Thursday, October 4, 2018

Nineteenth Century Sporting Goods ...

Eat your heart out, REI. Back in the day, catalogues carried a pelothra of goodies with catalogue writing as uplifting as the 23rd Psalm. Kit Morgan here and today I want to show you that folks wanted to stay in shape back in the 1800s much as we do today. If one couldn't hit the gym, (yes, they had them back then) you could order items to help you stay in shape from a catalog! Take the Columbia Instantaneous Doorway Gymnasium and Parlor Exercising Rowing Machine, for instance.  No ordinary exercise bar, this. It "brightens the eye, quickens the hearing, increases the wind, elevates the mind, increases the appetite, causes good digestion, prevents sickness and bad vices." All for $14.50. Not to mention the excercise in diction one gets just speaking the name!

The afore mentioned ad is from a catalog in 1866.  The Peck and Snyder catalog was filled with all sorts of wonderful items.  Football jerseys, stocking supporters, yachting shoes, Eureka rowing machines, house brand Indian clubs, jockstraps, velocipedes, Excelsior bait pails, mosquito shields for the head and that's not all. One could get gavels, police clubs, secret ballot boxes, trick cigars, ballroom dance guides, even Dutch and Irish dialect readings.  These were the sorts of catalogs that came out when  baseball was two words and a bicycle was $12.50.

You could also buy books of all sorts. Dictionaries, books on etiquitte, the science of self-defense, how to do card tricks and magic. You could even order a book of Honest Abe's jokes.  When it came to sporting-goods and games, you could probably find it in Peck and Snyder's catalog.  For those less inclined to indulge in physical activity, one could order a lawn tent and a hammock or two.

Ordering goods from a catologue back in the 1860's wasn't exactly like ordering from Amazon. For one, the folks at Peck and Snyder recieved hundreds of orders with little more than the company name and city written on the envelope. When looking at the Post Office Guide, they found 28 places of the same city name and in as many different states. Apparently back then, some folks didn't think to add the name of the state when mailing letters. But eventually people's orders made it to Peck and Snyder and were filled. Just think if they had Amazon Prime?

In my book Trail to Clear Creek, I'm sure my characters would have like to have shopped on Amazon before embarking on the Oregon Trail. I wonder if they could have ordered themselves a coverd wagon? Surely their other supplies could have come from there. Unfortunately, the wonder that is Amazon didn't exist back then. Sigh.

But fear not! You can tag along with my characters as they prepare for their journey, disembark from Independence Missouri, and travel the Oregon Trail with them. Oh, and did I mention you'll be traveling with a newly married couple who have five sons between them? The ultimate road trip! You can find the book here.

Until next time, happy reading!

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