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14 Vintage Photos of What Christmas Shopping Used to Look Like

Decades ago, shoppers dreamed of toys in department store windows and browsed Christmas catalogs instead of the Internet.

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Christmas Shoppers Look In The Window Of Selfridges Department Store In Oxford Street LondonDaily Mail/Shutterstock

Window shopping

Christmas shoppers look in the window of Selfridges department store along London’s Oxford Street in 1932. These photos show what your favorite retail stores used to look like

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Last minute Christmas Eve shoppers gather in front of Macy's window display in New York.Carl Nesensohn/AP/Shutterstock

Christmas time in the city

In 1946, last-minute shoppers gather on Christmas Eve in front of the Macy’s window display in New York City. Check out money-saving secrets Macy’s employees won’t tell you. 

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Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt makes a Christmas purchase in a New York department storeMurray Becker/AP/Shutterstock

Start shopping early

Eleanor Roosevelt makes a Christmas purchase in a New York department store, Arnold Constable and Co., to open officially the 1943 “Do Your Christmas Shopping Early” campaign. The salesgirl is Waitstill Donaghy.

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Mrs.Frances Corless her daughter "Chickie" are loaded down with bundles after doing some last minute shopping at Macy's on Christmas Eve in New YorkCarl Nesensohn/AP/Shutterstock

Presents for everyone

On Christmas Eve in 1946, Mrs. Frances Corless and her daughter are loaded down with holiday bundles after doing some last-minute shopping at Macy’s in New York City. We found gifts for people who are impossible to shop for. 

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Little girls hold Raggedy Ann dolls in the children's section at Macy's department store christmasFairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock

New friends to love

Little girls hold Raggedy Ann dolls in the children’s section at Macy’s in New York City during December 1972.

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vintage christmas shopping photoCourtesy Pauline Crowley/Reminisce

Wishing for a doll

“My daughter, Karen, admired a doll in the toy shop window in 1960,” says Pauline Crowley of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Karen likely had high hopes of receiving a special Christmas present. 

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vintage christmas photo shoppingCourtesy Helen Gaines/Reminisce

Dream house

Helen Gaines Hoge of St. Charles, Illinois, and her sister, Jeanne, are seen admiring a Dolly Madison dollhouse in Kline’s department store in 1943.

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vintage christmas photoCourtesy Robert Bear/Reminisce

Papa Claus

“While going through my mom’s things, I found this picture of Santa taking a break in the basement of Pomeroy’s department store in Reading, Pennsylvania,” writes Robert Bear of Knoxville, Tennessee. “I didn’t know it then, but this Santa Claus was my dad!”

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vintage christmas photo toy catalogCourtesy Milt Skillman/Reminisce

Browsing the catalog

Like many kids, Milt Skillman eagerly awaited the Sears Wish Book every year. Here, he thumbs through it at the family home in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, in 1961. Long before Black Friday deals lured shoppers to throw down their pumpkin pie and rush for the stores (or shop online), the annual Sears Wish Book tempted kids and adults with “imaginative products and ideas that dreams are made of” along with the “down-to-earth prices and integrity of quality that true value is made of.” Check out our top tips to save money on Christmas shopping. 

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vintage christmas photoCourtesy Dorothy Sidney Smith/Reminisce

Chicago shopping trip

Dorothy Sidney Smith took pride in selecting just the right Christmas gift for her mother, Dorothy Alexander Sidney, seen shopping on Crandon Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Here are the things polite people don’t do while Christmas shopping.

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vintage christmas photo santa girl lapCourtesy Margaret Burke/Reminisce

Meeting Santa

“I’m definitely dressed for the cold in this picture with Santa taken Dec. 20, 1049. I was 19 at the time and employed at J.C. Penney in Minneapolis, Minnesota,” says Margaret Burke, now of Anchorage, Alaska. 

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vintage christmas photoCourtesy Debbie Berger/Reminisce

Making a list

Debbie Berger and her sisters, Melanie and Suzie, browse magazines while dreaming of Christmas presents in 1957. Debbie recalls special memories of shopping in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. “Glittering jewelry, racks of fluffy chenille robes and piles of shiny tree ornaments competed for my attention. I was especially fascinated by the aluminum tree,” Berger writes from Clarksville, Indiana. 

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vintage christmas photo store window 1960Courtesy Suzanne Manthe/Reminisce

Christmas magic

Charles Found came up with creative Christmas cards every year for his family. The 1954 card features twins Bruce and Barbara looking into a “store window,” which was actually a display set up on the kitchen table. Stop making this common online shopping mistake.

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vintage christmas photoCourtesy John Suhr/Reminisce

Department store carpenter

“My grandpap, Joseph Ranker, worked as a carpenter for Kaufmann’s Department Store in downtown Pittsburgh for more than 30 years. He was sent to repair something in Santaland one day and started clowning around with Santa Claus. Kauffman’s was a great place to work in the 1950s,” says John Suhr. Now, take a look at photos of what Christmas used to look like 100 years ago.

Originally Published in Reminisce

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