Why we loved Sears: The Sears catalog

Leafing through a Sears catalog, circling what you want, may be the brand’s biggest gift to our cultural zeitgeist.

The telephone-book sizedanthology of anything you’d ever needor want stands either as atestament to the company’s business acumen or our never-ending desire to buy quickly and easily.

The catalog was the late 1800s version of Amazon, feeding the mail-order merchandise craze and fueling Americans’ need for convenient shopping, an addiction we haven’t overcome.

The first catalog published in 1888 with watches and jewelry. It expandedto buggies, baby carriages and musical instrumentssix years later. Then came encyclopedias, washing machines, tools, bean bag chairs, bell bottomsand Nintendos.

The “Big Book” catalog ended in 1993, the company said, but other specialty catalogs remained.

The book reflected what we wanted at the time. Combined, they’re a history of our commercial desires.

Here’s a flash back at what was once popular:

Hercules Luster Chino

Move over Banana Republic.The Hercules Luster Chino existed back when men were men and waistlines were chest high. At just over $3 a pair in 1957, they were also a steal.

The ‘smart economy’ dresses and robes

These went for bargain-basement prices in this undated ad pushing the “all year round comfort and – smart economy.”

Regrettably, we didn’t mince words back then. The catalog touted dresses “cut generously” for “the larger-than-average woman.” However, it rebounds by repeating”frocks” – one is describedas “fashion-wise.” The description “full puff sleeves” also accompanies one of the many options.

A stove for under $15

I mean, stop it with this Reservoir Cook Stove deal.

This 1900 ad enticesyouwith the “SEND NO MONEY” header but hooks you withadded perks such as handsome nickel trimmings and an extra large porcelain-lined reservoir. It came to your house for free in a handful of states, but cost $1 if you were in “any other state east of the Rocky Mountains.”

Plus, check out these old-timey delivery rules. The thing weighed 300 pounds.

“Examine it at yourfreight depot, and if found perfectly satisfactory and the greatest stove bargain you ever saw or heard of, pay the freight $11.50 and freight charges.”

Too-long johns

Full-body men’s summer underwear must have been all the rage at some point. Button-placement be damned, these suckers sold for cents on the dollar. That’s not to mention the finest French balbriggans.

A “Mad Men” world

Betty Draper has nothing on the store models boasting these fortunately named “washable suits.”

Where ’em with or without a blouse, just don’t go anywhere else. At $6.98 a pop, they’d “cost much more elsewhere.”

Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman

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