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Catalog collection

Identifier: MSS-0286

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of five catalogs from 1883 to the 1910s, advertising plants, clothing, automobile tires, and home fashions.

The first catalog is the 1883 Spring “Catalogue of Plants” from the Columbus Nursery in Columbus, Ohio, John Poste, proprietor. The catalog covers all type of plants including dahlias, verbenas, roses, petunias, fuchsias, phloxes and geraniums and is illustrated.

Next is the “Cloak Drummer Co. Fall and Winter 1904–1905” which is heavily illustrated. Each page depicts various ladies and children’s coats, capes, fur stoles, and muffs. There are also several pages devoted to skirts and waists (blouses).

The third is the “Automobile Tires and Supplies” catalog from the E. J. Willis Co. of Reade Street, New York City, New York. This catalog is not dated but there is a footnote that states, “Owing to War conditions tire prices subject to change without notice” which indicates it is probably from the 1910s.

The fourth is the “Illustrated Catalogue Ypsilanti Full Fashioned Jersey Fitting Underwear for Fall and Spring, 1890–1891” from the Hay and Todd Manufacturing Company of Ypsilanti, Michigan. This catalog is illustrated but not as detailed as the others.

The fifth catalog is from the Mandel Brothers department store in Chicago, Illinois. Although the cover is missing from this catalog, dates inside indicate that it is the 1902 catalog. This catalog is heavily illustrated with drawings of the fashions for men, women and children and for the home also.

The final booklet is not a catalog; it is “An Account of the Life of Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Dumotier Marquis de La Fayette… with illustrations of the La Fayette Pattern of Sterling Silver Tableware” by the Towle Manufacturing Company of Newburyport, Massachusetts, published in 1907. As the title indicates this is a biography of the Marquis de La Fayette with only 19 pages illustrating the various pieces of the La Fayette sterling silver pattern.


  • 1883–1910s


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Biographical / Historical

A mail order catalogue is a publication containing a list of general merchandise from a company. Companies who publish and operate mail order catalogues are referred to as cataloguers within the industry. Cataloguers buy or manufacture goods then market those goods to prospective customers.

Mail order is a term which describes the buying of goods or services by mail delivery. The buyer places an order for the desired products with the merchant through some remote method such as through a telephone call or web site. Then, the products are delivered to the customer. The products are typically delivered directly to an address supplied by the customer, such as a home address, but occasionally the orders are delivered to a nearby retail location for the customer to pick up.

In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward of Chicago produced the first mail-order catalogue for his Montgomery Ward mail order business. By buying goods and then reselling them directly to customers, Aaron Montgomery Ward was consequently removing the middlemen at the general store and to the benefit of the customer, lowering drastically the prices. This first catalogue was a single sheet of paper with a price list, 8 by 12 inches, showing the merchandise for sale and ordering instructions. Montgomery Ward identified a market of merchant-wary farmers in the Midwest. Within two decades, his single-page list of products grew into a 540-page illustrated book selling over 20,000 items


0.1 Linear Feet (6 catalogs, 306 pages)

Language of Materials



Six catalogs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Three are clothing catalogs, one is a plant catalog, one is an automobile supply catalog, and one is a biography/silverware catalog.




To provide faster access to our materials, this finding aid was published without formal and final review. Email us at if you find mistakes or have suggestions to make this finding aid more useful for your research.

Processed by

Martha Bace, 2008; updated by Martha Bace, 2012


Guide to the Catalog Collection
June 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266