Trade Catalogues and the American Home

Explore domesticity, daily life, consumerism and technology in America between 1850-1950.

This collection presents a wealth of highly visual trade catalogues, cards and marketing ephemera, tracing the rise of the ‘American dream’ and evolution of commerce throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The content is sourced from three of the pre-eminent collections of trade literature in America: the Lawrence B Romaine collection at UC Santa Barbara, the Hagley Museum and Library and the Winterthur Library.

As part of our suite of collections in American Consumer Culture, this resource is ideal for interdisciplinary research, presenting a treasure trove of primary source material for the study of social history, the history of business and marketing, gender, technology and consumerism.

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

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 1850-1950


  • Catalogues from iconic retailers such as Sears, Roebuck & Co., Bloomingdale’s, Montgomery Ward, Aldens, Charles William Stores and Spiegel
  • Explore the history of popular brands such as General Electric, Heinz, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Hotpoint, General Motors and Colgate
  • Examine advertisements reflecting one hundred years of changing commercial tastes and consumer trends, attitudes towards race, the family and domestic sphere, and advancements in technology
  • A variety of industries and products are represented in the form of trade catalogues, fabric samples, sales packs for travelling salesmen, mail order forms, price lists and more
  • A highly visual record of fashion and clothing, bicycles, home furnishings and furniture, food, household appliances, cosmetics, home remedies and health, sports and leisure

Source Archives

  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Winterthur Library
  • Hagley Museum and Library

Material Types

  • Catalogues
  • Leaflets
  • Trade Cards
  • Price Lists
  • Order Forms
  • Correspondence
  • Samples and ephemera
  • Manuals and ‘How to’ Guides
  • Sales Rep Documents

Editorial Board

  • Daniel Horowitz, Smith College
  • Vicki Howard, University of Essex
  • Deborah Sugg Ryan, University of Portsmouth
  • Margaret Petty, Queensland University of Technology
  • Karen Carter, Ferris State University
  • Clare Rose, Royal School of Needlework, Hampton Court


  • Advertising
  • Animal and Agriculture
  • Automotive
  • Bicycles, Carriages and Wagons
  • Clothing and Accessories
  • Construction and Real Estate
  • Cosmetics and Personal Products
  • Crockery, Glassware and Utensils
  • Department Store and Mail Order Catalogues
  • DIY and Gardening
  • Education, Gifts and Stationery
  • Entertainment, Arts, Crafts and Hobbies
  • Food and Drink
  • Health and Medicine
  • Home Decorating and Design
  • Household Goods and Appliances
  • Sport, Leisure and Outdoor
  • Toy and Game


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

Key Features

  • Trade Catalogues and the American Home is available within the cross-searchable suite of collections: American Consumer Culture, allowing students and scholars to broaden their research across three Adam Matthew Digital products
  • Department Store Catalogues
  • Business biographies
  • Online Exhibitions of domestic appliances
  • Contextual essays from leading scholars
  • Visual highlights galleries