Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sears Roebuck & Co Catalogue 1897

 by Shanna Hatfield

Many of the historical stories I write take place in the 1890s and early 1900s.
There are any number of sources that give some detail about the day to day way of life back then, but one of my favorite resources is a replica of an old mail-order catalog.
sears cat
When I came across the 1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue, I ordered it on the spot and could hardly wait for it to arrive. From Skyhorse Publishing, this replica of an original Sears catalog is full of all the nitty-gritty info that I so often search for online and can't find elsewhere.
  You can find everything in this catalog from Bibles, bath soap and buggies to china, rocking chairs and telephones.

There were some things in here that make me laugh, (a lot), like Bust Cream. I wonder how many women purchased it back in the day, or the bust developer?

Jewelry, watches, and all sorts of apparel are included. I find the descriptions very helpful, not just for details about the fabric, but also for the way people described the fashions back then.  For instance, what we would refer to as a dress shoe with a heel for women were referred to as sandals. Waist denim overalls we call jeans.

Captain Cavedweller happened to catch me looking at the gun section of the catalog and promptly snatched it away from me.

Ever wondered what baby teethers looked like in the 1890s? They've got some in there. You can discover types of candy, popular book titles, selections of garden seeds, musical instruments, china patterns, and so much more.

If you are writing a story set in the late 1800s or early 1900s, this book is a great resource to have on hand to find out what every day products were available, what they were called.

And if you aren't writing a story - it's certainly a fun way to spend an hour or two, perusing all those old, fascinating items.

Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen one story at a time. Her bestselling sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with realistic characters.
When she isn’t writing or consuming copious amounts of chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, and fondly recalls the days of her youth spent on an Eastern Oregon farm.

She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.

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  1. Hi Shanna,
    I could get lost in books like that! It's so interesting to see the prices, and the items that are no longer in existence today. I imagine you could get fun ideas for a story too. A huge book that I have used is Dressed for the Photographer -- Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900. It describes in depth the fashion and the materials used in the clothes of ordinary people and also the names of the their hairstyles. Maids, children, young men, etc. In my writing, I tend to skip over dressing my characters...I just don't care much what they are wearing (although I know readers do). This book comes in real handy for that!

    1. Oh, thanks for sharing that resource, Kathryn! So appreciated. I love the fashions and clothing styles and often include little details in my stories!

  2. When I am researching the newspapers for my non-fiction, and some fiction, I always take a look at the ads and personals. Like you, I find them endlessly fascinating. Now I'll need to go look for this one. Thank you for a great post. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

    1. Thanks, Doris! I could spend hours (okay, days) pouring over old newspapers. They are fascinating!

  3. Shanna-- what a helpful post! I've just fallen in love with Sears and Roebuck historical catalogs, and have only recently discovered them. They're a super helpful resource for authors, historians, and I imagine my 95-year old grandmother would get a kick out of it. I've thought of buying her one for Christmas. She'll have hours of genuine enjoyment reflecting on days gone by. Thank you for a beautiful post, Shanna!

    1. Thanks, Kristin! What a fun idea for your grandmother. Not only would she get a kick out of it, I bet it would jog her memory for some fun stories!