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Catalogues Yesterday and Today: Changing Goods, Changing Lives

Canadian History, Social Studies, Language Arts, Information Technology

Change, Ways of life, Technology, Fashion


  • Mail-order catalogues on this site
  • Current Sears catalogue (to bring in)
  • Other contemporary mail-order catalogues (to bring in)


  1. Ask each student to bring in one or more mail-order catalogues from home, including at least one current Sears catalogue.
  2. Break up the class into groups of three or four students and perform the activities below.
  3. Ask each group to select a historical catalogue from this site. The students must locate the catalogue on the site.
  4. Using the list of specific areas to compare (see below), ask each group to compare the goods available in the historic and contemporary catalogues.
    Suggested areas to compare:
    • Items for sale: Look at clothing, appliances, toys, sports equipment, and audiovisual equipment.
      • What has stayed the same?
      • What has changed?
      • What has disappeared?
      • For items that have disappeared, has anything replaced them?
    • Some items to look at in both old and new catalogues are gloves, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, hats, electric irons, hot plates, radios, phonographs, bikes, stoves, barn equipment, cream separators, harnesses, and washing machines. 
  5. Then, lead a class discussion about the changes in goods available then and now, reasons for these changes, and how the changes affect our health, environment, and daily lives.
  6. Identify objects that have now fallen out of use but that could be beneficial to us today.


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