Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Historical Christmas Catalogs

It is Christmas shopping season and the season of children making their Christmas lists. Today, I'd imagine many children have their own Amazon accounts where they can create their Christmas lists, or their parents may log in and allow the children to search and browse and create their lists.

I remember as a child the enormous pleasure I and my siblings had, paging through the Christmas catalogs every year. From around Thanksgiving until the days leading up to Christmas, we'd browse through the JC Penney and Spiegel Christmas Catalogs and the "Sears Wishbook" and Wards "Christmas Book". The first time through, we'd just look and read the descriptions. We'd make notes about the items we considered putting onto our Christmas list along with their page numbers. Then we'd go through again, this time really studying the pictures and descriptions to see what we really wanted. The first list was always the longest, then, as we got closer and closer to Christmas, we'd narrow down that list to what we really wanted.

A friend of mine, who I hung out with since around 7th grade, has always been a comics, toy and candy geek. Martha Quinn, an original MTV VJ, has even called him the "Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy". He has a website called "Collecting Candy", which can be found at This site will remind you of all the candy you grew up with and how their wrappers have changed through the years.

Another project of his is his Christmas catalog project. He has scanned in the pages of dozens of Christmas catalogs from Sears, JC Penney, Spiegel, FAO Schwarz and others, from 1937 to 1996, and put them online for the world to see. Looking through them, the 1970-1984 catalogs are like old friends. I read through them so many times each year growing up, I still have some of the pages memorized.

I asked for and received this train set at the bottom of the page.
For you younger genealogists, take a look at the Amazon from back in the day that your parents and grandparents made their Christmas lists from. For those that are my age or older, take a browse through your own childhood and remember the days of Christmas past and the toys you dreamed of and hopefully found under your tree.

The web site for this project is and the catalogs can be found here:

If you like what you see, pass the link around to your family and friends and let Jason know that Matt Miller sent you.


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