A Look Back

I came across this page from an 1897 Sears Catalog the other day, and I just wanted to share it as a novelty of a time where you could actually order by mail, and were even encouraged to bulk buy with neighbors.


I think my favorite listing is the one with the line, “Nothing like it ever retailed for less than $5.00.” I also find it amusing how much of a drastic price increase it was (41%!) to get the pearl handle instead of rubber.

19 thoughts on “A Look Back”

  1. Don’t look up those old Century Arms ones from before the GCA of 1968, they’ll make you cry….same with the Hunting Lodge and a few others.

    I had a copy of the 1898 one which advised that the War with Spain would not affect “Cigar availability at all!” Gave me a good chuckle.

  2. I think a retro-style revolver, five-shot single-action spur-trigger in a modern caliber like .32 mag or .327 mag with modern lockwork, would be very cool.

    1. agreed. i’d totally carry a Defender. thinner cylinder and grip, longish barrel is something i’ve looked for in a carry revolver.

    1. Here’s an interesting chart of inflation 1800-2005. Notice how inflation was consistent up until several things happened in the 1910s: the Fed, income tax, and WW I. Up until then, there was an inflation bubble around the 1812 and 1860 wars. But there was no post-WW I deflation, and after WW II it started climbing and has never looked back.

      Take from that what you will … I like the idea of prices being so consistent before then.

    2. Wages are a cost that can inflate as well, so make sure you also keep in mind how much wages have increased during that time. People weren’t earning $50,000 a year back then.

  3. I can only assume that in 1897 there were two to three mass shootings a week. I mean, there have to have been, right?

    1. In 1897, convicted murderers were hanged publicly at the county courthouses across the land, and usually this was done within a month of the sentencing, too.

      I read somewhere online, last year, I think, about all ten (Yes, I said ten.) of the murder cases during the entirety of the 19th century in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. All ten of the men convicted in these cases were hanged at the gallows at the top of the steps of the courthouse. And as liberals might call it, America was “awash in guns” during the entirety of the 19th century.

  4. “I also find it amusing how much of a drastic price increase it was (41%!) to get the pearl handle instead of rubber.”

    I imagine it was because it was real mother of pearl back then, instead of the plastic facsimile. And the real thing was probably harder to get back then.

  5. Order by mail in 1897? Hell, I can remember my dad doing it in 1957!

    Being able to remember firsthand when there was still some semblance of real firearms freedom, is what keeps me from being suitably impressed with any claims that we have been making “progress” in recent years. I saw times that will not return in this country during the lives of anyone reading this.

    But just for memory-lane stuff: I still have the shotgun my dad bought for his kid brother, c. 1934. It cost $7 new and family lore is that their father had a fit over my dad spending that much money; my dad replied, “I can go out on the street anytime and get almost that much back for it; why don’t you go get back some of the money you spent playing the numbers?” Dad’s gone and his kid brother is now in his 90s, but we still sit and reminisce about shots made with that old $7 gun.

    On the “mass shooting” comment above: I don’t want to sound like I’m arguing against us, but there was a lot of shooting that went unreported, even in the near-mid-20th Century. A family story goes that my grandfather used a pistol like one of those displayed in the ad, when he went out in the yard and shot a drunk who was tearing up his garden. The cops came around and arrested the wounded drunk, without so much as talking to my grandfather. (The neighbors told the cops what had happened.) Today it would be News At 11:00.

    Also illustrative of the times was, that a black guy tried to steal a chicken from a processing plant where one of my father’s friends worked. The guy pulled out a break-open pistol like one of those in the ad, from his overalls, shoved in my dad’s friend’s side, and pulled the trigger twice — snap snap. But the latch had caught coming out of his clothes, the gun had opened ever so slightly, and so it didn’t go off. The workers beat the guy to death with shovels and threw the body on a manure pile behind the plant. It apparently was either picked up or hauled away with the manure, because no questions were ever asked. Another example of an unrecorded statistic.

    I’m not intending to glorify any of that, just commenting that things were not as idyllic as we may want to believe, just because we never hear much about the brutal stuff that went down every day.

  6. Makes me want to put a C-note down on the counter and say “Keep Handing me revolvers until this thing is gone!”

    I did put $1,000 on the counter recently and got TWO pretty nice new revolvers (LCR in .357 and .22 LR) which I like rather a lot more than I’d like these, and I got some ammo.

    So really when you look at inflation things aren’t THAT bad.

  7. A.C.Gould in his book The Modern American Pistol and Revolver written around the same time as this catalog had a good write up of the pocket revolvers of the day from the cheap ones pictured here to the Colt and Smith & Wessons that cost considerably more. Gould’s conclusion was that the more expensive Smiths and Colts were the better gun and worth the extra money.

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