Christmas Shopping in 1900’s Lawrenceburg

As Christmas quickly approaches, it’s always good to remember how the holiday season was before large corporations and chain stores made their appearance. Each year, people anticipate the arrival of Black Friday and prepare to rush into a store when the time is right. Standing there, almost like waiting for the sales clerks to fire the starting pistol, Christmas shopping has taken a much different turn from what it was years ago.

Although the way we shop has changed, Christmas advertisements were still just as prevalent back in the early 1900s and provide a great glimpse into how we shopped for the holidays.  In the days of locally owned businesses, the ads would have the most elaborate design to attempt to put a peak in the business’s holiday income.  Their only competition was from mail order companies like Sears & Roebuck or large department stores in neighboring large cities.  Many Lawrenceburg residents just didn’t have the time or money to travel or order by mail, so they’d shop downtown Lawrenceburg.  And, those old ads were what drew them in.

Let’s take a trip back to 1912 and examine what was on the minds of children and parents alike. Some stores would sell fruit, nuts, and candies while others carried the newest toys and clothes. Each would find their advertising gimmick in order to attract people to their store. At the Waterfill Brothers Grocery, they offered the finest assortment of candies, fruits, and other holiday treats. Heading on down the street, Parker’s played on the lack of quality if one doesn’t buy fresh goods.

Many people find it hard to believe that some children would only get candies or fruit for Christmas at this time. Toys were not always expected.  And for the adults in the family, the TJ Ballard store offered scarfs, cigars, and fountain pens which were hot gift ideas for the time.

Even though many shopped local, competition tried its best to draw local residents to the big cities like Lexington or Louisville.  Department stores in Louisville would advertise hard to find items. They would even reimburse some of the round trip train fare needed to get there and deliver anywhere within 200 miles of the store for free.

In the end, Christmas shopping was quite different back then without the internet, large stores, and easy transportation that would come with cars and good roads.  Downtown was filled with stores not because it was just another business district, but because it was the only place to quickly buy gifts without the hassle of train travel or mail order.  As everyone finishes their last minute shopping these next two days, remember the days of old and remember that shopping local starts downtown.

Written by Jeff Waldridge from the Lawrenceburg Ghost Walk

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrPin on PinterestEmail this to someone
Posted in History & Heritage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.