In these amazing historical photos, we see what it was like to go holiday shopping in New York City in the 1910s. At the turn of the century, department stores in NYC emphasized window displays to entice shoppers inside. The holiday season was one of the best times for these methods, when stores stepped it up a notch, transforming windows that were once reserved solely for displaying merchandise into more intricate installations that served more as decorative displays than advertising. Women from the city and suburbs could shop at department stores with lounges, restrooms, and restaurants. In these metropolitan areas and their luxurious surroundings, shopping became a leisure activity, and women could enjoy unchaperoned time away from home.
The rapid economic growth and industrialization that began in the 1870s and lasted until around 1900 enabled window shopping in the city. The practice of displaying goods in shop windows for passersby to see dates back to the mid-19th century. Harry Gordon Selfridge (of Chicago’s Marshall Field Department Store and later of London’s Selfridges) was the first to use large window displays.The sellers did not recognize the value of window displays until some time had passed, but once they did, window displays became ever more prominent and elaborate.