History in Review
Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue: Spring & Summer 1895
Catalogue No. 57. By the Montgomery Ward & Co. With a New Introduction by Boris Emmet. (Dover Publications, Inc., New York: 1969. Pg. xiv, 624. b&w Line Illustrations.) ISBN-10: 0-486-22377-9, ISBN-13: 978-0-486-22377-3.
This book can be ordered directly from Dover Publications at: www.doverpublications.com
Reviewed by Auggie Moore - August 16, 2010
Whether you lived in the country or the city, it was always an exciting day when a mail order catalog arrived - especially those from the big mail order companies such as Sears, Roebuck & Co., or Montgomery Ward & Co. This catalog carried a hodgepodge of items from clothing to farm implements and just about everything in-between. With the publication of an unabridged facsimile of the Montgomery Ward & Companies, Catalogue No. 57 for the Spring and Summer of 1895, Dover Publications has given modern readers a taste of what it must have been like to receive such a catalog. Just imagine living out on a farm or in a small city, where stores of any sort, let alone department stores, where few and far between. Before the advent of the mail order catalog you might have had to travel days to 'do your shopping' or sit around and hope that an itinerant peddler would come around with just what you needed. Now, can you imagine getting a book that included thousands of pictures and descriptions of things you could buy, and the hours that must have gone into deciding how to spend your hard earned monies on both necessities and luxury items - all in the comfort of your own home?
Filled with more than 25,000 items (most of which are accompanied by line drawings) the Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog is a priceless resource for historians, museum curators, antique collectors, writers, artist, and many more. As the book declares, it carries "supplies for every trade and calling on earth." In 1895, this catalog gave people the opportunity to order anything they could want including prescription eyeglasses, bathroom fixtures, books, clothing, farm implements, medicines, sports equipment, crockery, pianos, typewriters, jewelry, bicycles, microscopes, guns, fencing, lawn mowers, toilet paper, stoves, baby carriages, dog powered butter churns, saddles, sewing machines, household furnishings, buggies, windmills, and just about everything else in-between. It is truly amazing to see the broad range of products that were available to the average consumer in 1895 - and what these items cost. It is also informative to see how many of the items for sale in 1895 are still in common use today.
Modern readers, like those of old, are bound to spend hours pouring over this fascinating book. All items are accompanied by descriptions, most with illustrations, and all with pricing and ordering information - although I don't recommend sending in an order, I very much doubt that it will be honored nowadays. As well, throughout the catalog you'll find handy tips such as "Decay...is the result of neglect. Keep things painted and they will last. Of course we want to sell you the paint, but not unless our price is right. See if it is..." (Page 345).
Coming in at 624 pages, this catalog provides a unique glimpse into a world that was - and the breadth of American retail prowess in the late 1800's. The Dover edition of this Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog is further enhanced by the inclusion of a new introduction by Boris Emmet, a former professor at John Hopkins University. This introduction provides an overview of the history of the Montgomery Ward company, the advent of the mail order business, and its place in American history and culture.
From beginning to end, the Spring & Summer 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog makes for fascinating reading and it is a book that is sure to fire the imagination and to delight anyone with an interest in the past.
Bloomingdale's Illustrated 1886 Catalog, by the Bloomingdale Brothers.
Famed merchants' extremely rare catalog depicting about 1,700 products: clothing, housewares, firearms, dry goods, jewelry, more. Invaluable for dating, identifying vintage items.
Franklin Simon Fashion Catalog for 1923, by the Franklin Simon & Co.
This catalog has over 500 illustrations of fur-trimmed evening wraps, bridal gowns, and casual day wear. There are also a variety of accessories for men, stylish clothing for children, and a complete array of costume jewelry, hats, shoes, handbags and the like.
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