Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sepia Saturday #125 - 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalogue Tableware

In 1897, the Sears, Roebuck and Co. was four years old and sent, post-free, to millions of American homes its catalogue, or as it was known then, Consumers Guide.  The 770 pages listed an amazing array of merchandise of over six thousand items from every conceivable form of artifact from abdominal corsets to fish scalers, from egg beaters to kitchens sinks and from homeopathic medicines to wagons and carriages.  The genius behind the budding American institution was Richard Warren Sears (1863 - 1914), a former railroad station agent and watch salesman.  The catalogue was received eagerly each year by these  families and was pored over diligently as they made their wish lists.  

Sears' company was capitalized at $150,000 in 1895 and twenty years later listed its assets at over one hundred million dollars!  Half of the original start up capital was provided by Aaron Nussbaum who amassed part of his fortune selling ice cream at the Chicago's World's Fair and his brother-in-law Julius Rosenwald, US clothier, manufacturer, business executive and philanthropist.

For this week's Sepia Saturday theme, I am providing two pages from the 1897 Sears catalogue, a true piece of Americana.


Crockery and China
This last picture is a mid-century kitchen from the October 1962 Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  Mid-Century design is a term that describes 20th century developments in modern design,  between 1935 and 1965.  It is now being recognized as a significant design movement.  

Mid-Century Kitchen, Better Homes & Gardens Oct 1962

Why don't you check out what else is heating up this week at Sepia Saturday?


  1. Those catalogue pages are interesting. The first thought that struck me was that the silverware would take a lot of polishing! I’m not sure about relative costs at the time but that looks like a good price for a complete dinner service - Sold!

  2. Superb pictures! They do conjure up the eras they cone from.

  3. If it wasn't in the Sears catalog, you didn't need it.

  4. It's hard to believe that the Sears catalog is no more. To think how successful it was and now gone!

  5. This is so cool! Great take on this week's theme. Did you know that you could even order a home through Sears? Well, the plans and stuff to put it together and of course the stuff to put inside. Genius, really.

    Thanks for the post,

    Kathy M.

  6. I used to love looking through the Sears catalog. I have some advertising postcards of mid-century kitchens that I was thinking of using this week.

  7. I like your spin on this weekend's theme. The Sears catalog influenced so many fashions and trends in everything from kitchenware to clothing. I'm amazed at the design production of so many detailed engravings of the items instead of using photos. How many people worked to produce such a large catalog?

  8. Enjoyed seeing the pictures from the Sears catalog. Did you know Amazon sells a reprint of this 1897 catalog? They also have the 1926 Sears Catalog of small houses and the 1895 Montgomery Wards catalog. I could spend hours looking through these old catalogs. Also like the photo of the mid-century kitchen - such a neat design!

  9. All Those Plates! I Bet The Postmen of America heaved a collective sigh of relief after Sears expired!

  10. A fascinating post - not just for the images but also for the history. Sears must have been the Amazon of its day.

  11. It was always so much fun when the Sears Christmas wish book came in the mail. I used to spend hours with it looking at all the toys. And then using old catalogues to cut out the women to make paper dolls. Good memories. And fun kitchens.

  12. I was never much for the Sears catalogue, preferring Eaton's; never imagined I would eventually work for this company, for a [good] while. I love the inspiration in this post. The kitchen's design still has something relevant today, even if I'd change a few things.
    Just a few...


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