A Watch Almanac Takes Us Back in Time

One of the fun things about working with the Trade Literature Collection is that you never know what you might come across. There are hundreds of thousands of catalogs in the collection. The catalogs cover many, many subjects–food, clothing, toys, machine tools, boilers, lighting, medical supplies, and much more. But every so often, one catalog in particular might catch your eye. This time, it was a trade catalog by National Elgin Watch more »

The Candy Making Past

With Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect time to flip through candy-related trade catalogs. Today, with the mass production of products, we might not think about how things were made in the past. To make candy, ingredients needed to be grated, peeled, granulated, and cut. What machines performed that work? And how long did it take?

A Visit to the Opera in 1886

At first glance, the front cover of this trade catalog shows an opera chair. But take a closer look and you might see something you didn’t expect to see. A hat appears to be attached to the bottom of the seat. That is just one of several special features built into these chairs.

A Salesman in 1917

While browsing the Trade Literature Collection, you never know what you might find. One search might lead you to discover something you never realized was even there. Recently, I was searching for catalogs related to food or ones that included recipes. That led me to this 1917 almanac from J. R. Watkins Medical Co.

Staying cool for a 19th Century picnic

Today, many of us are probably familiar with insulated bags that help keep food cold, or even warm, until you get to your destination. But did you know there was a picnic basket in the nineteenth century that did something similar?

Vintage Fireworks for the Fourth

This post was written by Adrian Vaagenes, intern in the National Museum of American History Library. The 4th of July is upon us, and for many of us this means, to borrow a quote from The Simpsons, it’s “time to celebrate the independence of our nation by blowing up a small part of it”. Just as we enjoy lighting roman candles, sparklers, cherry bombs, and m-80’s, these pieces of trade literature in more »

Cool off with Soda Fountains from the Past

Summer has just arrived and the heat is starting to turn up, making it the perfect time for ice cream. Imagine yourself in 1904. You just met some friends for ice cream at a soda fountain. What would you have seen? Ice cream and drinks, of course. But what about the dishes, furniture, and even the tools to make some of those treats?

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