About - Catalogs & Wishbooks

This website had its beginnings many years ago when working with various clients and internet data projects. These types of projects involved "big data" to address and answer some unique technical questions, and moreover to craft innovative solutions when working with large volumes of data and information. At the time, retail department store catalogs were researched as a source for such volumes and diversity of large data. Starting as an internal project, many catalogs were originally obtained through donations, contributions and sourcing various online marketplaces to build an ever-growing library of data. Equipped with optical scanners, the catalogs were scanned as they were gathered and digitized for various uses with the ongoing big data projects. Over time the project branched in various directions to solve and work on different things. One such branch became the seed for this website, and thus it was born.

When this website was launched, it was with the simple idea that it would share its content freely to the world. The website has become an online portal for visitors to use, to remember, cherish and celebrate retail department store catalog history. In the website's beginnings, catalogs primarily from Sears, Montgomery Ward and JCPenney were sourced, scanned and posted. This has included the Christmas catalogs from those respective retailers, and also the "Big Book" Seasonal catalogs (Spring/Summer & Fall/Winter editions). Looking ahead, we are planning to add more catalogs and content when possible. The "Big Book" Seasonal catalogs (Spring/Summer & Fall/Winter) of Montgomery Ward and JCPenney are also being sourced and added as possible in the road ahead.

We have received much positive and amazing feedback from visitors. Heartfelt and spirited messages have been received from vintage collectors and enthusiasts, hobbyists, educators and students, historians, authors and bloggers, and many fans young to old as they visit every day to explore and browse the hundreds of catalogs here. From many online and social media resources (Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Wordpress and more), the visitation statistics are pointing to continued growth over time. Website analytics are showing us that many thousands of visitors are viewing the pages of the website every day. The tremendous uptick in visitors has presented some challenges, and we are taking such things in stride to actively improve and offer what we can.

While there are many other internet websites and online resources that are showcasing retail store catalog content and history, our goal has been to create and present a different experience than what has been offered before. We strive to offer far more catalog content and provide helpful capabilities that do not exist elsewhere. We view our website, as well as all others, as a collective contribution that benefits anyone and everyone in the online world. On that note, we certainly hope you enjoy your time here to browse and view the catalogs, as we remain actively committed in growing and evolving this website on its path forward and into the future.

Using Search on this Website
This website utilizes simple keyword search capabilities on catalogs where enabled. After a catalog is scanned and posted to this website, typically it will take some time afterwards to use OCR (optical character recogniztion) programs to detect and store the words to the website database. As the OCR process is time and computing-intensive, this is typically done well after the catalog is viewable on the website. The most recent catalogs posted to the website will not immediately have search capability enabled, but once they have been through the OCR process, the keywords are loaded into the database and search will be enabled.

The OCR process to scan and find words on page images is fairly good, but definitely not perfect. There are times during the OCR scanning process where it misses words, or misinterprets words, or because of scan/page/image quality cannot accurately decipher a word. Just realize that OCR will get a lot of the words, but not all of them. During the OCR process the words are stored in the same order they are found on the page. This is important to note, as explained more in the next paragraph.

When using search for a single catalog, or even the entire website, please try to be simple in the keyword(s) used for searching. The search on this website is far from the sophistication of what Google uses, so it is important to "dumb down" and try and keep your search attempts simple and short to successfuly find things. As an example, if you want to search for DOLLS then just use the word "DOLLS" (without quotes) or "dolls" (again, without quotes) in this website's search boxes. (Searching is not case-sensitive anywhere on this website.) What would be much more difficult is attempting a search with many words together (like a phrase -- avoid phrases for searches!): Barbie and Ken Summer Dollhouse. That kind of search with a phrase (several words) would likely get no results because there are likely no words that match exactly that string (sequenced exactly like that, word-for-word, in that order) on any catalog page. A better approach would be to search on just Barbie Doll or Ken Doll or even Dollhouse. By using simple or short keywords, the likelihood of getting results is higher.

Here are some good, simple and short keyword examples for searching and better getting results on this website:
  • Batman
  • Star Destroyer
  • Nintendo
  • Jeans
  • Sandals

Conversely, these examples would not be good for searching and getting any results:
  • Batman and Robin's Batcave
  • (Too many words and too specific. Just use "Batman" or "Batcave")
  • Star Wars Star Destroyer
  • (Too many words. Just use "Star Destroyer")
  • Nintendo video game console
  • (Too many words. Just use "Nintendo" or "Video Game")
  • 1976 Sears Jeans
  • (Don't use years. Don't use a specific brand like Sears. Just use "Jeans")
  • Sandals for men
  • (Cannot find words in that order. Just use "Sandals")

Catalog Pages & Numbering
Every attempt has been made to preserve and present on this website the catalogs in as much of their entirety as possible. Due to ages and varying conditions of the collected catalogs, there are instances where various catalogs shown on this website will have some pages that are:
  • weathered, worn or ripped
  • dog-eared, creased or folded
  • discolored, blemished or stained
  • containing handwriting or markings by previous owners
  • skewed, mis-aligned, distorted or out-of-orientation
  • partial, incomplete or missing
Also, the catalog page numbering (as reflected in this website's URLs) does not always equal the actual scanned catalog page number (as on the printed page). This is mostly due to instances of missing pages, catalog inserts with different or no numbering, out-of-order pages, or even the catalog itself not having contiguously numbered pages.

Thank you for visiting this website. Enjoy!

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