Trade Catalogues and the American Home

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Trade Catalogues and the American Home explores domestic consumerism, life and leisure in America between 1850-1950. This resource presents a wealth of highly illustrated primary source documents that highlight commercial tastes and consumer trends and provide a valuable visual record for a breadth of interdisciplinary study.

Trade catalogues have been a prominent feature in commerce and manufacturing from the eighteenth century to the present day. Highly illustrated, they are an essential visual record of a variety of products and facilitate research into popular culture, material culture, social norms and attitudes, as well as the history of marketing, business, and technology.

These documents provide evidence about the evolution of distribution and communication systems linking manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers across the emerging United States and globally. They document the changing commercial tastes and fashions of the consumer over a period of rapid growth, expansion and crisis (both at home and overseas), revealing contemporary prices and economic expenditure for households and individuals on a range of products.

The study of trade catalogues, cards and marketing ephemera provides opportunities for interdisciplinary research in many areas including:

  • Material culture
  • Social history
  • History of business and marketing
  • The rise of mail order and department stores
  • The role of women; both within the home and without
  • The changing nature of consumerism
  • The idea of the ‘American Dream’
  • Mass production
  • The effects of conflict on business and consumerism
  • Consumer habits and purchasing power

Coverage: 1850-1950