Shopping Through the Ages: 1896

I’ve been perusing the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog again.  I just can’t help myself.  I’ve decided to start a weekly post about neat things I find each year as I “shop through the ages”.

I love seeing things that my ancestors may have bought.  Some seem silly, but then again – have you ever seen the stuff they sell on infomercials at night??  Times haven’t changed that much, have they?

This week, I am highlighting the 1896 Spring Catalog.  Come shopping with me.:)

  • A combination child’s carriage and chair. This looks like quite the contraption!  Being a mother, I can appreciate how nice it is to have your baby tied down for a bit.  I’m only partially kidding.  There are so many things for them to get into!  And this is the age before the exersaucer – and Cheerios (Or maybe not.  I don’t know how long Cheerios have been around).  Anyway, the chair actually lowers and the wheels come out.  You can then push your baby around the house.  I don’t know that it would be appropriate for outside though.  The wheels look a bit tipsy to me.
  • “Delay is dangerous when bargains like this are flying around”.  I love the ad campaign to sell this couch, which is billed as “The Greatest Thing in The World”. 
  • How about a telephone?  I’d love to have one of these antiques someday.
  • Or a “concert roller organ”?  I wonder what the quality of the music this produced was.
  • A “Scholar’s Companion” whatever that is.  I couldn’t quite figure it out.  Is it a small safe to lock your special possessions inside? Any ideas?
  • What about a full beard – or maybe just a goatee?  These couldn’t have looked real.  Why on earth would someone have needed these?  Maybe for a play?  I can’t imagine someone actually walking around town in one of these – even if you spent the extra money for the “ventilated” version.
  • Anybody up for a board game?  How about “The Rival Doctors”? It is the “race for a rich patient by the doctors of a country village”. 
  • Maybe you’re in the market for a new hat.  Doesn’t this one look comfortable?
  • What kid wouldn’t want to wear this?  Doesn’t exactly make you want to run outside and climb a tree, does it?
  • I have to admit that after having nursed 5 babies myself, I have often wondered how on earth women could possibly feed their babies when they were wearing a corset. I could imagine some very hungry, screaming infants out there, waiting for their moms to “get to the food” so to speak.  Apparently, they had nursing corsets!  Really!
  • Don’t slouch around your mom.  She might make you wear one of these shoulder braces! “A Cure for Round Shoulders”.
  • I can’t imagine living without a full bathroom in the house. I suppose if you have to have a “toilet set” though, it might as well be pretty. It lists the different pieces included in the set.  Does anyone know what the difference between a chamber and a slop jar are?  Just curious.  I’m sure that neither had a very nice function.
  • Could you see yourself cruising around the neighborhood on this? I would imagine that you’d end up pushing it more than actually riding.
  • What’s that you said? Huh?  Still can’t hear you, Sonny!
  • Wow, cameras have come a long way! 
  • And I’ll leave you with this: a picture of a full dining room from 1896.

See you next time, when we shop through 1897!

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  • MN Family Historian - April 23, 2011 - 8:57 am

    Fun post! That chair/carriage thing looks like a death trap to me.

    The organ is the kind that organ grinders used to play. I wonder if the monkey comes separately? The latest issue of the Minnesota Genealogist had a story about Italian immigrants, including an organ grinder nicknamed “Monkey John,” who was quite rich.

    The cheapest camera was listed for $22.50, so based on inflation (CPI), it would cost $603 today! ($1 @ 1896 = $26.80 @ 2011) Definitely not a hobby for kids back then.ReplyCancel

    • Jen - April 28, 2011 - 1:37 am

      Maybe it was the Italian immigrants buying up the organs?ReplyCancel

  • Lori - April 23, 2011 - 10:24 am

    I LOVE this stuff. I have been going through some of my old newspapers looking for interesting items to share. Thanks for posting these!ReplyCancel

  • Shaz - April 23, 2011 - 3:05 pm

    I had a wooden high chair that folded
    over backwards to become a chair and
    table for the child. I would not
    remember this except it was used for
    my younger brother 10 years later. I tried
    looking for one to post the photo, but
    the ones I found had already been
    auctioned off.ReplyCancel

  • Sheri Fenley - April 23, 2011 - 5:09 pm

    Catalog shopping is going to be the financial ruin of me. I am a hopeless addict. I go crazy when something I ordered isn’t on my doorstep in a couple of days. I wonder how long our ancestors had to wait?ReplyCancel

    • Jen - April 28, 2011 - 1:34 am

      I don’t know Sheri. I’ll have to see if I can find the answer somewhere in the catalog. Probably a lot longer than a couple of days though!! :) ReplyCancel

  • Pat Kuhn - April 24, 2011 - 12:03 am

    Having nursed 3 children I loved the nursing corset. I wonder about it coming in White or drab. what color is drab?ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - April 24, 2011 - 11:57 pm

    What a wonderfully fun post! I recently found google newspapers and have been having fun looking and clothes to date photographs. Of course as I “read” the newspapers, I have to stop and look at all the ads. It takes me way too long….ReplyCancel

  • Wendy B. - April 27, 2011 - 2:30 pm

    I love the FULL BEARDS!! My friend, Lorna, keeps trying to get me to knit one for her. I’d rather just purchase it from Sears Roebuck!ReplyCancel

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