Friday, December 23, 2022

Our Ancestors Knew When the Holiday Season Began

Sears Roebuck Catalog, 1898
The Sears Catalog, Our Ancestors - America's History
1972 Sears Fall Winter Catalog, pg7
I was asked this week what were my favorite memories of Christmas and the holiday season. I got all giddy remembering the Sears Catalog.  When you live in 1960's Kansas, and your parents were on a teachers budget, your connection to the world was EASILY the Sears Winter Catalog.  Not about buying clothes for me, I could sew. but I needed to know the styles. Yep, 1972 plaid? Loved it, made the skirt and dress, asked for the sweater. 

The catalog closed generational gaps. 
Oh yeah, supposed to be talking about ancestors! Nothing else to talk about with the grandparents? We'd just ask them about the catalog. Grandma, with a spoon in one hand stirring slop in her hot-in-December, Lyons, KS kitchen, would tell us, by memory the page number of what she had saved for. I called it her seasonal "bragging rights." Grandpa, well the new coat which he only wore when he went to the "cities."  Yep that usually meant Great Bend or Hutchinson.  That's as far as you go in the Kansas winters. 

1968 Sears, Fall Winter Catalog, p469

Wars, Great Depression. and Disasters, Presidential Elections
How this catalog recorded and included the current events was quite creative, but all included! Even the 1899 Alaskan Goldrush via the Klondike shoes and the San Francisco 1906 earthquake. 
Fall 1908, pg770

Where to Find Catalogs Digitized?

Was your ancestor memorialized with a Sears, Roebuck Tombstone or Monument?
1908, pg560

Article: The Modesto Bee, 1 Mar 1977, pg 65; newspaperscom

Note from Author:
Please know that we are aware Sears' [had a]complicated history with black customers. I have posted this link should others wish to have more information on the topic. 

Sears, Roebuck catalog did allow African Americans to shop circumventing Jim Crow racists practices and laws. However, the catalog and stores' inventories and practices created had a rather rocky relationship with black-America. Sears was active in the consumerization of stereotypes (i.e. Chicken Snatcher, Jockey man, Minstrel figures, etc.) and treated employees and shoppers with the same segregation practices as other stores. 

Still, this mail order catalog brought cheer to the season for many, and connects us once again to our ancestors.

Happy Holidays!

Kathleen Brandt
Be Historically Correct
Accurate Accessible Answers

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