15 incredibly Fifties pages from 1950s Sears catalogs

Cowboys, calypso, pajamas and transistors were all the rage in the Eisenhower era.

The 1950s were optimistic, booming years in American culture, and that was reflected in our shopping. There's a reason Happy Days was set in 1956. Over the Eisenhower era, the pages of the Sears catalog grew more colorful, more glamorous. Illustrations gave way to models, monotone blossomed into color, cowboys grew into astronauts. Rock & roll crept into the mainstream. We flipped through a few hundred pages of Christmas wishbooks and plucked some favorites for a nostalgic trip. Let's shop for gifts in the 1950s.

1. Grace Kelly was women's style icon. 

These models look straight off the set of High Society.

2. Roy Rogers was king.

There are no fewer than a dozen pages of western wear in each catalog of the 1950s. The frontier was huge, and no man towered over the mesas like Rogers. Kids could expect Roy Rogers toys, shirts and pistols under the tree.

3. Products from Asia still seemed exotic.

Though people lumped the continent together under the now dated monicker of "The Orient." These jewel boxes were made in Japan yet played "China Night."

4. There was not a great variety of menswear.

Would you like your high-waisted slacks in gray or dark gray? Ties and trenches were as colorful as it got outside of this page. These button-up sports tops were perfect for… using and electric shaver while proposing marriage? …reading Christmas cards while fishing? Just what are these models doing? Hoodies were in, too.

5. Going to bed was a fantastical affair.

Sleeping was like Halloween, like Peter Pan! We are especially jealous of "Kangajamas." Think of what you could store in your pouch.

6. Hey! Mom! ROBOT HANDS.

This selection of toys is a great example of children's imaginations at the time. An iron man before Iron Man! A pretend quarry explosion! A pretend crooner kit!

7. Alaska and space were fresh frontiers.

This Alaskan playset showed up the year the territory became a state. Note that it is still dubbed "unusual." The space program was really starting to dominate kid's dreams around this time, too.

8. Transistors were new technology.

Putting a radio on a nightstand was revolutionary. Finally, music could fit into pockets. We also like the touch of a typical pink appliance of the time.

9. As were facemasks.

Football helmets started to offer more protection circa 1956. Note that the facemask was still optional for about a buck extra.

10. Did we mention cowboys were massive?

Wagon Train was a hit in the late 1950s, as this playset attests.

11. Families that dressed together, stayed together.

There are multiple examples of matching outfits for the entire family. We liked this one as it kind of brought to mind Lost in Space. The "Cuddle Cap" winter hats are cute, too.

12. Calypso peaked in popularity.

Rock & roll is hard to spot in Sears the year Elvis broke. Calypso, however, was all the rage. The girl's skirt in the upper corner came with a free record. We're guessing it was "Banana Boat Song."

13. Boys dressed — and slept — like adults.

Young men could dream of Columbia and Harvard — literally — with "Ivy League" PJs. There were pages and pages of pajamas in these catalogs. People dressed up for bed.

14. Masons were quite popular.

Men joined fraternal orders, and had the jewelry to prove it.

15. We were on the cusp of the computer age.

What exactly this "brain" was is unclear, but this about the earliest robotic toy we could find. Still, train sets ruled all.

Catalog pages from wishbookweb.com.

Watch Wagon Train on MeTV!

Weekdays at 4 PM
Saturdays at 11 AM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


ELEANOR 28 months ago
I always wanted to dress like Dale Evans.
LoveMETV22 28 months ago
Is the boy in #2 yawning? Maybe move him to #5 and give him a pair of Sanforized Flannelette Pajamas..
I know I would rather have Flannelette before just plain Flannel.
ncadams27 28 months ago
As a kid in the Fifties, I had Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and trains (American Flyer). No guns - my Dad didn’t allow them. But I could shoot kids with my finger.
Runeshaper 28 months ago
A lot of these are pretty cool. That Wagon Train set looks AWESOME!
harlow1313 28 months ago
Well, The Village People cowboy outfit looks like fun, and I would love to sleep in those leopard spot pajamas. Heck, I would wear both outfits grocery shopping. I'd be a real he'd turner!
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 28 months ago
You would turn heads , especially if you wore both at once.
Michael 28 months ago
Those playsets kept on going. I had one space related that I was given about 1969. A metal case with handle, an awful lot of plastic stuff inside. I think there was a western one too.

One time I found an FAO Schwartz catalog on a shelf. This was the mid-sixties, I'm not sure how old it was then. Exotic toys, in black and white, except there was a tint the photos like here. But they weren't toys you'd see advertised on tv or in comic books.

Toys were things we played with, but in some ways a window into the world. All those accessories for GI Joe, and in looking at a page about Major Matt Mason, some of the tiny pieces had so much importance. We were young, so it was all so new.

Who can forget Whizzers from Mattel in 1969?
Deleted 28 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Michael 28 months ago
I'm sure they don't think much of you, either.
harlow1313 28 months ago
You may want to rethink your standards. Most generations are impacted by the pop culture of their time.
Catman 28 months ago
Honestly, nothing says pig more than judging women by archaic standards. Just sayin'
Deleted 28 months ago
This comment has been removed.
harlow1313 28 months ago
My, you are filled with bile. I try to know women as people. I usually like them.
Michael 28 months ago
If fifty years of Rolling Stone has taught us anything, a lot has changed.
Catman 28 months ago
I am more of a man than you will ever be, and more of a woman than you will ever be with.
Andybandit 28 months ago
I remember looking in the sears catalog when I was a little kid in the 70's, and seeing the pictures of toys in the catalog.
KJExpress Andybandit 28 months ago
Yes, the Sears catalog, especially at Christmas time.
LoveMETV22 KJExpress 28 months ago
Going back before the Sears catalog. Do you remember S&H green stamp stores.
After Sears how about Service Merchandise. Didn't Sears do some type of merger with K-Mart?
KJExpress LoveMETV22 28 months ago
I do remember S&H Green Stamps and using a sponge to stick them in the books for my mom. We got some decent things when we traded in our books. I also remember Service Merchandise. I think you are right about the Kmart and Sears affiliation. My mom always shopped at Sears for our family. I guess Sears is pretty much on its way out now, too.
KawiVulc 28 months ago
One of those Rifleman cap guns just sold locally at auction for $140. Hard to say what it would have brought with the original packaging.
Michael 28 months ago
I had a Roy Rogers cowboy hat, butIgot it in the early sixties.

And bedside radios predated transistors. My grandfather had a tube radio next to his bed. And AA5 radios in plastic were cheap and common, and not too big.
dth1971 28 months ago
I bet the entire remaining Sears stores will close for good by the end of 2022.
MrsPhilHarris 28 months ago
Great article. I love seeing what once was. I would have loved to have a pair of the animal kingdom pyjamas either to wear to bed or on Hallowe’een. I remember in the 70s seeing those initial onyx rings in the Sears catalogue and wondering who would want one. 🤔 The transistor radio is pretty expensive at $59.95.
Load previous comments
KJExpress LoveMETV22 28 months ago
I remember trying it a few years ago and it was mostly static, but I'll have to try it again. I've had it for over 50 years. It fits into a little leather-like case and I'd hang it on my bed post and listen to music at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping. Or a ballgame. Fun times.
KJExpress MrsPhilHarris 28 months ago
Mine looked kind of like the one at the bottom of the page, shown as #2. It was pink and my brother had a blue one. They were given to us as gifts for being the flower girl and ring bearer at my dad's cousin's wedding.
KJExpress LoveMETV22 28 months ago
I had a mood ring way back when, but my hands were always cold, so it pretty much remained black. I was so disappointed. About 10 years ago my friend and I saw some in a gift shop and we each bought one for laughs. 😄
MrsPhilHarris KJExpress 28 months ago
Mine never really changed. It kind of just stayed black.
justjeff 28 months ago
Oh... for the days of a strong dollar, low prices, decent fashions, fine grooming and simpler times. You may still find this, my friend... in a small dark place of your memory... a place where fact and fantasy mix together in an area we call.........the Twilight Zone!
madvincent justjeff 28 months ago
Imagine if you will.........
WordsmithWorks justjeff 28 months ago
Your romanticizing of the 50's belongs in the Twilight Zone. The dollar is still strong, "low" prices relative to the working wages of the day, "decent" fashions and "fine" grooming" are in the eye of the beholder, and "simpler" times are just an adjusted memory. Do you also miss segregation and Jim Crow laws, voter suppression, fear of nuclear war, the subjugation of women, and non-stop global involvement of US military?

My point is there is good and bad in every era. Those who long for the past tend to live in it.
justjeff WordsmithWorks 28 months ago
Fine. I have a condo there [the past]... and I am not apologetic for my pleasant memories. Anyone who knows many of my previous posts knows I stand fiercely against bigotry, racism, hatred and intolerance of any type and have called out (and reported) people who have made such posts on these blog pages.

That said, I am not looking for a war of words... but I take umbrage against your put-down, and to have the gall to ask me "Do you also miss segregation and Jim Crow laws, voter suppression, fear of nuclear war, the subjugation of women, and non-stop global involvement of US military?"

You DO NOT know me, and your snide comments are sheer argument-baiting and hypocricy.

If these current times are *your* good old days, then you are quite oblivious to how certain factions of our " modern" society are stoking a new era of racism, voter suppression, mysogyny, nuclear threats and military involvements. Just read any of the news sites (that is, if you trust any of them)... and judge not lest ye be judged by others.

This blog site is supposed to be a fun and carefree place where we can share our reminiscences from times past. You are not obligated to like or agree with my point of view...but "sir', the First Amendment trumps your point... which is moot. Additionally, when I want *your* opinion, I'll give it to you!
WordsmithWorks justjeff 28 months ago
I never said today's world was perfect, in fact it is far from it. Just like back in the fifties. I also never accused anyone of anything. Just pointing out facts. I'll get off your lawn, now.
Maverick66 28 months ago
This was a little before my time, but I would've gone crazy over the Wagon Train set. I kinda want one now - wonder what's listed over on eBay?
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?