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Trade Catalogues and the American Home

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Explore domestic life, leisure and material culture of nineteenth- and twentieth-century America.

Trade catalogues have been a prominent feature in commerce and manufacturing from the eighteenth century to the present day. Highly illustrated, they are an essential visual record of a variety of products and facilitate teaching and research into popular culture, material culture, and societal changes, as well as the history of marketing, business, and technology.

Trade catalogues, cards and marketing ephemera provide opportunities for interdisciplinary research across a variety of themes from gender, domesticity and morality to class, health, race and sexuality. They provide evidence about the evolution of distribution and communication systems linking manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers across the emerging United States and globally. These documents reveal shifting tastes and fashions of the consumer over a period of rapid growth, expansion and change (both at home and overseas).

Key products and services represented in the trade catalogues include: department store catalogues, fashion and clothing, bicycles, home furnishings and furniture, food, household appliances, cosmetics, home remedies and health, and sports, leisure and outdoor pursuits amongst many others.

‘‘Trade catalogues and trade cards enable students and scholars interested in consumer culture and the history of marketing to research the social and cultural histories of style, race, class, gender, and imperialism.’’

Daniel Horowitz,
Mary Huggins Gamble Foundation Chair and Professor Emeritus of American History, Smith College 


  • Product Design
  • Architecture and Interior Design
  • Business, Economics and Retail History
  • Fashion and Beauty trends
  • Gender and Domesticity
  • Women’s History and Women as Consumers
  • Development of Domestic Technologies and Labour-saving Devices
  • Domestic Life and Leisure
  • Food and Drink
  • Health and Sanitation