Tis’ the Season for Traditions, New and Old

This time of year is always a bit nostalgic. Beyond enjoying the traditions we share with family and friends, it’s also fun to look back at our industry’s rich history:

  • The first mail-order catalog in the U.S. was Tiffany’s Blue Book, sent in 1845. (Although some historians argue that Benjamin Franklin actually sent the first catalog in 1744 aimed at selling scientific and academic books!)
  • Mail order catalogs really took off with Montgomery Ward’s booming mail order business, which started printing its iconic catalogs in 1872.
  • Early catalogs relied on private delivery services since the USPS didn’t offer parcel post until 1913.
  • The Dingley Press was founded in Lewiston, Maine, in 1928 and today is one of the largest catalog printers in the U.S.
  • Hammacher Schlemmer is the earliest established, still-surviving catalog business, which was started in 1881 and now has an annual circulation exceeding 50 million.
  • The first Sears Christmas Book was sent out in 1933, starting what has become a long-standing tradition of holiday-themed mail-order catalogs and “wishbooks”.

Of course, like so many other businesses, the catalog industry has adapted and changed immensely in the past century. Yet, despite the advances in technology and prominence of online commerce, the catalog is still synonymous with reliability and uniqueness — and, of course, holiday shopping.

Don’t believe us? Just ask Sears. In an attempt to bolster seasonal sales, the department store chain brought back its iconic holiday catalog this year, which they haven’t published since 2011. However, the actual print copies of the wishbook are limited; other than the most prominent customers, most shoppers will have to settle for an online version of the catalog.

This in itself is exciting news, though: It’s a prime example of our industry’s adaptability and ongoing commitment to creating new traditions with new generations. Whether your kiddos crowd around a print catalog on the coffee table or the online edition on a tablet, the excitement for the toys and trinkets hidden in the pages of catalogs is still inspiring memories — and purchases.

Here at Dingley we’re proud to be a part of this tradition, and we’re grateful for our customers who help us continue the catalog’s rich legacy with each and every mailing. We’re looking forward to continuing to bring the most successful trends and technologies to the industry and to your customers this holiday season and beyond!

About the Author: Jim Gibbs

Vice President of Sales & Marketing at The Dingley Press. Jim has been with Dingley since 2002 and lives in Maine near our Lisbon, Maine plant location.