University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Daily Life

This broad category encompasses clothing, soaps and perfumes, foods, patent medicines, and items for leisure activities, from the 1870s to the beginning of World War II. Evident here is the increasing availability of products and the increasing sophistication of advertising. The growing prosperity of Americans allowed for spending on non-essentials and purchasing items, such as children's toys, which previously had been homemade. Copywriters for clothing and health advertising seem to be the most flamboyant, promising beauty, love, and miraculous cures. The illustrators also offer fantasy, with their idyllic families, cherubic children, and fairytale ladies.

Also included here are the department stores and mail order houses, with names like Sears, Wanamakers, and Lord & Taylor, which are still recognizable today. While they sell a wide variety of goods, they are the direct descendants of the early dry goods merchants who sold clothing, textiles, and household needs.


Clothing and dress


Lord & Taylor
Catalogue of Silks, Dress Goods... New York: The Company, 1879.

This catalog has a wealth of information for those studying clothing and dress. Thousands of items of clothing and linens are described and priced. The illustrations are very detailed and well printed.


Montgomery Ward.
Vehicles of All Kinds: Catalogue C. Chicago: Blakely Printing Co., 1893.

The first of the great mail order houses, Montgomery Ward, sent out its first one-page catalog in 1872. The catalog was directed at farmers and was sponsored by the National Grange, a political and economic organization for farmers. By 1893, the year of the first Sears catalog, Montgomery Ward & Co. advertised that it had capital and surplus of two and a half million dollars.

This 1893 "Special Buggy Catalog" offered all types of non-motorized buggies, wagons, and sleighs. Other specialty catalogs offered that year included furniture, agricultural implements, drugs and patent medicines, books, magic lanterns and views, and shoe findings and leather.


Norfolk and New Brunswick Hosiery Co.
Catalog. Norfolk, Conn.: The Company [1893]

The text includes a history of knitted fabric for underwear. The illustrations are unusual and somewhat disconcerting.


John Wanamaker.
No. 39 Wanamaker's Goods & Prices. Philadelphia: The Company, 1895.

In 1995, after 134 years in business, the John Wanamaker stores closed. It marked the end of an era. A visit to the main store, famous for the giant bronze eagle and Christmas light and organ music extravaganza, was a highlight for generations of Philadelphia's children.


S. F. Myers & Co., New York.
New York Jeweler, Vol. iii, and Trade Price List, No. 30 ... New York: The Company, 1889.

This massive catalog, aimed at the wholesale market, sold all types of jewelry, watches, eyeglasses, and silverware.


Wechsler and Abraham.
Fall and Winter Catalogue, '91 & '92. Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Company, 1891.


John A. Servas Scenic Studio.
Store Displays. Rochester, N.Y.: J.A. Servas Scenic Studio, ca. 1900.

The company manufactured theatrical set designs in addition to store window displays. The illustrated designs range from a painted Thanksgiving Day background to a three-dimensional display with an Egyptian motif.


Mark Cross Company.
Catalog of Leather Goods. London: The Company, [ca. 1900]

Established in 1845, Mark Cross remains an important name in high quality leather goods. This catalog emphasized fitted travel cases, equestrian goods, and writing accessories.


John B. Simpson.
Tailor-made Suits and Skirts. Darby-Philadelphia, Pa.: The Company [1908]

Simpson was a custom tailor who made women's and children's clothing based on measurements mailed to him by clients.


Maurice L. Rothschild
Stetson Hats. Chicago: The Company, 1916.

This catalog takes you back to the days when no gentleman would leave the house without a hat.


A.A. Vantine & Co.
Vantine's, the Oriental Store. New York: J.F. O'Neill for A. A. Vantine & Co., 1917.

The company's advertising copy sounds very much like that of the upscale mail order firms of today, stating that the book "enables you to rest comfortably at home in your easy chair, and, at your leisure, select by mail, with absolute confidence, from the largest collection of Oriental goods in America." Offerings include not only toys, but clothing, perfumes, jewelry, and pottery.


Ovington's Book 1929. New York: The Company [1929].

The artwork on the cover is very similar in style to that used by the New Yorker Magazine during the 1920s. Ovington sold china, crystal, and gift items aimed at the bridal market.


Sears, Roebuck and Company.
[Catalog]. Philadelphia: Sears, Roebuck and Company, 1930.

In 1893, the first Sears catalog was published. The cover proclaimed the company the "Cheapest Supply House on Earth" and referred to the book as the "Consumer's Guide for 1894." This last was no exaggeration as the large catalog was a guide to most of the merchandise then available by mail order. In 1897, the main catalog contained nearly eight hundred pages with a number of smaller specialized catalogs also available.

Although the original audience for the catalogs was the farmer, the Sears catalog became popular throughout the country for its wide range of products. In this catalog for 1930-31, the beginning of the Great Depression, the introduction stated "This is the 'Thrift Book of a Nation.' Thrift is the spirit of today. Reckless spending is a thing of the past. Value and style are predominant. We are ready." From 89 cent dresses and $15 coal stoves to $89 muskrat fur coats and orchard pink bathrooms for $138, Sears could outfit the family and home of a wide range of consumers.


W. D. Hannah Shoe Company.
The Hannah Shoe. New York: The Company, [ca. 1930]

The catalog design and use of color in this catalog are so beautifully done that even the most ordinary shoe looks irresistible.


Monarch Outdoor Garments for Youngsters.
Printer's proof for chromolithographic poster, circa 1930.


Personal products


The Larkin Soap Mfg. Co.
Can We Break the Crust? Buffalo, N.Y.: The Company, [ca. 1890]

Larkin offered its products directly to the consumer, rather than through retail outlets. When buyers purchased a $10 box of soap they also received a premium which could range from a solid oak desk or onyx lamp to a silver-plated tea set. Each box contained over a hundred bars of soap and cosmetics which the buyer was encouraged to resell at a profit.

The figures on the cover resemble storybook characters known as "brownies" drawn by the illustrator and writer Palmer Cox. They were immensely popular during the 1890s and frequently appeared on advertisements and children's products.


Pulvermacher Galvanic Company.
Electricity, Nature's Chief Restorer: Pulvermacher's Electric Belts &C.; Self-applicable for the Cure of Nervous and Chronic Diseases Without Medicine. Cincinnati, O.: The Company, [ca. 1890]

The merging of medical quackery and scientific advancement resulted in this bizarre product which administered low voltage current to the patient through electric belts. It was recommended for everything from tiredness to kidney disease, with special emphasis on reproductive and sexual problems.


Reichardt's Tulip Chest Chocolates.
Printer's proof for chromolithographic poster, circa 1890.


A. A. Marks.
The Use of Aluminum for Artificial Limbs. New York: The Company, 1892.

As the catalog explains, aluminum was not a new metal in 1892, but because of the difficulty of refining, it had been too expensive for most uses. Because of its strength, noncorrosibility, and light weight, it was a vast improvement over other materials available for prosthetics.


Anheuser-Busch Company.
Malt-nutrine, the Greatest of Tonics. Detroit: Calvert Lith. Co., 1896.

This tonic, recommended for various ills, was produced by the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. Each page describes, in verse, the benefits of the tonic to different groups. The verse for the student:

	The student bent on mental work,
	Is wont to grow neglectful,
	And treat his body in a way
	No less than disrespectful,
	Or else, as often happens, too,
	Athletic strife outwears him,
	In either case, this lesson trace,
	Tis Malt-Nutrine repairs him.  


Barker-Moore & Mein Medicine Co.
Barker's "Komic" Picture Souvenir ... Philadelphia, Pa.: The Company, [ca. 1900]

This "souvenir" was meant to be kept. It is a comic book, filled with cartoons, stories and jokes; and all have one of Barker's powders or liniments as the punch line. The humor is based almost entirely on ethnic, racial, or sexual stereotypes.


E.W. Hoyt.
The Teeth, Their Care and Preservation. Lowell, Mass.: E.W. Hoyt, 1901.

This catalog is filled with information focusing on prevention of tooth decay through the use of the Company's Rubifoam dentifrice. The idea that decay was caused by bacteria was apparently a recent one in 1901.


Sen-Sen Chewing Gum.
Printer's proof for chromolithographic poster, 1902.


Richard Hudnut, perfumer.
Toilet Hints Relating to the Richard Hudnut Perfumes and Toilet Specialties. New York: The Company, 1909.

Advertising copy for perfume and cosmetics doesn't seem to have changed much since this 1909 catalog. The descriptions and illustrations are flowery and romantic, the packaging ornate.


California Perfume Company.
Color Plate Catalog Issued Only to Representatives of the California Perfume Company. New York: The Company, [ca.1910]


Coca-Cola Company.
Every Town is Coca-Cola Town.
Printer's proof for chromolithographic poster, circa 1920.


Leisure products


Russell & Richardson.
The Musician's Guide. Boston: The Company, [ca. 1858]

The catalog offers thousands of songs available as sheet music for both singers and instrumentalists. The listings also include the level of difficulty of each piece ranging from beginner level to the most difficult compositions of Chopin, Liszt, and Verdi.


A. Coulter & Co.
Novelties and Notions Wholesale Price List. Chicago: The Company, 1880.

Novelties dealers sold huge quantities of goods from cheap jewelry to magic tricks to books. This catalog was aimed at the small shop owner buying for resale. The cheap paper and printing reflect the low-end market.


Estes & Lauriat.
Silhouettes. Boston: The Company, [ca. 1880]

The sample silhouettes are humorous genre scenes, many with children. Each is signed "Church," but no additional information about the artist or pictures are included.


H.H. Tammen & Co.
Western Echoes: Devoted to Mineralogy, Natural History, Botany, &C, &C. Denver, Colo.: H.H. Tammen & Co., 1882.

This very unusual catalog includes stuffed animal heads and animal rugs, Pueblo Indian pottery and relics, and mineral specimens. Prices ranged from fifty cents for clam shell jewelry to a hundred dollars for stuffed and mounted buffalo heads.


W.G. Walz.
Illustrated Catalogue of Mexican Art Goods and Curiosities, Also Indian Goods. El Paso, Tex.: The Company, 1888.

Items for sale include pottery, gemstones, jewelry, feather work, and woven goods. In writing about Apache Indian goods for sale, the catalog states that the moccasins, bows and arrows, baskets and pottery are "greatly valued by collectors as specimens of the handiwork of a race that is fast disappearing."


C. W. Story.
Descriptive Catalogue of Musical Instruments, Specialties, &c. Boston: The Company, [ca. 1890]

Although simply and inexpensively produced, this catalog contains innovative advertising text and striking woodcuts to promote the products of C. W. Story.


M. C. Lilley Co.
Military and Band Uniforms, Equipments, Banners, and Flags. Columbus, Ohio: The Company, [ca. 1900]

This Columbus, Ohio manufacturer's catalog contains beautiful chromolithographed illustrations and serves as an important resource for the study of color printing as well as costume design.


James F. Marsters.
Catalog. Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Company, [ca. 1900]

As the cover illustration shows, the catalog is aimed at the amateur fisherman; offering a large selection of fancy flies and hooks. Increased leisure time allowed the middle class to pursue a wide variety of hobbies.


Draper-Maynard Co.
Spring & Summer Catalog 1913: D & M Athletic Goods. Plymouth, N.H.: The Company, 1913.

An added feature of the catalog was a team picture and stats for the National and American League champions for the 1912 season. The world champions were the Boston Americans of the American League.


American Mechanical Toy Co.
The American Model Builder Makes Mechanics Easy: working models of the world's mechanical wonders can be built by any boy: the most fascinating and instructive outfit ever invented. Dayton, Ohio: The Company, 1913.

The model builder appears to be a precursor to the erector set, a toy still sold today.


Narragansett Machine Company.
Playground Apparatus. Providence, R.I.: The Company, 1914.

The high cost of the equipment and the seeming prosperity of the children pictured imply that only the wealthier schools could provide such amusements.


American Mask Manufacturing Company.
Illustrated Catalogue of Papier Mache, Linen, Wax, Wire, Gauze, Show and Curtain Masks, Noses, Wigs, Beards, Etc. [Findlay, Ohio: The Company, 1915]

The company offered hundreds of masks for theatrical performances as well as wigs and animal costumes. A great many of the masks reflect racial and ethnic stereotypes.


Ideal Aeroplane & Supply Company.
"Ideal" Model Aeroplanes and Supplies: 1914-1915. New York, N.Y.: The Company, 1914.

The models, which were aimed at the adult hobbyist, were guaranteed to fly. According to the catalog, they were exact scale reductions of the newest "man-carrying aeroplanes."


Victor Talking Machine Company.
New Victor Records : A Special List of Wagnerian Masterpieces, The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, The Twilight of the Gods. Camden, N.J.: The Company, 1924.

The company, which later became RCA Victor and RCA, offered dozens of record catalogs of popular and classical music. This catalog includes plot synopses and discussion of various musical motifs, clearly for the educated listener.


Eastman Kodak Company.
Cine-Kodak and the Kodascope. Rochester: The Company, 1927.

The Cine-Kodak was a motion picture camera for the amateur. Not only could families produce their own home movies, but they could also rent professional releases from Kodascope Libraries which advertised branches throughout the country.


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