Column, Looking Back

Looking at ads from 100 years ago

By Mary Ellen Shaw

When the Rutland Historical Society calendar for 2022 arrived I took a look at each month and was taken back in time to 100 years ago. From January to December there were pictures of ads for products that were popular back in 1922. I decided to explore some old newspapers online to find out more about what people were buying and doing with their lives a century ago. It quickly became obvious that people’s “needs” and “wants” were very different back then.

Apparently one item that was expensive and difficult to find was a doll carriage. In December of 1922 the Tuttle Company at 11-13 Center St. had an ad in the Rutland Herald stating that buying a doll carriage had been “cost prohibitive” for a long time. But their store was offering them at one-quarter to one-half of their original price. They offered their “finest stock of doll carriages” at prices ranging from $5 to $26.50. Apparently they were no longer expensive in the 1950s because all of my friends and I had one. We pushed them up and down the sidewalks of Howard Avenue just like our mothers had pushed us in our own baby carriages.

Switching gears from doll carriages to the business world…let’s take a look at typewriters. Back in 1922 if you needed one the Rutland Business College could sell you a typewriter for prices ranging from $30 to $45. They could also rent one to you. During the “typewriter era” people rolled a piece of paper into them, pecked away and probably prayed that they wouldn’t make a mistake as doing so was always visible no matter what technique you used to hide it.

During my college and teaching days in the 1960s I had an Olivetti Underwood typewriter. It sat proudly on my desk in college and came home with me to use when I was teaching. Carbon paper allowed a second copy to be made as I typed along. College prep students did not take a typing class so it was “hunt and peck” when I did term papers and also as I prepared school tests for my students. Oh, how I would have loved a computer with Microsoft Word and a printer to turn out as many copies as I needed. The cost for that convenience in today’s world far exceeds the typewriter prices of $30 to $45 advertised by Rutland Business College. But it’s worth it!

For those who were skilled enough to sew their own clothes, Chas. Sterns & Company, located at 21-23 Merchants Row, had just what you would need. They offered dress patterns for women and children. The price per pattern ranged from 20 cents to 35 cents. For someone like me who doesn’t know how to use a sewing machine, the dresses shown in their ad look quite complex. But just think how many choices you had when you were free to select the styles, material and colors that appealed to you. No worries about not being able to find your size in a store…

What was playing at the movie theater in 1922 and how much did a ticket cost? At the Grand Theater you could see Alice Brady in “Little Italy.” It was billed as a “torchy comedy” and a matinee ticket ranged from 10 to 15 cents and an evening ticket ranged from 15 to 20 cents. Unfortunately, Rutland doesn’t have a movie theater at the present time. The pandemic caused it to shut down but hopefully seeing a movie in person will once again be an option before too long.

The Nichols-Chapman Hardware Store on Center Street was the distributor for eggs from the Mountain View Poultry Farm. The ad states that the eggs were less than four days old when sold. It also says that the Rutland Hospital “demands and gets these eggs because the sick require the best.” That claim alone would entice me go in and buy some!

In case you wanted to subscribe to the Rutland Herald their ad on Jan. 10, 1922 stated that the delivery price per month was 60 cents and the delivery price for a year was $7.20. That sounds like a deal!

The A. Newman Studebaker Sales and Service Station on Chaplin Avenue could sell you a two-passenger roadster for $1,425 or a sedan for $2,350. Doesn’t a roadster sound like a fun ride?

Clauson’s for shoes on Center Street had a sale on women’s felt slippers for $1.50. They sound warm and cozy.

Ross Huntress Store on the corner of West and Grove (Grove Street extended down to West Street in 1922) was selling one “lot” of ladies’ dresses in taffeta, satin and crepe de chine for only $14.98. Dresses made of these materials were appropriate for fancy social events. Interestingly enough more than half of the available dresses were listed as extra large sizes! I guess the women with a few too many pounds were not inclined to attend galas. Just sayin’!

Prices that we think are high today will appear like a “deal” to someone looking back at our ads in 2122. Finding out what was popular “back in the day” as well as what the items cost has enlightened me about everyday life a century ago.

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