take THAT Montgomery Ward!
May 26, 2006 12:18 PM   Subscribe

The Zobo! Spanish-American Chess Men! Where can you find these amazing products, including Sanitary Belt Pads the Toilet Mask, or a handy goat harness, at amazing, rockbottom prices? The Sears, Roebuck Catalog, of course. Everything you could need for the modern American family! They did houses (1, 2) even. Starting in 1888 and mostly selling watches, this venerable institution of consumerism spent its first 10 years rapidly growing and adding products, lasting for over 100 years before finally folding in 1993. The catalog still stands as a detailed historical document of what the average American would buy to get through life. They make a fun collector's item, too (1902 available on CD-ROM as well). [ This post inspired by the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalog blog. ]
posted by tweak (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
apologies for the slightly awkward transition in the middle of that, as well as for the comma that got away from me after sanitary belt pads and found its way down to righ after 'The Sears, Roebuck Catalog. damn.
posted by tweak at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2006

One of the most-pored-over books of my childhood was a mildly abridged (you only need so many pages of ancient shoes) size-reduced (font size ideal for small children) version of the 1901 (I think) Sears Roebuck catalogue. Dunno where it is now. I hope it didn't get thrown out.

I remember many details. Like, for instance, the refreshing note next to the various Flobert rifles saying that Sears did not actually recommend them, and advised saving up for a better gun.

Now that, right there, is marketing. That's where it peaked. All downhill since then.
posted by dansdata at 12:45 PM on May 26, 2006

We once owned a house that had an oak staircase from Sears, circe 1897. The rest of the wood in the house is maple -- it was very odd to have an oak staircase in the north UP, but then we found the stair in an old catalog, and realised why it was there. Floors are easy, a staircase (especially one with two corners) not so much, and it was easier to just order one from the catalog.
posted by jlkr at 1:13 PM on May 26, 2006

I wonder if the "S" on the chimney was a trademark of Sears - the old house we rented before we bought had a big metal S on the chimney and we could not figure out, for the life of us, why it was there.

And now I might have just found out.
posted by mckenney at 1:54 PM on May 26, 2006

I wonder if the "S" on the chimney was a trademark of Sears - the old house we rented before we bought had a big metal S on the chimney and we could not figure out, for the life of us, why it was there.

I've seen several Sears homes and not one of them has an S on the chimney. I asked my dad about the S on the chimney of a house in my hometown when I was a kid and he told me it was called a landau bar. I have no idea whether he was correct, but that's the only answer I ever got on the subject.

FWIW, the 2nd home my wife and I bought was an old kit house from Montgomery Wards and there was no M on the chimney.
posted by buggzzee23 at 3:35 PM on May 26, 2006

Well, the "S" looks identical to this picture. Whatever it is, it is certainly non-functional.
posted by mckenney at 5:45 PM on May 26, 2006

Nice link, mckenney. Here is another Sears home from that collection with a traditional landau bar. There are several examples of both chimney ornaments in my SoCal hometown and the homes all seem to be built during the 20s or 30s. My dad always assumed the S was a variation of the traditional landau bar. The bar dates back to horse and carriage days when it served as a hinge for convertible tops and is still seen as an ornamental accessory on American hearses.

I'm hoping someone here has the authorative answer to how landaus and Ss came to be associated with chimneys.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:52 PM on May 26, 2006

Previously - It came from the 1971 Sears Catalog!!

There was also a post about scans of the 1979 Christmas Wishbook, but I can't pull it up (I bookmarked the link, but is dead).

However, while looking I discovered that people are sharing a large number of Sears scans on flickr.
posted by Chuckles at 9:00 PM on May 26, 2006

Another post about the Sears catalog, this time dedicated to Sears houses: finally, affordable housing!

I was of the impression that Sears houses and Craftsman houses were the same thing, but apparently not..
posted by Chuckles at 9:11 PM on May 26, 2006

I could swear there are a few of those Sears Modern Homes in the towns near where I grew up.
posted by Trinkers at 9:18 PM on May 26, 2006

More MetaFilter on early 20th century kit houses: Aladdin Houses. Sadly, the links are all dead, but google is up to the task.
posted by Chuckles at 9:23 PM on May 26, 2006

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