Holiday Shopping

Daily Life Along the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (Newberry Library)
Daily Life Along the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (Newberry Library)
Sears Christmas Book, 1936. Newberry microfilm H 7157 .8
Sears Christmas Book, 1936. Newberry microfilm H 7157 .8
Sears Christmas Book, 1934. Newberry microfilm H 7157 .8
Sears Christmas Book, 1934. Newberry microfilm H 7157 .8

Today, our holiday shopping methods may be different than our ancestors. We make trips to shopping malls and Black Friday events, create digital wish lists and shop online. But we still get that tingle of excitement when the truck pulls up and the boxes are delivered to our front door, ready to be re-wrapped and presented to our loved ones.

As children (and maybe even as adults) many of us poured over the mail-order Sears, Roebuck & Company and Montgomery Wards Christmas catalogs, dog-earring pages as we made those lists for Santa while drinking our hot cocoa. Our ancestors enjoyed similar experiences. This 1948 image from the Newberry CB&Q collection shows the Rader family studying the catalog in their farm home in Knoxville, Illinois.

In 1936, a popular gift featured in the Sears Christmas Book was the 11 1/2 inch Shirley Temple doll, selling for $2.19. Perhaps a toy you, your mother or grandmother would have asked for.

Or perhaps the boys in the family were science fiction fans. The 1934 Christmas Book offered the Buck Rogers 25th Century Rocket ship, complete with flint to generate sparks, for 94 cents.

So, if your shopping is done, take yourself back in time and enjoy browsing these catalogs. Imagine what your ancestors may have put on their lists and the fun they had selecting gifts for others. The Newberry has the following items available for you to peruse:

  • Sears catalogs from 1892-1993 (Call no. microfilm H 7157 .8). These are also available in the “Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993” collection at Ancestry.com.
  • Montgomery Ward catalogs from 1934-1982 (Call no. microfilm 614) and specialty catalogs for everything from apparel to typewriters published between 1890 and 1982 (Call no. microfilm 615).

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