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As It Was: 1916 Christmas Sales Reflect the Times

In December 1916, the Letcher and Son store in Grants Pass, Ore., advertised, “Christmas gifts that will last,” among them a solid gold, 14-caret, jeweled-movement watch with a dustproof case for $85, the equivalent of $1,972 in today’s currency.

For women, Letcher and Son offered a large line of gold and silver thimbles.  The Golden Rule Store had several suggestions, including silk hosiery at 50 cents a pair, the equivalent of $11.60 today, kid gloves, and white linen handkerchiefs.  For men, it suggested umbrellas or suspenders in holiday boxes.

For children, Clemens’ Rexall had celluloid novelties, rubber rattles, Oz books and Kewpie dolls. 

Meanwhile, World War I raged in Europe as the French fought to gain ground in Verdun. 

A year later, eight months after the United States entered the war, the Rogue River Courier’s Christmas ads featured gifts for patriots.  The Peerless Clothing Co. advised, in these words, “Gilded gewgaws are in shocking bad-taste as Christmas gifts for the nineteen seventeen holiday seasons.”  It recommended practical gifts and donations to the Red Cross.

One prominent businessman reportedly did his part for the war effort by knitting sweaters for soldiers.
 

Sources: Rogue River Courier, 17 Dec. 1916 [Grants Pass OR], p. 3. Historic Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088180/1916-12-17/ed-1/seq-3 Accessed 18 Nov. 2018; Rogue River Courier, 12 Dec. 1917 [Grants Pass OR], p. 4. Historic Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088180/1917-12-12/ed-1/seq-4/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.