When the Sears Catalog Sold Everything

It's been 30 years now since the last Sears catalog was printed. By then, the company had spent more than 100 years as the king of mail order. Does anyone else remember when you could order a gun through the Sears catalog? Sears would mail some items that would be unthinkable today, like heroin, back when it was offered as a non-addicting alternative to morphine. Sears offered a whole line of drugs, many that would be categorized as "snake oil" today.

You could order an entire house delivered from Sears, although it would come in many separate packages that you put together yourself. Plans were included that gave you step-by-step directions for buildings your own house from a kit. For an additional charge, you could even get one designed to include a bathroom.

Smithsonian gives us the origin story of the company founded by 22-year-old Richard W. Sears in 1886, including the short appearance of Alvah C. Roebuck. And we get a taste of some of the weirder things that were once sold by mail order through the Sears catalog.

(Image credit: Mike Mozart)

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Their 1925 catalog carried Thompson Submachine Guns, which could be purchased by mail and delivered to your door. One could also buy dynamite of varying nitroglycerin content, but it had to be shipped by itself.
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