Having grown up here and attending school here, Dick Sears was an amazing entrepreneur. As far as we know, he wrote most of the “spiels” for the 1908 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue.  This happened to be Catalogue No. 117 - The Great Price Maker: “See the greatly reduced prices shown in this catalogue. This book will be sent free to any address. Write us a letter or postal card and say ‘Send me your large catalogue’ and we’ll send it free. Capitol stock Forty Million Dollars.  Please show this catalogue to your friends and neighbors.”

The health care products are truly breath-taking. For instance, three entire pages are devoted to razors; another page to nine shaving brushes, 20 kinds of razor strops (look it up), another page to syringes, water bottles and douches; to say nothing regarding “tooth and nail sundries.”

However, we were especially attracted to the invalid chair since the historical society was gifted with two of these similar to the one shown here — now in the history hall with Dr. Zittleman’s artifacts.  “The finest invalid chair manufactured and at a price within the reach of all. Send for our special catalogue.”  The company had 31 reclining, propelling, folding, combination, reed, car, traveling and carrying chairs — the first offered by any firm or dealer; the catalogue quoted the lowest prices ever named by any firm or individual, plus freight rates.

“Are you an invalid or have you a relative or friend who needs a reclining or rolling chair?  We carry a complete line of standard styles, which are supplied to our customers from $40 to $60. These are the best manufactured at our never before heard of low price, etc....For a comparatively small outlay you can brighten the hours and days of the sufferer, make his or her condition less burdensome, supplying in small measure for the relief, comfort, contentment and happiness to the patient.” 

The catalogue goes on and on; here are some of the specials: Elastic stockings in mercerized silk; abdominal supporters made of the very best Egyptian thread interwoven with soft lisle covered rubber-thread making  it a very desirable and durable  supporter, all  sizes $1.48;  a favorite obesity belt made of strong moleskin cloth used to advantage by corpulent people, both ladies and gentlemen, giving shape to pendulous or relaxed abdomens, fitted with strong side straps and stays, sale priced at $1.47; extra-fine pebbled Moroccan or rustic leather with hard rubber pessary uterine supporter; intricate body braces for $1.89 to support shoulders, abdomen, fanny, for parts of the body where most needed. 

Then try the Peerless bath cabinet — a four-wall rubber-lined room fitted with a steel wire frame, for only $2.25 with full instructions to prepare a Turkish, Russian, hot air, steam or vapor, perfumed or medicated bath, plus the alcohol heater and vaporizing pan. Of course you could upgrade to the special Quaker cabinet No. 1 which folds up to a minimal amount of storage space and which can be unbuttoned or thrown back!

There were crutches, hair tonics and scalp foods, pomades and Brilliantine, hair dyes, camphor in that which heals skin cracks, face powder, massage face cream. How about liquid depilatory for remaining superfluous hair? Hair on the neck, face or arms — so embarrassing to ladies of refinement, can be removed quickly and easily by applying with a pellet of cotton, with no after effects if applied following directions. Toilet soap came on a full page — Dutch sandalwood, three cakes to a box, two boxes for 41  cents. Soaps came in white hazel, English oatmeal, Colgate’s cashmere bouquet, carbolic, Woodbury’s facial, cocoa castile, forest queen, imported olive oil castile, buttermilk, violet glycerine, genuine cold cream, plus seven more and shaving soaps. 

We noted two pages regarding trusses and the fitting of trusses from infants’ umbilical trusses to those of elastic, hard rubber, spring, genuine leather, appendicitis, ball and socket, and more.  Genuine suspensories, first class, easy fit, and best made: Continental Army and Navy perfectly fit suspensories, English web sack, 26 cents or silk sack, 39 cents; OR the O.P.C. suspensory, best one after 30 years of experience backing it, in lisle (75 cents) or silk ($1.05).

Speaking of things for gents, how about the ladies? Two full pages of “wonderful corset values — priced to save one-third for you.”  One of the most popular is the low-bust, long hip corset with complete freedom of arm and shoulder movement, non-rusting stays, with hose supporters front and sides, of the best lisle elastic, the French model dip-hip corset.  Even a comfortable nursing corset, very pliable over sensitive parts; one made of good quality coutil, fully gored throughout with non-rusting tipped steels. There were summer netting corsets, those made of batiste, twill, with lace and ribbons. You may want the Sahlin perfect form and corset combined for only 90 cents that came with five hooks front clasp.

Ah, well, most of these healthful and helpful artifacts would be useful today, but a people-watching episode at the mall would make you shake your head.