A look inside a 60 year old Sears Photography Catalog shows GAS isn’t anything new

by Gannon Burgett

posted Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 1:37 PM EDT

Long before the days of the internet, let alone Amazon, one of the most effective ways to shop without leaving your home was through mail order catalogs, an idea thrusted into mailboxes across the globe by two men, by Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck. Together, these two men created the most successful and ubiquitous mail order catalog to ever exist, the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog.

Over the course of its existence, which began in 1888, the catalog took many forms, with Sears, Roebuck and Company releasing numerous versions, specialized for target markets. One such version was the Sears Photography Catalog, which was published over a number of years.

While many of those catalogs have found their way into landfills and recycling plants around the world, a few remain, including a 1953–54 edition that has been scanned, saved as a PDF and uploaded for the photography world to see by Redditor Earguy.

As Earguy notes in the title of the original Reddit post, ‘gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) was alive and well’, even in the mid–20th century analog days. To highlight the reality that GAS was an occurrence before then, Redditor KSmattfish pulls a quote from Henry Peach Robinson’s Letters On Landscape Photography, which says:

The lens is always considered the most important of all the tools the photographer employs. So it is, but I should like to say boldly that, within limits, I do not care what makes of lens I use. It is as well to have the best your means will allow, but there has always been too much made of particular variations in the make of lenses. It has been the fashion to think too much of the tools and too little of the use made of them.

It’s interesting to see just how gear-centric the photography world was, even back then; the pages of Sears catalog aren’t far off from the telephone-book-sized catalogs B&H sends out on a yearly basis.

Whether its for nostalgia of gear long gone or to look through one of the most recognized sources of photography gear in the 20th century, it’s well worth scanning through the catalog. You can browse and download the catalog in its entirety by visiting Earguy’s direct Dropbox link to the PDF.

Earguy notes in a message to us that a few pages within the catalog stuck to one another and were thus added at the end when he finished scanning the remainder of the catalog. But other than that, the catalog remains in fair condition, considering it came off the presses over 60 years ago.

(via r/photography)