For the past several years, I've built a 2-3 day lesson on  this book - a reprint of the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. It is one of the most deceptively seductive tools for student engagement that I've found (a gateway drug to American History, if you will). Most students look briefly at the cover or hear a description of this reproduction catalog and immediately write it off as hopelessly boring.

And yet...

I have a handful of different Sears Catalog reprints in my classroom and if I scatter them around on student desks before class begins, within moments, students have been totally sucked into them.

Yes, the boys go immediately to the section on shotguns.

Yes, most of the girls go immediately to saddles and horse-tack.

So what? It's American History and they're engrossed. (And they rarely stay in those sections.)

The items being sold give a unique view into consumer culture at the turn of the 20th Century and into Victorian culture generally. This catalog wasn't originally printed to teach anybody anything - it was there to sell stuff. They only sold things that people wanted to buy. The fact that people wanted to buy them tells us a lot.

For instance...