Montgomery Ward catalog from 1960

Check out these photos from the Montgomery Ward 1960 Fall and Winter catalog. Here are some things that I found interesting:

  • nothing could be more wholesome for a mass market retailer than a father and son going out to kill birds with a pair of shotguns (there was no suggestion of mom and sister joining!)
  • as part of its full-service ethos, the store would loan you whatever tools you needed to do a home repair/install job
  • sales tax in New York City was 3% (today: 8.875%), in Connecticut 3% (today: 6.35%), in Rhode Island 3% (today: 7%)…
  • a subset of the functions of a modern mobile phone could be obtained at the following costs:
    • Rolleiflex still camera (uses “popular 127 film“): $68.50
    • Movie camera: $100
    • Movie projector: $100
    • Smith-Corona portable typewriter (only 21 lbs!): $119.50
    • Audio recorder (open-reel): $280
    • Portable television (“so light” at only 33 lbs.): $158

(total: $826 or $6594 in 2014 dollars)

  • bathing oneself in ultra-violet light was considered “healthful”
  • a person over 35 was considered “geriatric”
  • you could order a 10×40′ steel building kit for $383

9 thoughts on “Montgomery Ward catalog from 1960

  1. Given the income tax rate in 1960 was 90% for the top bracket, I’m ok with the ~3-5% increase in sales tax.

  2. That steel building kit seems like it’s stayed about the same (adjusted) cost.

    We in the tech field are so used to rapidly compounding price cuts that it’s sobering to see that things like bricks, steel, concrete, gravel, etc. really haven’t changed much in price over decades.

  3. What percent of people actually had to pay the 90% in the top bracket. The other taxes are also paid by those in the lowest brackets.

  4. Ethan: tries to answer this question. shows the brackets at the time. says that the median family income was $5,600 in 1960. So the median family was in the 22% bracket and paid 3% sales tax in the higher tax states. Today median family income is about $52,000. says that federal tax rates for a single or “head of household” filer at this income level would be 25%; married joint filters would be in the 15% marginal bracket.

  5. I’m more than a little surprised to see you sharing photos on Google+ given that you solved the “how to conveniently share photos on the web” problem before Google existed!

  6. And remember that portable TV is B&W. (we didn’ get our color one until ~1967) Nice to see those shotguns are “Mailable”, how convenient.

  7. The cost of all those gadgets is actually even worse in 2014 dollars, because the government likes to lie about inflation. Fortunately, the US was still using silver money in 1960, so by comparing the current price of the 90% silver coins they had then we can see that the actual equivalent of $826 1960 dollars in 2014 dollars is $11,711 (and some pennies).

  8. Ryan: My solution to “how to conveniently share photos” back in 1993 is definitely not as convenient as Picasa or Android->Google+! But I think Google has had more time and more developers to work on this than I had 🙂

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