More on Vintage Ads and the Evolution of Christmas Shopping

Last week, we took a look at the beginnings of Christmas holiday shopping ads from the 1870s up to the World War I era. Today’s post looks at the “modern” era of post World War I advertising that looked much like the ads I remember growing up in the 1950s and beyond.

By the advent of World War I, Sears catalog shopping had been around for a couple of decades. As a collector of vintage Christmas decorations, I drool at some of the items for sale. If they can even be found today, some of the prices are prohibitive.

What was available by mail? Everything for the Xmas Tree:

Ornaments had become huge sellers as the German tradition of Christmas trees in the home became an American tradition, too. There were angel ornaments, tinsel ornaments, bird ornaments and beads to decorate the tree. Tree toppers were also on offer for just ten cents. There were even Christmas tree musical stands, which I’ve never seen before!

The Ogden Standard advertised very, very practical gifts with Santa in the foreground – furniture. Some very large pieces of furniture!

Sears also offered Christmas felt pennants, which didn’t seem to ever have really caught on, for 3 for 25 cents:

There were tons of Christmas decorations available from Sears.

There were also hundreds of postcards, greeting cards and albums in which to save them.

I am lucky enough to have bought a vintage feather tree very inexpensively over 30 years ago, although not quite at the $1.37 here for the small tree:

Aside from what are now hot collectibles, what did Christmas shopper ads look like from the 1920s onward?

The 1928 Standard from Washington, DC bragged that Santa Claus would appear in person to open the Christmas Toy Store at Woodward & Lothrop.

Banks had created the concept of Christmas Club saving, which benefited both the business and the customers. I remember bank ads in the 1950s encouraging customers to open accounts, but I don’t think my mom ever did.:

The Sunday Star (Washington, DC) in 1929 (right after the stock market crash) sold a full line of Christmas gifts, ranging from wreaths and trees to candy to pocket lighters and electric toasters.

The nation’s capital obviously had affluent people who still had pocket money for elaborate Christmas gifts!

Pre-Depression advertising really was the birth of modern ads and the push to expand Christmas shopping lists. However, as the country emerged from the Great Depression, it headed into World War II.

Soldiers heading to battle could buy rings for their loved ones with easy credit now part of the deal, as found in the Roanoke Rapids Herald in 1941:

What else was available to buy for Christmas? Just about everything. Almost too much, which is the way shopping today is.

There were televisions and even cigars, in an era when smoking was considered quite glamorous.

Notice, too, that there are so many products available that single items, like TVs, are now full page ads.

With new communication methods, advertising had really ramped up at Christmas. Newspapers were widespread by the 1920s, the Sears mail catalog was hugely popular and magazines were found in many homes. Let’s not even talk about TV ads – This year, I saw the first Christmas ad in OCTOBER! By the start of the computer age, ads were to be found everywhere and I have to admit that ads have lost their charm. That huge stack of ads that arrives over Thanksgiving weekend, or any other day for that matter, goes directly into the recycling bin. What a waste of trees!

Speaking of holiday gift buying, have you finished your Christmas shopping?



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