|Seemingly well-mannered shoppers window shop during the holiday season in New York City. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs.|
Actually, crazed Christmas shoppers are simply following tradition. Back in December 1900, a gentleman was put upon to go Christmas shopping and was so enraged by his treatment by female shoppers and clerks that he wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times to complain. Here’s a snippet:
“[At No. 1 store] a more brazen, impudent, uncouth, ill-bred, and indecent specimen of womanhood has never before been on public exhibition. . . . At No. 2 there was simply a mob of women pulling, hauling, and crowding, affording just the kind of an opportunity sought by thieves and pickpockets. . . . At No. 3 the crowd was largely from the country, consequently it was more orderly and decent, but at No. 4 . . .the clerks showed more impudence than a grass-fed mule. This experience, however, [was] well worth the expense and discomfort attending it, for it fairly demonstrated that a man has no rights which a woman respects in a department store, and therefore hereafter he cannot be expected to [shop for] Christmas presents.”
So what were these “impudent vixens” buying back in 1900?
• gunmetal banks for children,
• fur coats for dolls,
• 25-cent toy cars,
• pretty silk-covered coat hangers — three for $1.25,
• needle cases, each the size of a "doll's opera-glass" case,
• traveler's inkstands, each packed inside a man's hatcase-shaped leather box,
• wood-famed petite calendars,
• luncheon name cards decorated with floral designs,
• ivory smoking sets, and
• elaborate silver toilet articles — mirrors, brushes, bottles and glove boxes.