet, too-- this looked like a cube with a person's head sticking up out of the top-- and must have been a type of sauna, for $5.25.

We didn't look at every single page (there were 1161 pages), but enjoyed browsing through, and seeing china and clothing and cast iron cookstoves. Among the ladies' clothes was a long dress called a "wrapper--" that sounded like a curious name, to me. For some clothing, instead of using standard sizes, the buyer was requested to give certain body measurements.

Sears Roebuck had their name on the label of the "Arsenic Complexion Wafers," sold to preserve and enhance beauty. It was also on "Electric Liniment," a liniment that was electrically charged, enabling it to relieve rhuematism as well as sprains, bruises and sores.

After hearing our comments, Molly took a look at the catalog, too. She made some interesting discoveries, like a ring with two real diamonds that cost $2.75, and cameras that looked more like small suitcases.

I took a look at the shipping prices, too. To ship 100 pounds first class to Washington state was $3. But if you lived closer to Sears' Chicago warehouses, shipping was much less-- in Illinois it cost around 40 cents to ship 100 pounds.

This catalog was so interesting! It was a great way to investigate how things were in America at the beginning of the 1900's. So, for a trip to the wondrous year of 1902, look for this book!

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