I’ve got five old mail order catalogues—one from Montgomery Ward, one from Charles Williams Stores, and three from Sears, Roebuck & Company—the oldest from 1902, the newest from 1938.
I use them all the time for reference. They’ve all got fabulous illustrations, current prices; they transport me back in time.
The other day, I was looking at kitchen equipment (pots, pans, utensils, gadgets, soap dishes, dishracks, etc.) to get a more accurate sense of a late 1920s kitchen -- and was surprised to see bird cages smack in the middle of the kraut cutters, sausage stuffers, and food choppers.
Bird cages? I thought. Bird cages in the kitchen equipment section?
What’s with that?
So I checked four catalogues: two Sears, the Charles Williams and the Montgomery Ward…all of them have bird cages in the kitchen section!
The 1930 Sears catalogue has three floor cages in with the Sanitary Kitchen Cans and the mop wringers: the Singever, the Aristocrat and the Duplex. The Singever (don’t you love that name?) has a spring-mounted perch for some simulated tree branch action; the Duplex can be used as a floor-mounted or a table-top cage.
Prices run from $3.98 to $5.35.
Montgomery Ward’s 1929 catalogue tucks the bird cages in with the canning and bottling supplies, washboards and washtubs.
One cage, the Sturdy Footed Cage, comes in three colors: all bright brass with either red trim, green trim or blue trim!
And has “perches, swings, unbreakable cups, tassel and wire mesh seedguard…”
The cage is $2.75; the stand is an additional $2.65.
Last, but by no means least, Charles Williams Stores comes in with a selection of cages beneath the fruit and vegetable presses, the potato mashers and the waffle irons: A fancy white enameled cage with colored lining; a “handsomely japanned” with two perches, swing and two feed cups; a new style “oblong” cage with or without guard.
Anyway, back to the conundrum: Why were all the cages in the kitchen sections of the mail order catalogues?
When I looked in the 1930 Sears catalogue, I found the answer: an oblong block of display art featuring a housewife wiping her dishes; a bird cage (with canary) suspended in the kitchen window.
“The Canary Bird,” the copy reads. “Our Ever Cheerful Companion”
The kitchen: the warmest room in the house and the center of activity!