Thinking of Christmas

The arrival of the Christmas catalog brings about thoughts of Christmas


| December 1998



Pen knife

Pen knife

A typical farm family in the fall of 1930 would probably have been thinking of Christmas, despite the hard times. Mother, Grandma and the kids, and maybe even Dad and Grandpa, would have pored over Montgomery Ward's Fall and Winter 1930-31 catalog with Ben Franklin on the cover. The adults would have chosen practical gifts, even though they may have had some secret desires, while the younger folks were more likely to give in to "the wants," and put too much on their wish lists.

On page 3 of the catalog, the "Brilliant and Charming New York Society Women Who Now Serve on Ward's Fashion Board" were introduced. These worthies included Mrs. Morgan Belmont, "one of the best dressed women in New York society," and Mrs. John Harriman, "noted for her beauty and chic." Also featured were Miss Anne Rittenhouse, "internationally famous stylist," as well as Miss Ethel Boston, "Ward's stylist, famous for her chic and her knowledge of what the well-dressed woman in New York accepts in fashions."

Our farm wife might dream of ordering a black, "All Wool Trico Broadcloth" coat with "thick soft pelts of black, wolf-dyed Manchurian dog fur in shawl collar and pointed cuffs." For just $19.95, milady could follow the example of "every chic French woman (who) counts on (the coat) as the 'piece de resistance' of many a charming costume."

Mrs. Farmwife then may have imagined herself looking glamorous in one of the eight pages of cloche-type hats that were priced from 79 cents to $3.95. Under the heading "Your Figure is as Correct as Your Corset," eight pages of undergarments were pictured, as well as pure silk stockings costing from 85 cents to $1.79 a pair. "With a Bow to Paris," Ward's offered frocks ranging from a pure silk ($13.95) to a washable cotton (98 cents). She may have dreamed of fine dining with a Rogers Brothers silver plated tableware service for 12, guaranteed for 35 years and costing $22.75, to complement the 65-piece set of imported Bavarian china for $25.95. After dinner, they could listen to the Airline seven-tube radio that cost a whopping $96 (complete with tubes and antenna). If only they could afford a self-starting Powerlite, 110-volt light plant to make their own electricity, she thought, but it was out of the question at $179.95.

Coming back to earth, our farmwife completed her own short Christmas list. Her one indulgence: a box of Coty face powder at 89 cents, and then, turning practical, a pair of warm, wool gloves at 49 cents, and a polished steel 12-inch skillet that cost 62 cents.

Fifteen-year-old Johnny hated his old knicker suit, especially since the trousers now hardly reached his knees. He longed for a new suit like the nice wool and silk, single-breasted one with a vest and two pairs of long pants for only $7.69. He also dreamed of speeding along on a Hawthorne Flyer bike equipped with a headlight, horn, package carrier and tool case, all for $31.50. A Springfield, single-shot .22 rifle at $4.29, along with a couple of Rover Boys or Tom Swift books at 46 cents each, finished Johnny's list.