Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wish Books Depression Era through the 50s

The oldest catalog currently on the WishBookWeb is Spiegel's 1933 catalog, all 64 pages of it. There are exactly 6 pages devoted to children's gifts.

A few highlights from the Depression Era, the year my mammammy would have been 10 and no one in her family would ever dream of being able to afford this kind of luxury.

Diamonds took a hard hit in the depression, as Europe looked poised to start another war after the War to end all Wars. But they were never cheap. Diamond engagement rings as the standard wouldn't take off until well after the close of WWII.  Diamond grading won't become a "thing" until the 50s. The point system used above is based on 100 points = 1 carat. Note there are no rings above with single stones of any size, most with tiny chips that add up to a quarter carat, at best. The most expensive, with 6 small diamonds coming in at 31 points for $79.95 would cost over $1400.00 in today's dollars, in a year when the average salary was $1368.00 ($24K in 2014 dollars)

The oldest Sears Wish Book is from 1937, coming in at 106 pages. I'm sure the idea of a 676 page catalog would have been unthinkable, which is the length the last Sears Wish Book on the site from 1988 came in at. There are 32 pages of things for children. For the girls, 12 pages of baby dolls and 4 pages of housekeeping toys. For the boys, 4 pages of planes, trains, and automobiles. For toddlers, four pages of blocks, tops, and ride-ons including a page of tricycles.


And a two page layout of a toy that apparently both boys and girls can play with... but three guesses who gets to drive the tractor and who gets to sweep out the barn?


And the "Novelty Suits" of Cowboys will show up in every Sears catalog for the next four decades. Here, however, it's boys only.




136 pages, with 42 pages for Children!

176 pages total, 57 pages for kids
One year into WWII...





206 pages total, 64 for kids





Interestingly, these are the only pages of furniture in the catalog. Everything must be going to the war effort.

1944 240 Pages total, 56 for kids

For comparison's sake, a decade later, diamonds are available via catalog sales up to 3/4 carat in size, but at a price that equals $5680 in today's dollars. You can get a 3/4 carat online at Kay's today for $1500.00




39 pages for kids out of 240

The war is over and the boom is on: marriage, babies, and a new home are on the horizon for many the boys who made it home.

A 1 carat diamond engagement ring will now run them $700.00, or over $9100.00 in 2014 dollars. Average annual salary in 1945 is $2900.00 (~$38K)

Furs were back in the catalogs, but the finest offered in Sears in 1945 was marmot. The majority were rabbit furs. There were no pages of furniture this year.

55 kids pages out of 250




finally, I can stop counting. 79 pages for children out of 279
Note woman in green's shoulder to waist ratio




Big jump to next available, 1952, and the catalog has almost doubled to 447 pages



Roy Rogers Rules the 1952 catalog







1956 (462 pages)








1957 (423 pages, the first time it's decreased!)






1958 (436 pages)








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