The Sears Roebuck Catalog
When I was but a young boy living in a small rural-agricultural/textile community, I always looked forward to going to the mailbox and finding a priceless treasure. The Sears-Roebuck catalog came a couple of times each year and I especially enjoyed looking at the Christmas edition. There was so much for wide eyed country boy to see inside those full color glossy photographs.
For many of us looking through the pages of this great catalog, it was a priceless education not available in any school classroom. There was so much to see from clothing for the entire family, shoes and almost anything imaginable. Some of those things advertised in the catalog were forbidden pictures of ladies underwear from panties to corsets. Apparel never before seen by little boy eyes. I venture to say the Sears-Roebuck catalog which often found its way to the little shack outback only confirms the old country music song sung by the late Jimmy Dickens, I got my Education Out Behind the Barn where an outhouse was normally located down on the farm.The Sears catalog also had guns, musical instruments, tools, appliances and so many other things that could be ordered by mail.
From what I have learned in researching this topic from the web, Sears had its beginnings in 1888 when Richard Sears used a mailer to advertise the watches and jewelry he sold. With the Homestead Act of 1862 the great expansion to the West aided by railroads and the advent of rural free delivery there were immediate advantages for the blooming entrepreneur. The cost of mailing was only one cent per pound.
In 1894 Sears introduced its Book of Bargains. The Sears Company began a steady growth quickly adding products to the catalog and by 1894 the catalog numbered over 322 pages. The wide variety of merchandise and quality of the goods sold only added to the success of the company.
From my own memories the Sears catalog was used extensively by my grandparents and once while spending a weekend at my grandparents, the old trunk was opened to show me some family photographs. Among all the treasures in that old trunk were coupons from Sears and a few small checks sent back for over payment.I don't know whatever happened to the contents of that old trunk but in my memory that day will always be special and something as insignificant as a money order totaling only a few cents have remained a memory that I cherish. My guess is my grandmother ordered fabric and notions from Sears.
Someone stated that many a Sear Roebuck catalog wound up at the family outhouse. From one who knows and experienced those years this is a truth we may not be especially proud but nevertheless a truth. There were other catalogs that came in the mail but the Sears was the "mother of them all." For many of us who grew up in the 1950s, we looked forward to getting the Christmas catalog as much as we looked forward to Christmas morning.
The Sears Company like so many other big business has diversified and expanded into other well known entities among which are:Allstate Insurance Company,Kenmore,Craftsman, Diehard, and even Coldwell Brokers. In recent years a merger with K-Mart has proved to be a great business venture. Today there are Sears store all over and the catalog is still around.
I hope Sears will always have a catalog and the memories of looking through the catalog will always remain special.
- History of the Sears Catalog
Sears has opened the doors to its vast archival collection and invited the public to peek inside. More than 100 years of stories, product and brand histories, photographs, catalog images and more are now available online.