Friday, October 30, 2009

Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 20 - Montgomery Ward & Co., 1924

In addition to collecting Christmas music, I have collected nearly 1000 vintage Christmas ads over the years. Many of these include celebrities, radio, television, cigarettes, liquor, modern appliances, and the like.

I will attempt every Friday from here until I run out, I will feature an ad from my collection.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

Several months ago, as I was attempting to complete the reorganization and cataloguing of all of my vintage Christmas ads, I visited Antiques on Broadway near downtown Fort Wayne. This shop usually has a gem or two to be unearthed.

In the basement of the store sits a booth that contains three folding tables of vintage ads, all carefully organized and wrapped in plastic for your protection. Many was the time I browsed the table that contained "Christmas ads" and "Celebrity ads".

I would seldom look at the other tables because each ad was usually in the $4 to $10 range. The double paged ads were always on my wait list but at $10 - $15 a pop, I could wait a long time. Once in a blue moon, I would break down and purchase an ad at full price.

On the day of my visit, I approached the table and noticed a yellow piece of paper with crude handwriting attached to one of the tables: "SALE - ALL ADS - $1". My transformation into Fred C. Dobbs was instantaneous and I nearly shrieked with delight.

For the next 45 minutes, I thumbed through every ad at every table, finding nuggets along the way. In addition to the usual LIFE, Look, and Saturday Evening Post ads, this dealer had sliced up vintage magazines dating back as early as the 1910s!

I was delighted but saddened as well. Any issue of any magazine printed before 1935 are becoming more and more rare and expensive. Being a collector of December issues for their Christmas ads, I would have loved to seen the entire issues from which these ads came from.

Which brings us to our ad of the day. It's hard to imagine now but back in 1924, the retail industry was dominated by two stores - Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward & Co., both headquartered out of Chicago, Illinois. Ward's revolutionized the business by introducing their legendary catalog in 1872, the first mail-order business of any kind in the world:

(Click on image to enlarge)

In essence, this was the first Internet - the catalogs allowed anyone to order anything and have it shipped anywhere in the USA and Canada. Catalog sales accounted for nearly 60% of Montgomery Ward's business at one point and kept their coffers flush into the 1960s.

Ask anyone over the age of 30 about those magic Fall / Winter catalogs, overflowing with toys and games. These were dream books - the perfect way to create a list for Santa. I can recall one year making a list, complete with catalog numbers, and handing it to Santa. I never did understand the incredulous look on Santa's face.

And there's something to be said for pre-1930s advertising. Usually in black & white, great detail work, a not too dominant picture, and lots and lots of text for you to read. No pretention whatsoever. This is an ad you definitely need to see close up.

What do you think?


1 comment:

Chesno Slova said...

For some reason I particularly like the Christmas tree 'bar' at the bottom of the page. Frames the Montgomery Ward logo well and is classy. The text is amazing. Can you imagine any ad agency pitching this much text today? They'ld be out on their ears.

Thanks for the posting. I'll return for new ones each Friday.