Hooked on the Catalog Habit

Nearly 100 years ago, many growing communities in the U.S. viewed the mail order catalog as a villain stealing money from local businesses. Some – including Medford, OR – were so concerned that they formed committees and launched campaigns to discourage catalog shopping and promote local trade. Bill Alley, a historian with the Southern Oregon Historical Society, found an ad from the Medford Commercial Club that appeared in the August 15, 1916 edition of The Medford Mail Tribune. Under the headline “Don’t be carried away by the catalogue habit,” the text reads:

“Are you among the thousands of men and women who are carried away by the catalogue habit? Is there anyone in your immediate family circle who is allowing this habit to run away with him? If so, there is work for you to do. This habit started more than forty years ago. It is the same habit that has stunted the growth of thousands of communities. It has built up a few enormously large cities at the expense of your town. Don’t allow a habit like this to run away with you. Take the bit in your own teeth. Investigate for yourself. Find out. Talk it over with your home merchant. Get your heads together. That habit is hurting you both. By killing this habit you benefit yourself, your children, your neighbors, your community. Spend your money at home.”

A few weeks after this ad ran, brothers Harry and David Holmes inherited Medford’s Bear Creek Orchard. Today, that orchard has become $309 million-plus multititle food plants and gifts cataloger Bear Creek Corp.