Sears catalogs online archive provides a glimpse of history

Have you ever wondered what kind of phone your great-grandfather might have bought in the age of smartphones?, an online repository of historical records and a web service for building family trees, has spent the last year working with retail conglomerate Sears Holdings Corp. 1993.

Utah-based, which claims six billion searchable names worldwide, says it has added nearly a century of consumer goods to its website to help users connect their ancestors to artifacts. in the past.

Popular items included a 1901 box and folding camera from Kenwood for $8.25, a 1930 Silvertone portable record player for $19.95, and a $545 vintage color television from 1970 that boasted a ” auto tint lock” for color quality.

The evolution of the telephone is also told through Sears catalogs, with Lerner’s telegraph, the precursor to the telephone, available in 1901 for $1.69; followed by a wall-style telephone for less than ten dollars in 1909, leading to the popular rotary phones of the 1950s and 1960s. Even a 1990 cordless phone from AT&T for $179.44 has a place in the archives.

Archived catalogs aren’t relegated to just gadgets. They include clothes and clothing as well as games, tools (1901 Boss Pig Extractor Forceps, anyone?), musical instruments, and other household items that were once available for purchase. Whole houses are listed in the 1910 catalog; Customers could buy a house building kit for $2,000.

The decision to archive catalogs will not provide any sort of cyber shopping for Sears this holiday season, as the archives do not provide direct shopping opportunities and many items are no longer available.

But Quinton Atkinson, director of content acquisition for, says the company wasn’t interested in showing consumer products. “We wanted to offer iconic collections so users could find ancestors and then search the catalog for the type of clothing they might wear or the tools they might use.”

Sears catalogs were first launched in 1888, under the RW Sears Watch Company. The company, later known as Sears, Roebuck & Co., stopped printing its spring and fall catalogs in 1993 as retail moved away from catalog shopping, but it then began putting its catalogs online in 2001. The Sears fall 1965 catalog consisted of a whopping 1,810 pages of items; This year, the Sears Holiday Wishbook, which is still in print, is 128 pages. “

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