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Catalog: An Illustrated History of Mail Order Shopping
Synopses & Reviews
Since 1872 when traveling salesman Aaron Montgomery Ward realized he could eliminate the middleman and sell goods directly to his customers, Americans have had an ongoing love affair with the mail-order catalog, which continues undiminished even in today's online-driven world. The practical can find deals on furniture and clothing in L.L.Bean and Sears, the extravagant can consider his and hers matching helicopters, windmills, hot-air balloons, and submarines in the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Catalog; those looking to get their pulses racing can browse Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch; while our inner swashbuckler can travel the world through the pages of the J. Peterman Owner's Manual where Moroccan caftans, Russian Navy t-shirts, and wooden water buckets from rural China entice the imagination.
In Catalog: The Illustrated History of Mail Order Shopping, Robin Cherry traces the timeline of these snapshots from American history and discovers along the way how we dressed, decorated our houses, worked, played, and got around. From corsets to bell-bottoms, from baby-doll dresses and Doc Martens all the way to iPods, the history of these catalogs is the history of our lives and our culture. GIs during World War II were kept company by the models in the pages of lingerie catalogs; hockey goalies fashioned makeshift shin guards out of them during the Great Depression, and creative children across the country still play with homemade paper dolls cut from clothing catalogs. A number of celebrities got their start modeling for catalogs: Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Heigl, Matthew Fox, and Angelina Jolie. Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan both got their first guitars from the Sears catalog. Organized into categories such as clothing, food, animals, and houses, author Robin Cherry explores the vivid stories behind Sears, Montgomery Ward, Lillian Vernon, Harry and David, Jackson and Perkins, and of course, 45 years of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. Insightful historical commentary places these catalogs in their social context, making this book a visual pleasure and a historically important piece of Americana.
"In this fascinating and fully illustrated study, veteran direct marketer Cherry guides readers through the evolution of the catalog, defining its place in American commerce and culture. Starting with traveling salesman Aaron Montgomery Ward's revelation in 1872, Cherry charts the rise of direct-by-mail stalwarts like Sears, Hammacher Schlemmer, Williams-Sonoma and Neiman Marcus. Beginning at the turn of the century, customers could order all the blueprints and materials they needed to build their own home; more recently, Neiman Marcus set the standard for extravagant gifts in their annual Christmas Book: his and hers Beechcraft airplanes, Swarovski crystal-encrusted Mr. Potato Heads. Cherry packs her book with trivia and colorful characters like Erector set inventor A.C. Gilbert, but the main draw is Cherry's gallery of faithful, full-color reproductions from hundreds of catalogs, fascinating in themselves (the styles, the colors, the awkward copy) and sure to stir memories. A thick slice of Americana-women's underwear that comes with an Eddie Fisher, Perry Como or Elvis Presley record; the first home video game, Pong; a brightly-colored selection of 'toe-inviting' shag bath carpet-this volume should set adult readers to page-flipping just like a kid with the new Toys R Us Christmas circular. 375 color and 125 b&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In Catalog: The Illustrated History of Mail-Order Shopping, Robin Cherry traces the timeline of these snapshots from American history and discovers along the way how we dressed, decorated our houses, worked, played, and got around. Catalogs are a record of how much things cost in different eras and how both language and graphic design have evolved. From corsets to bell-bottoms, from baby doll dresses and Doc Martens all the way to iPods, the history of these catalogs is the history of our lives and our culture. Organized into categories like clothing, food, animals, and houses, author Robin Cherry explores the vivid stories behind Sears, Montgomery Ward, Lillian Vernon, Harry & David, Jackson & Perkins, and of course, 45 years of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.
About the Author
Robin Cherry worked in direct marketing for more than 18 years at Time Inc., Rodale, and Dow Jones. She is currently a freelance writer contributing to Lexus and Travel + Leisure.
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