I have a small collection of old catalogs, including several from Sears (late 1800s to 1920s) and one from Charles William Stores, a mail order company in New York; I have, too, a bunch of old magazines and newspapers, and I can find amazing details in all of them.
Last week, after posting the photograph of the Gould kids in their pup tent, I started wondering about tents a century ago...and here’s what I found in those old publications...
In the early 1900s, the choices were more varied than one might think: Miners’ Tents,
Tents, Wedge Tents, Concession, Play
and Lawn Tents, all made of “water-resisting duck” cloth, and all supported by
an oftentimes bizarre combination of “wood pole, metal frame and line.” Hudson
There were tents in stripes and/or solids; tents with “a handsome scalloped curtain all around at the top of the walls,” tents with the walls themselves “arranged so that each can be rolled up separately, or used as an awning.”
“Never,” one ad exclaims, “roll or fold tenting while damp or rainy for fear of mold or decay!”
By 1929, the choices in the Sears catalog were nearly out of hand.
“We Offer the Greatest Tent Values in
screams the banner headline on a two-page spread. America
Honor Bilt Umbrella Tents, in beautiful olive green color, shed water like a duck’s back. 9x11 feet for $39.95.
The Highway King was
Forest Green; it had a height of 6’2” at eaves, 8 feet at
center pole. It also had a waterproof duck floor sewed into the bottom of the
There were ventilated tents, white duck tents, play tents; bug-proof tents equipped with marquisette curtains to keep out mosquitoes; small, medium and large tents with collapsible steel center poles and stakes, awning poles; tents with eight guy ropes and rustproof tent pegs.
But the best of all were the “Tourists’ Tents,” popular for “week-end trips” in the family automobile. These were 7x9-foot tents with two windows and sewed-in front curtains; additional front awnings could be drawn over the top of the car (see photo) to help support the tent and, one presumes, allow for extra space in the seats of the car. $15.95.
I look at that arrangement and shudder.All things considered, I think I’d rather stay at a Motel 6, thank you.