Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Catalogs -Eaton's 1909, 1913

Country trip 1909 era: Edith, Flo, unknown friend, with consorts. No chaperone in sight. But then the Nicholsons had no money, so they didn't need to be protected. I know from other photos that the other person in the party, likely taking the picture, was a young girl.

I am very pleased today, if my eyeballs are not. I have discovered that three Eaton's catalogs are online, in the public domain, the ones for 1900, 1909, 1913.

Yesterday I decided I needed to see what kinds of 'things' are available in catalogs of this era. I had already purchased a CD of the 1906 Sears catalog.

I downloaded some pages from that CD and printed it out and then made my other happy discovery.

There's no better way to get into the mind-set of people in that era (apart from the letters) than to peruse these catalogs. The best thing, advertising in those days was very explicit. Items are generally described in detail, especially the clothing.

I have already consulted the catalog to adjust some of my story. The part about a ribbon. Well, I assumed a ribbon is just that, something to put around a gift or maybe in the hair. That's all a ribbon is to me, born in 1954. But ribbons were actually accessories for clothing. They came in a wide variety of colours, materials and sizes. Since people made their own clothing, these ribbons made thoughtful gifts in themselves

I will read more and more pages of these catalogs, for inspiration. I will also compare the 1909 and 1913 catalog for evidence that life changed big time during those year. Proof enough: the catalog doubled in size!

My favorite part so far: the medicines and 'tonics.' The more things change the more things stay the same, it seems.

The Nicholsons were always worried about colds and illness, so they likely took a lot of these tonics. Oddly, many tonics contained alcohol, although the ingredient was not listed so as not to discourage those temperance types.

One of the most popular tonics for women, selling millions of bottles over the decades, was Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Tonic. (Gee, I take my Greens Plus concoction and I drink my wine.)

Pinkham's advice to women of the day to stay healthy: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, eat coarse bread, drink fresh water, get fresh air and exercise, and drink Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable tonic once a day. Hmmm. No wonder she sold so much of her tonic, her marketing people employed state-of -the-art bubble-speak.