by Deeanne Gist
I think every waiting room in America ought to have a copy of Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s 1897 catalog. They reprinted it back in 1997 as part of their 100 year anniversary celebration and I can’t tell you how much fun it is to thumb through the 800 page tome.
It gives such a fabulous window into that time in our country’s history. Available for ordering was everything from cod liver oil to a top-of-the-line carriage! The section that intrigues me the most is the one focused on health. It offers “nerve and brain pills,” a bottle of “liquor habit cure,” and a “corset shoulder brace” to help ladies stand up straight. I’ve heard that in some catalogs they offered cocaine, called “coca wine,” as a suggested cure for sleeplessness and despondency, but I didn’t see any in this particular edition.
What I did see, though, was an entry that never ceases to give me a chuckle: the “princess bust developer.” It’s shaped like a plunger and is touted as a “new scientific help to nature.” Ha! Such a find was way too illuminating to be kept secret, so I included one in my book, Courting Trouble.
Problem is, no one in the book (other than the store proprietor) seems to know what it is. They use it to trap mice, to put names in for a drawing and all sorts of things. Such fun!
I wonder what people 100 years from today will find amusing (or shocking) about our 2009 Sears catalog. Any ideas?
P.S. A “chronograph” is a stopwatch, otherwise known as a “horse timer.” J