In 1900, a fortnight meant two weeks and a talking machine didn’t involve Alexa. Gifts – and the advertisements for them – have changed a lot since then. Here’s a look back at advertisements for some of the most popular gifts of the 1900s.
This ad appeared shortly after the Victor Talking Machine Company was incorporated. The more familiar “Victrola” brand was introduced five years later, in 1906, and was the most popular home phonograph brand for decades.
In 1898, Kodak started selling the Folding Pocket Camera, the ancestor of all modern roll-film cameras. This camera also introduced the 2¼” x 3¼” picture size, which proved very popular.
Kodak cameras, which had been created by George Eastman in 1888, had just released its lower-priced Brownie model the year before this ad appeared. The Brownie created a new mass market for photography, and 1901 was one of the first Christmas seasons that put a camera within almost everyone’s reach.
R.F. Simmons Company was founded in 1873 in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Simmons claimed to be the first jeweler to issue a chain catalogue, the first to stamp jewelry with the manufacturer’s initials, the first to offer a satisfaction guarantee, and the first to use a safety fastener.
In the early 20th century, Stevens was one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the United States. The company was purchased by New England Westinghouse, specifically to provide rifles to the Russian Czar and his army during World War I. After the Czar fell and the bill went unpaid, the company fell into financial distress. Despite a few rough patches, the company continues to make firearms under the Stevens name today.
This child-size version of the Studebaker farm wagon was a popular (and pricey) toy in the early 20th century. Studebaker debuted its first automobile a year later.
The Philadelphia-based A. Schoenhut Company sold this popular circus set from 1903 to 1935. Early versions such as this one featured animals with glass eyes and real hair. The figures had articulated limbs held together with elastic bands that allowed them to be posed in different positions. By 1912, Schoenhut was the largest toy company in the United States.
Parker Pens was founded in 1888 and continues to produce writing instruments today, although fountain pens have fallen out of favor with all except the most tradition-bound. The pens in this advertisement are worth considerably more today, and can sell for upwards of several thousand dollars.
Perfume has always been a traditional gift, but this one has a unique twist. Edouard Penaud ostensibly created Lilac Vegetal as an aftershave for the Hungarian cavalry.
Elgin National Watch Company produced watches for 100 years, manufacturing more than 60 million of them between 1864 and 1968. Pocket watches were the standard timepiece in 1909. Elgin was one of the first companies to make a wristwatch, which they started selling a year later.
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