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Old Catalog Reprint: Reflection of Another Time

While looking through some of my books recently, I came across a reprint of the 1909 Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog. Yes, you’re right. I’ve written about the prices in some old catalogs before. But it has been awhile. So, in view of the high prices of about everything you buy these days, I decided to write a little more about some of the prices that were advertised in that cata-log of bygone days.
The high cost of gasoline is probably on most people’s minds these days. While Sears, Roebuck and Co. didn’t sell gasoline, it soled about everything else. To digress a little, I remember when gasoline was about 30 cents per gallon. It wasn’t unusual to pull up to a service station and tell the attendant: “A dollar’s worth please.” A dollar’s worth wouldn’t get you far these days. I see in the papers that gasoline is expected to come down somewhat this summer. I certainly hope so.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. was a huge business. It was convenient method for rural folks to pur-chase many of the products they needed. The vast Sears, Roebuck and Co. inventory was as close as the rural family’s mailbox. The company once sold houses. I’m told there are at least two Sears homes in Mountain City.
The Sears motto was: Cheapest Supply House On Earth.” It also claimed “Our Trade Reaches Around the World” The front cover of the catalog boasts “Capital and Surplus over One Million Dollars. And, don’t forget that was when a dollar was worth a dollar.
I’ll get back now to prices of other goods that were shown in the old catalog. In the watch sec-tion of the catalog there were pocket watches as low as $1.23. Gold rings were as low as $7.60 and less. I would sure like to have a few at that price today. Fountain pens were a little over $2.00 and we might remember ballpoint pens didn’t come along until later. Clocks that would be worth a lot of money today as antiques were priced in the $2.00 to $8.00 range. Can you believe a new piano for $89.00 or an organ for $24.35? For the violin playing wannabe you could buy a violin priced from $1.95 to $22.45. Banjoes could be bought for from $2.45 to $19.65.
The Columbia Graphophones (or talking machines as they were often called) were priced from $7.50 to $30.00. Those machines used the cylinders type records. There were also for sale re-cord players that used the flat discs. Those were listed as Harvard Talking Machines. Other items pictured were (crude by our modern standards) washing machines, typewriters and cook stoves. The stoves were priced as low as $25.07. There were also silk neckties for 19 cents each. New men’s suits were priced at a little over $8.00.
It is interesting to note that 1909 was also the year Henry Ford started selling the famous Model T, the car that put America on wheels.
All this just goes to show how much things have changed but at the same time the advancement that has occurred. We certainly have many more conveniences than folks had then.