Decorative Touches for the Late 19th Century Home

Imagine yourself in the late 19th Century. Maybe you just sat down to watch a game of croquet on your lawn while chatting with some friends. This trade catalog from 1875 includes an item that might have been useful for that very thing.

Cycling into the Past: Late 19th Century Bicycles

Today in the 21st Century, it’s not uncommon for people to ride bicycles to work. Even on these cold winter days, there seems to be at least a few people out on their bikes. But let’s take a look back to see what your bicycle might have looked like in the late 19th Century.

An Unexpected Find in a Trade Catalog from 1882

Recently while searching for furniture catalogs in the Trade Literature Collection, I came across something very unexpected. The Smithsonian Institution was mentioned in one of the catalogs.

Setting the Table

The big Thanksgiving meal is fast approaching and for many that means a well-dressed table, perhaps with heirloom china. What would your dinner table have looked like for a nice meal or tea over a hundred years ago, maybe back when Great-great Aunt Agnes first started filling her china cabinet? The Trade Literature Collection includes catalogs illustrating dinnerware, glassware, cutlery, and cooking utensils which can give us a glimpse into the past. more »

Fashion for the Grave

It’s October and Halloween is just around the corner. So I set out to find something creepy in the Trade Literature Collection. I already knew there are a lot of catalogs for undertakers’ supplies so I decided to start there.

Sleeping on Air: A 19th Century Air Mattress

Would it surprise you to know that air mattresses existed in the nineteenth century? That thought never occurred to me until I came across this trade catalog from 1896 advertising the “Perfection” Air Mattress.

Celebrate the Potato

September is National Potato Month. Almost all the potatoes grown in the United States are planted in the spring and gathered in the fall. It is the time of year that schools in northern Maine have “harvest break” when students work to dig and sort the season’s spud crop soon after summer vacation. Maine’s custom is one small part of the very long and interwoven agricultural, economic, social, culinary, medical, and ritual more »

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