A Nostalgic Look at the Sears Christmas Catalog
I recall growing up in the 1960s when one of the most anticipated events in the Christmas season was the arrival of the Sears catalog at our home. My brothers and I would take turns (honestly!) going through the toy pages and making our lists for Santa based on what we saw there.
Pictured here from the 1957 Sears catalog are some of the items featured for girls and boys. They are stereotypical, with western cowboy gear for the boys and dishware and cooking items for the girls. But they are also reflective of the innocence of the times, and for that reason, it’s fun to look back on those earlier Christmases.
The cowboy page says, “They’re all Roy Rogers”—meaning the brand name on the clothing items. Roy Rogers was the wildly popular American cowboy singer and actor during the 1940s and 50s. It seems that every little boy wanted to be a cowboy in the 1950s. And in 1957, all the accoutrements were available, from western style shirts and jackets, to gloves, spurs, belts and cowboy hats. A trick lasso was also available for a mere 84 cents.
Another cherished Christmas gift for boys was the electric train. Shown here are Allstate train sets made by Marx. As you can see by the photo, the tracks were not very complex, but in the days before video games and the complicated toys of today, an electric train was a very exciting gift for any boy.
The typical Christmas gifts for girls were baby dolls and anything to do with homemaking. Tea sets were very popular. On the catalog page, the two sets on the left are plastic, and the two on the right are made of real china. They also offered an assortment of cake and pastry mixes, along with the pans and other tools necessary to make them. And at the base of the page is a miniature kitchen and dining room set, complete with miniature “toaster, coffee pot, broom, dust pan, 2 saucepans” and all a young lady would need to acquaint herself with her future duties as a housewife. For those who cringe at the thought of “housewife” gifts for young girls, there was hope—in another 10 years the newly liberated Twist and Turn Barbie became available, making her the new role model for young girls.
Then there were fashion dolls. Today, trendy figures are popular. Back then, they were very girly and sophisticated.
Shown on the left are the Happi-Time Glamour Girls dolls. These fashion dolls were available in a range of sizes (18 inches, 20 inches and 22 inches). The Revlon Walking dolls were 18-inch tall fashion dolls that were sold in a variety of different outfits, but also had 3 major series of outfits available to purchase separately to dress them in. Also included on this page is a Shirley Temple doll, which must have been enjoying a resurgence of popularity at the time. They were first released beginning in the mid-1930s and continuing through the 1940s. Unlike the original doll that was made of composition, the Sears doll was made of “vinyl plastic that feels like real skin”.
Of course, the catalog also featured plenty of pages for Mom and Dad (and husband and wife).
Did you use the Sears Catalog to create your wish list for Santa? We’d love to hear your stories about this once detailed yet focused, and cherished, publication.