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Shopping by Mail: The History of a Thanksgiving Tradition

Canadians have already celebrated Thanksgiving and Americans will be sitting around the table with family and friends soon.

How do you like to do your holiday shopping? Many of us prefer to do it in the comfort of our home. Thought I would investigate the history of shopping by mail.wishbook16

Mail order is buying goods or services through a merchant by a remote method and then receiving delivery of these goods from the merchant. A mail order catalog is a listing of goods available from a particular merchant called a cataloger. The catalog is produced in a fashion similar to a magazine and then delivered to customers via the postal service or the internet.

aaronmontgomeryIn the U.S. The Tiffany Blue Book was the first mail order catalog produced in 1845. A few years later in 1872, an enterprising entrepreneur named Aaron Montgomery Ward of Chicago purchased merchandise and then resold it directly to his customers, cutting out the middleman and slashing his prices. His very first catalog consisted of one 8 x 12 inch page listing his merchandise with ordering instructions. His business continued to grow; in the 1920’s and 1930’s he even sold prefabricated house kits called Ward-way homes.

In 1888 Richard Warren Sears started his catalog business in Minnesota. Six years later his catalog had grown to 322 pages including items such as sewing machines, sporting goods, bicycles and automobiles. In 1895 clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald partnered with Sears to make the business more efficient and economical. Dolls, refrigerators, stoves, and groceries were added to their inventory. Within a few years time, the Sears catalog became known as a “Consumer’s Bible.” By 1933 the famous “Sears Wish Book” containing toys and Christmas gifts as a separate edition from the regular catalog appeared. Sears did not fail to capitalize on the housing market. As 1940 dawned, Sears had sold 70 to 75,000 house kits; many of these houses are still standing today.

Another famous cataloger began in a different way. J.C. Penny opened a retail store first. Later on, in 1963, he launched a mail-order catalog which made their store merchandise available to the public in rural areas in at least eight states. Four years later in 1967, Lester Wunderman coined the term “direct marketing.” Lester invented the toll free 1 800 system as well as customer loyalty programs like, magazine subscription clubs, Columbia Record Club, and the American Express Rewards Program.jcpenny

In the twenty-first century widespread internet access is rapidly becoming the preferred method of shopping by mail. This form of mail order is frequently referred to as online shopping or e commerce.
But the only shopping difference lies in the way the product is ordered, which is by computer instead of by phone or a mail order form. Most traditional mail order companies now also sell online through their own website. The high costs of printing and postage is forcing some of the mail order companies to stop printing catalogs and rely solely on online sales. Still there are many customers who prefer browsing through those colorful catalogs before hitting the keyboard.

No doubt technology will continue to provide more options for our holiday gift shopping. Just a reminder—procrastinators you only have a few weeks left, get out there and shop till you drop!

I wish all my friends a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday shopping season.

Barbara Ann Mojica
LittleMissHistory.com

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Let the Holidays Begin!

Macys-Thanksgiving-Day-ParadeIt’s beginning….that magical, mystical, bustling time of the year generally referred to as “the holidays.” You have seen evidence spring up long before now, but for me, the holiday season officially begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

The first parade sponsored by the US chain store Macy’s occurred in 1924; the American Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit originated that same year. One holiday parade, today known as 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Parade, began in Philadelphia four years earlier in 1920. Macy’s first parade was known as Macy’s Christmas Parade. It extended from 145th Street to the store at 34th Street. The employees marched in costume. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. Santa Claus arrived at the end just as he does today. But in that first parade, a jolly elf was enthroned and crowned “King of the Kiddies.” An estimated quarter of a million people watched it.

A few years later, Macy’s asked Anthony “Tony” Frederick Sarg, who worked with marionettes, to prepare a window design of a parade. His animal shaped balloons made by Goodyear replaced the live animals in 1927. The Felix the Cat balloon made its debut in 1928. Originally filled with air, balloons with return addresses were released at the finale of the parade. Anyone who returned one was given a free gift from Macy’s. After an incident of balloons bursting, they were fitted with safety valves and filled with helium instead of air.

Popularity of the New York parade continued to grow; the parades were broadcast on radio in the thirties. There were suspensions from 1942-44 because helium could not be spared during World War
II. This parade gained international notoriety when the film, Miracle on 34th Street, was released in 1947, and in 1948 it was broadcast on television for the first time. Today approximately forty-four million people tune in to watch the three-hour spectacle.

Most spectators look forward to the balloons. Actually, there are three types of balloons. Novelty balloons are the small ones that might fit on a performer’s head. There are the full-size balloons that depict larger than life popular culture characters. Lastly, there are “Blue Sky Gallery” balloons that transfer real life contemporary works of art into balloons. Some balloons are float based known as Falloons and others are self-powered vehicles called Balloonicles. New balloons for 2013 include Finn and Jake, Toothless Dragon and Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary, but there are plenty of old favorites like Popeye, Betty Boop and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

If you tire of looking at balloons, there are marching bands and cheerleaders from high schools all over the country. They spend many hours training just for the chance to be chosen to march in the parade.
The Radio City Rockettes perform one of their sparkling holiday dance routines, favorite singers of adults and children alike lip sync songs at the end of the route, which now extends from 77th Street to the Macy’s store on 34th Street. Casts from several Broadway shows perform a number for those who can’t attend the theater. Many performers from popular TV shows also make an appearance. Yet, the whole parade continues to build up to one climatic event—the appearance of Santa and his sleigh as he officially ushers in the holiday season.

Maybe we are all children at heart!

Barbara Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

The Curse at Zala Manor (Monster Moon, 1), by BBH McChiller

zala-manorThis is a great idea for an elementary classroom Halloween read-aloud. Here’s the review I wrote up. At the end, I’ve included a handy list of comprehension questions provided by the authors that is similar to those used by the Accelerated Reading program.

My boys loved this book! We read it out loud together for homeschool last Halloween and they complained every time we had to stop. Our final day we just kept reading, covering the last 30% of the book all at once.

This is not literary fiction, so don’t expect it. But it is easy to read and very, very fun. It’s a plot-driven adventure that will keep 8- to 12-year-olds sprinting through the pages. Included within them are a freaky old manor with hidden passages and bricked-up rooms, an even freakier graveyard, riddles, an eccentric aunt who drives a pink hearse, a talking rat, and a 300-year-old pirate mystery. Oh yeah, and monsters. Lots of them. It’s a Halloween story, after all. And it’s a kid-pleaser.

It was also a mom-pleaser. While scary and silly aren’t my person favorites, I AM NOT A TWEEN. In this case, I was more concerned about the story diving into spiritual or gory content. It did neither. The zombie was a little gross, but it wasn’t disturbing. And witchcraft, happily, was simply not included in the story. Kudos to the authors on both accounts! It was also very readable–engaging, fluid, and well-paced.

In conclusion, this is a perfect Halloween story if you want suspense, monsters, and fun minus the negatives that come with the holiday. Based on this and my boys’ overwhelming enthusiasm, I rate it 5 stars. A wonderful read for tween boys and suitable for classrooms grades 2-7. I’d place it at about a 4th to 5th grade reading level.

Lexile score – 550L
Downloadable MARC file (library use) available here.

I bought my Kindle copy for 1.99, though paperbacks are also available. Book two, Secret of Haunted Bog, is just as fun. And paperbacks for the third installment just released at the end of September–Kindle versions coming soon.

Download the Zala Manor reading comprehension quiz PDF file.