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    Auction Finds

    Christmas gift ideas from 1902 Strawbridge’s catalog

    At auction recently, I came across a 1902 Christmas catalog from Strawbridge & Clothier, and it spoke of a time when this store and its counterparts were the place to go for shopping in Philadelphia. The gifts were fancy, and the prices a bit to hefty for most people who were making pennies an hour.

    But it was interesting to flip through the catalog to see what people might be buying for Christmas that year and the prices they were paying. Strawbridge, as one site noted, was a store for middle-class shoppers, and when I calculated the prices in today’s dollars, that was certainly true.

    When I first moved to Philadelphia, Strawbridge and Wanamaker’s were the only two major department stores left from an era when four of them successfully competed for consumers. The retail market had changed, and it was getting tougher for even one of them to hold on.

    Brooches, with pearls and diamonds, for sale in the Strawbridge & Clothier Christmas catalog, 1902.

    Brooches, with pearls and diamonds, for sale in the Strawbridge & Clothier Christmas catalog, 1902.

    There had been Lit Brothers and Gimbels, which along with Strawbridge had each held a spot at Market and Eighth Streets. For years, the four stores, including Wanamaker’s, had gone all out for Christmas.

    Strawbridge’s had been open for more than 30 years by 1902. It was the last locally owned store when it was purchased by May Department Stores in 1996 (following May’s purchase of Wanamaker’s). That company was acquired by Macy’s, which gave up the Strawbridge name.

    Here are some items from the catalog, which give some idea of the style of the time:

    The cover of the Strawbridge & Clothier Christmas catalog, 1902

    The cover of the Strawbridge & Clothier Christmas catalog, 1902

     

    A full view of the page of brooches and lockets, with a 14K gold locket with a diamond setting selling for $40 ($1,102.85).

    A full view of the page of brooches and lockets, with a 14K gold locket with diamond setting selling for $40, which would be $1,102.85 in today’s dollars.

     

    Hatpins, chains and more, from 75 cents ($20.68) to $9.75 ($268.82).

    Hatpins, chains and more, from 75 cents ($20.68) to $9.75 ($268.82).

     

    Furniture, including a sofa on sale for $10.50 ($289.50), down from $16.50 ($454.93).

    Furniture, including a sofa on sale for $10.50 ($289.50), down from $16.50 ($454.93).

     

    Men, women and boys, some 14-K gold, $6 ($165.43) to $16 ($441.14).

    Men, women and boys pocket watches, some 14-K gold, $6 ($165.43) to $16 ($441.14).

     

    Cufflinks, some with animal heads. They ranged from $1.50 ($41.36) to $10 ($275.71).

    Cufflinks, some with animal heads. They ranged from $1.50 ($41.36) to $10 ($275.71).

     

    Cut-glass pitchers and dishes. The small knife rests on the left were the least expensive, 50 cents, which amounts to $13.79. The highest was $9 (248.14).

    Cut-glass items. The small knife rests on the left were the least expensive, 50 cents ($13.79). A sugar bowl and creamer was $9 ($248.14).

     

    Mirrors, brushes, comb and vanity sets.

    Mirrors, brushes, combs and vanity sets.

     

     

     

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