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on December 2, 2002
The 786 - page reprint of the 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue is a priceless piece of Americana. Profusely illustrated, readers will enjoy studying the surprisingly enormous range of consumer goods then available, most of which are obsolete or little used in American life today. From the $4.90 'Cast Iron Pig Trough' to the $3.00 'Cleveland Ball Bearing Wringer,' from the $1.75 'Magic Lantern Slide Projector for Juveniles' to the $3.35 'Velocipedes' bicycle and the $2.00, mohair-covered 'Ear Trumpet,' readers will turn the pages in delighted awe. Those interested in fashion and costuming will find the extensive pages on clothing remarkable. The average description for most items tallies at about 100 words, most of which are superfluous but fun to read.
There are 55 very detailed pages on clothing, hats, and accessories for men and boys, including $6.95 'Cashmere Suits,' $9.90 'Blue Flannel Grand Army Of The Republic Suits,' and 'Brownie Suits,' 'Fancy Sailor Suits,' and 'Children's Kilt Suits.' These sections are bolstered by idealized figures of mustached men strolling by the seaside in striped suits and straw boaters, pipe - smoking deep thinkers poised in velvet smoking jackets, and bashful lads posing in knee britches.
An equal number of pages are devoted to clothing, shoes, hats, and other accessories for women and girls, including 'Dr. Warner's Abdominal Corset' made with "extension steels, side lacings, and elastic gores on each side," girl's "reefer jackets," the $2.95 'Rich's Patent "Julie Marlowe" Lace Boot,' and 2 pages of heavily - festooned women's hats with names like 'the Leader,' 'the Susanne,' 'the Evangeline,' and 'the Bon Ton.' Presciently, many of the illustrations of women look remarkably like the matronly Mary Astor in the 1941 classic 'Meet Me In St. Louis.'
Especially interesting and comical are the items listed under 'Drug Department.' Here are found 'Injection No. 7,' which "is a reliable cure for all troubles of the urinary matter how severe the case,' and 'Dr. Rose's Obesity Powders' which explains that "too much fat is a disease and a great annoyance to those afflicted. . .it produces fatty degeneration of the heart, and sudden death results," and 'Beef, Iron, and Wine' nutritive, which, at $2.50 a gallon, was apparently very popular, "something no family should be without...used for extreme exhaustion caused by brain fatigue, eruptions, scrofula, and...depraved conditions of the blood."
There are 'vegetable cures' for 'female weakness' and 'fig laxatives,' 'Mexican Headache Cures' and 'Indian Cough Syrups,' 'microbe killers,' and "perfectly harmless" 'arsenic complexion wafers' which produce "pellucid clearness of complexion." "Reliable Worm Syrup and Worm Cakes" cure "the disease so fatal to children" and comes in "convenient form for children to take, which they readily do, thinking it is candy." 'Dr. Chaise's Nerve And Brain Pills' is a cure for those with "overworked sexual excesses."
Special mention should be given to the Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s own $0.75 brand 'Reliable Cure For the Opium And Morphia Habit,' which will "completely destroy that terrible craving for morphine . . .and free those victims from their terrible bondage." The 'Princess Bust Developer' and 'Princess Bust Cream Food' can be purchased separately or together for $1.46. Prepared by "an eminent French chemist," the bust cream promises a "plump, full, rounded bosom," while the bust developer, which comes in both 4 and 5 inch sizes, looks like a toilet plunger and is perfect "if nature has not favored you." Another ad educates potential women buyers by stating that "no worse affliction can befall a woman's face than to see a horrible growth of coarse hairs springing out like bristles," making her "disfiguring to behold." Oddly, 'Strangle Food' for cockroaches and 'Rat Killer - The Great Vermin Destroyer' are included among health and beauty products for the family.
Despite the exaggerated and misleading claims, this volume is overwhelmingly wholesome in nature, and provides an educational glimpse into the lives, consumer habits, social mores, and advertising methods of Americans of the era. Throughout, there are extended pages devoted to excerpts from grateful consumer letters with headings like "Proud Of The Buggy," "Perfectly Satisfied With The Revolver," "Everybody Says The Watch Is A Dandy," and "I Do Not Know A More Fair Or Honorable Firm." These pages are one of the catalogue's few disappointments, since the 'letters' are suspiciously uniform in tone, phrasing, and praise.
Other sections include 'Vehicle, Harness, and Saddlery,' 'Crockery And Glassware,' 'Watch And Jewelry,' 'Musical Goods,' 'Furniture,' 'Books And Stationary,' and 'Builder's Hardware And Material.'
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on May 2, 2000
This is a catalogue full of photos and descriptions of old things. I enjoyed perusing it just because I love old things.
The print quality is marginal though, but legible. Words and photos look a bit grainy.
Prices, stock, descriptions, wild exaggerations and boasts of products all paint an interesting picture of life at the turn of the century.
I'm an old house lover and I found this book as an intriguing bit of memorabilia about the way things once were in this country.
The section on women's clothing is wild. Almost unimagineable to realize what women did to themselves in the name of fashion.
A good resource and conversation starter. Old folks can't get enough of it. In fact, it does make a great Christmas present for the over 60 crowd.
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on July 19, 2001
You'll find *everything* in this reprint, from buggies and bicycles to books to groceries. (You'll need to mentally adjust the prices, since Sears was at that time strictly a mail-order wholesale house, and like the e-merchants of today could drastically undercut the traditional retailers: I've found that adding 50-100% to their list, unless they give another one in the adcopy, will give you a good idea of what "brick-and-mortar" merchants would have charged for the same item.) A splendid resource for anyone interested in the minutinae of everyday late-19th-Century life. If they'd only included toys, it would be perfect! The small print is a bit hard on the eyes and the illustrations sometimes rather dark, but the book as a whole is well worth buying.
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on June 18, 1998
This book is absolutely essential for anyone doing research on the late 1890s, as it lists prices of popular goods and gives a lot of input into what was available. For any Game-Masters(if you don't know what a Game-Master is, don't ask...) running a Wild West game, it is a must!
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on May 9, 2014
My mom is really interested in seeing and reading about the 1800s, so I thought this would be a good birthday gift idea. Well, she told me that it would be a good birthday gift. I did not disappoint. Catalogue was delivered in time for her birthday and she goes through it a couple of times a week :)
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on October 4, 2002
The quality if the reproduction is great, and the nostalgia of reading a catalog that my great-grandparents might have seen is cool.
(I bought this book as a resource for Old West roleplaying games, and it suits that application very well.)
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on February 1, 2016
This Reference Book is AWESOME FUN !!! We can only guess what another 100 years will bring to the price difference that we see today.
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