Every dwelling has its own unique qualities. How do you make your space reflect your personality? The furniture, decorations, and wall hangings all combine to make it feel like home. Let’s flip through the pages of a trade catalog and discover the possibilities of furnishing a home long ago.
Before online outlets and a certain Swedish superstore, imagine decorating and furnishing a new home in the early 20th Century. What did your furniture look like? What curtains or window hangings did you choose? How did you communicate with your neighbors? The Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library includes a few catalogs related to these very things.
Today, most people are familiar with online shopping but some might also remember mail ordering. While one method uses computers, the other relies on paper. However, there are similarities. Both allow consumers to shop from the comforts of home, and both require mailing and shipping at some point. Then, items are delivered direct to the customer’s door. The Trade Literature Collection includes a variety of mail order catalogs. Let’s take a look at one from 1907.
With just one glance at the front cover of this trade catalog, it appears like Spring is on the way. A lady is surrounded by flowers. Purple ribbons accessorizing her outfit are gently blowing in the breeze. Let’s take a look at what consumers might have stumbled across in 1915 while perusing this mail order/department store catalog.
Catalogue of Room Decorations and Artistic Furniture is a 1905 Cooper Hewitt Design Library furniture trade catalog from the renowned art and antiques firm of Yamanaka & Co. Covered in silk more »
This 1930’s Czech tubular steel trade catalog titled Kovový nábytek, (translated simply as Metal Furniture), is a recent addition to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library’s extensive collection of furniture more »
This post was written by Brittney Falter, a graduate student at George Mason University and social media intern at the Smithsonian Libraries. Le Garde-meuble, ancien et moderne (Furniture repository, ancient more »