Shopping with Isabella

22 Feb

When you read Isabella’s books, you might notice that the women in her stories were often ruled by “days.”

There was laundry day, and baking day. There was gardening day and canning day, when all the fruits and vegetables gathered from the garden were preserved.

Every week, women devoted entire days to certain tasks because they were time consuming and involved a great deal of physical labor.

Shopping in the dry goods district of New York City, 1886

Shopping in the dry goods district of New York City, 1886; from the Library of Congress

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Marketing day took women out of the house from early morning to late afternoon. Unlike shoppers today who simply visit their local grocery store, Isabella’s contemporaries went from one specialty shop to another.

An 1872 trade card for a butcher's shop

An 1872 trade card for a butcher’s shop

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They visited the green grocer and the baker.

A Boston bakery, 1917

A Boston bakery, 1917; from the Library of Congress

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They stood in line at the confectionery and dry goods store.

Customers shopping for canned goods at a grocery in the early 1920s

Customers shopping for canned goods at a grocery in the early 1920s; from the Library of Congress

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And then there were the specialty stores to visit, like the cobbler’s shop, where they purchased new shoes or repaired older shoes; and the drugstore where they shopped for lotions, salves, beauty and grooming products, and medicinal cures.

A cobbler with a customer, 1896, from Library of Congress

A cobbler with a customer, 1896, from Library of Congress

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At each location they had to wait their turn for a store clerk to assist them in picking out the item they desired. With all the waiting and traveling from store to store, women spent hours shopping, even if their shopping list contained only a few items.

Kellogg's magazine ad, 1915

Kellogg’s magazine ad, 1915

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But by 1900 a shift in shopping habits occurred, brought on by new products that gained a foothold in women’s buying habits. As the new century dawned, women began to buy more products designed to make their lives easier.

For example, women still visited the confectioners for fancy baked goods to serve their guests, but they were more willing to buy pre-made cookies and breads for their every-day table.

Magazine ad for Nabisco Wafers, about 1910

Magazine ad for Nabisco Wafers, about 1910

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And though they still cooked a good breakfast for their families most mornings, they also knew serving cold cereal to their children once or twice a week was a time saver.

A 1919 magazine ad for Toasted Corn Flakes

A 1919 magazine ad for Toasted Corn Flakes

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Another time saver: serving canned soup to their families instead of spending hours preparing soup in their own kitchens.

Campbell's soup print ad from about 1920

Campbell’s soup print ad from about 1920; from the Library of Congress

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In the early years of the century, many products hit the market that proved to be convenient time-savers for women, and women began to trust the quality of pre-made products.

Trade Card for J. A. Dahn and Son Baking Company, from about 1900.

Trade Card for J. A. Dahn and Son Baking Company, from about 1900; from the Library of Congress

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The more women employed pre-made products, the more time they saved for pursuits they enjoyed.

Some products that were introduced around the turn of the last century proved so popular, they are still on the market today.

Trade card for Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, 1900.

Trade card for Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, 1900; from the Library of Congress

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Print ad for Ivory Soap, 1898

Print ad for Ivory Soap, 1898; from the Library of Congress

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Over the years, some products were re-purposed, such as Listerine, which was initially marketed as a topical antiseptic.

Magazine ad for Listerine, 1917.

Magazine ad for Listerine, 1917.

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Other products, like Wesson Oil and Jell-O are still popular and might even be in your kitchen cabinet today.

Print ad for Wesson Oil from the Ladies Home Journal, 1919

Print ad for Wesson Oil from the Ladies Home Journal, 1919

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Print ad for Jell-O, early 1920s

Print ad for Jell-O, early 1920s

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But the biggest change to women’s shopping habits occurred in 1916, when Piggly Wiggly opened its first grocery store in Memphis Tennessee. The store introduced a revolutionary concept: self-service.

piggly-wiggly-in-tn-first-self-service-grocery-store-1916

The entrance to the first Piggly Wiggly store in Memphis, Tennessee, with baskets on the left and cashier on the right; from the Library of Congress

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Women no longer had to stand at a counter and wait for a clerk to assist them; they simply picked up a carrying basket on their way into the store, and browsed the aisles for goods to purchase.

Neat, well-stocked shelves in the Memphis Piggly Wiggly, 1917

Neat, well-stocked shelves in the Memphis Piggly Wiggly, 1917; from the Library of Congress

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The store’s concept proved to be an immense time-saver for women. With the success of their Memphis store, Piggly Wiggly expanded to hundreds of locations and became the model for today’s modern grocery store.

Sunkist oranges on display in the window of a Piggly Wiggly, 1917

Sunkist oranges on display in the window of a Piggly Wiggly, 1917; from the Library of Congress

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Piggly Wiggly stores led the way in many modern innovations. You can click here to see the various ways Piggly Wiggly revolutionized the grocery industry.

 

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The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Author Jenny Berlin

Stories that take you home

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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