Dorri Partain 

Grab your notebook paper and sharpen your pencils, kids. It’s time to make your Christmas “wish list” for Santa!

For generations of children, the task was inspired by the arrival of the annual catalogs produced by the three major retailers, J.C. Penney, Sears and Roebuck Co., and Montgomery Wards. 

Both Wards (6200 St. John Avenue) and Sears (Cleveland & Truman/15th Street) operated retail stores and distribution centers right here in Historic Northeast.

Richard W. Sears (1863-1914) and watch repairman Alvah C. Roebuck  (1864-1948) produced their first catalog of merchandise in 1893. Solely a mail-order operation, the new company offered a wide variety of everyday household items, farm equipment, clothing, tools, and more at affordable prices.

The 1908 catalog, dubbed The Great Price Maker, contained 1,194 pages of products, some offered for as little as two cents each.  Only four pages offered toys and games.

By 1933, Sears had divided their catalog’s offerings into two annual catalogs, The Big Book and The Christmas Book, with more than half the Chrstmas catalog containing toys and games.

The Christmas catalog was officially renamed the Wish Book in 1968 and offered 604 pages of gift ideas.

Catalog covers usually featured smiling children in a holiday scene with new toys; the Sears 1972 cover featured licensed Disney character Winnie-the-Pooh and all his 100 Acre Woods friends. The catalog included a 12-page story about the “bearing of gifts” with Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends as they looked at how Christmas was celebrated around the world. 

In addition to Winnie-the-Pooh toys and decor, Sears also produced a line of children’s clothing bearing the Winnie-the-Pooh Collection tag in sizes 2 to 6x.

Teen girls were offered the latest styles with the Junior Bazaar and Lemon Tree Frog designs, while boys could choose their favorite NFL teams emblazoned on shirts, jackets, and pajamas.

Sears closed their catalog division in 1993 but continued producing the Wish Book until 2009. The final edition contained 148 pages.