Posted by Jessica Latinović on December 18, 2014 in Holidays

It seems like every year there’s a long list of the season’s hottest toys and most desirable gifts to give your loved ones. That got us thinking, what were the most sought-after gifts in the late 19th century-early 20th century?

Since Santa hasn’t brought us that time machine we asked for, we need to be creative in going back in time. Two of our favorite sources are the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogs and historic newspapers. Here are some gifts we think our ancestors may have given and received over the holidays.

Whether our great-great-grandparents were writing each other love letters or making notes in the family bible, every serious writer requires a beautifully designed fountain pen. It’s a work of art in itself!
Alright, what woman doesn’t love to receive something sparkly for the holidays?
In the Victorian era, it was considered fashionable for women’s hair brooches to incorporate the hair or portrait of a deceased loved one as a way to pay tribute. As this trend evolved, it came to be a decorative piece to attach to garments.
Before wrist watches became the go-to watch after WWI, the pocket watch was the traditional timepiece worn by men and women. They were often attached to a chain and were easily tucked away (hence “pocket watch”) or even worn around the neck.
What little boy didn’t want a toy train set? Let’s hope they made Santa’s “nice” list and woke up to their very own iron train set with red, white and blue cars on Christmas morning.
Every little girl wanted a lifelike doll adorned with long curls and pretty bows. Adjusting for inflation, this $0.98 doll in 1915 would be about $22.00 today.
For the well-to-do families, a record player was a must-have for entertaining and spending the evenings listening to sweet jazz tunes.
Don’t we wish every one of our ancestors had a camera?

You can’t leave out the animals! Does your horse need a new sleigh bag or blanket? Visit J.H. Colliflower for holiday specials for your horse!

What are some interesting or unique holiday gifts you’ve heard of your ancestors receiving?
Jessica Latinović

Jessica serves as U.S. Social Media Manager for Ancestry.


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