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Secrets of the Vintage Sears Catalog

Updated on June 11, 2014

The 1908 Sears Catalog.


A Look Into Our Past

The Sears Catalog is a time capsule of another era. The 1908 catalog, "The Great Price Maker" is a look into the fashion, customs and lifestyles of a century past.

The catalog is a perfect zeitgeist for our culture at that time. Each page is a vision of our fashions (clothe styles, hair-dos, color pallets, home décor), technological prowess, favorite cultural icons and more. It is like looking a a mirror showing us what the world wants us to be and are.

Aside from that mumbo-jumbo I just said, the catalog was, and is, a blast to look at, read and (ultimately) browse while on the john (using the bathroom)!

The Wish Book (Bathroom Reader)

The Winter Edition, or "The Wish Book" is the most iconic edition of the Sears Catalog. Every year, the book was a staple in the household. Circles, crayon markings and torn out pages placed on refrigerators, all are part of our holiday history and memories

The very first Sears Wish Book, known as the Sears Christmas Book catalog, came out in 1933. Featured items in this first catalog included the “Miss Pigtails” doll, an electric (battery powered) toy automobile, a Mickey Mouse watch, fruitcakes, Lionel electric trains, a five pound box of chocolates, and live singing canaries.

The Sears Christmas Wishbook

Household Goods

Let's take a look at some staple items from the catalog and compare them to modern day products!

Antique sewing machines are popular among vintage enthusiasts.
Antique sewing machines are popular among vintage enthusiasts. | Source

Sewing Machines (Now and Then)

A working sewing machine was more of a necessity 100 years ago than it is today. A century before, $13 dollars would buy a very decent mid-grade sewing machine that would serve a household for years to come. Today, a comparable machine (SINGER 4411 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine) costs around $155.

1908 Sewing Machine $13

2013 Sewing Machine $155

Inflation Rate = %1100

Horse Drawn Wagons

Business Wagons for Business Time! Horse Drawn Carriage and Buggies were a main source of transportation.
Business Wagons for Business Time! Horse Drawn Carriage and Buggies were a main source of transportation. | Source

Business Wagons (The Only Way to Travel)

It is difficult to compare the price of horse drawn wagons (a century ago to today) because sadly there are no mass-produced wagons manufactured today. Instead of sending your $69 dollars for your wagon from Sears, you have to find someone who hand builds them.

Using the inflation rate %1100 we found from the sewing machine, we could purchase a decent wagon for around $759 dollars. Actually, that sound like a pretty sweet deal considering what that amount gets you today!

Vintage Bibles and Dictionaries

Every home needs a dictionary and a Bible. Pre-wikipedia.
Every home needs a dictionary and a Bible. Pre-wikipedia. | Source

Building Your Family's Library

In a world where nearly all information known to man can be found in your pocket, the idea that books were once the only information your family had besides speaking to neighbors, family and the town doctor seems ridiculous

The Family Doctor, "No home should be left without it's priceless advice" would be worth its weight in gold when the doctor was not available or out of town.
Priced at $1.45, inflated to %1100 percent estimates the lifesaving book to be priced at $ 15.97 which is well below the $19.95 of a standard book today.

Painting Back in 1908

Paint from 1908 is Definitely Not Lead-Free.
Paint from 1908 is Definitely Not Lead-Free. | Source


The 1943 Sears News Graphic wrote that the Sears catalog, "serves as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today’s desires, habits, customs, and mode of living." The roots of the Sears catalog are as old as the company. In 1888, Richard Sears first used a printed mailer to advertise watches and jewelry. Under the banner "The R.W. Sears Watch Co." Sears promised his customers that, "we warrant every American watch sold by us, with fair usage, an accurate time keeper for six years – during which time, under our written guarantee we are compelled to keep it in perfect order free of charge."

History of the Sears Catalog

The Sears Catalog: A Retail Revolution (video)


High fashion.
High fashion.

Childhood Memories

Being a child of the 80's, looking at the catalogs of my childhood is a nostalgic trip! Whether it is embarrassment or longing for the good old days, these relics are great at bringing back memories and sharing with friends and family.


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    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      I love looking through old catalogs such as these. They seem to represent a much simpler (and happier) time.

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Nostalgic post here, rustedmemory, a great piece of history. I do remember the thick Sears Catalog as a child. It was fun to thumb through. For some reason I recall the underwear section vividly. Anyway, voted up and interesting.

    • profile image

      swilliams 3 years ago

      What a neat and unique article! Sears has been around for a long time! It's neat to see the old catalogs. I can't believe it started over 100 years ago! I enjoyed the video as well! Voted up!

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 4 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      I remember reading about old Sears' catalogs in Western fiction and nonfiction books. It is a historical development that fascinates me. You posted some good examples.