Advertisements for Boys Clothings: Wards Overcoats (Fall-Winter 1937-38)

Figure 1.-- Wards offered five different overcoats on this page. Four were grouped together and one advertized separately. Ward advises, "You Can Include Boys' Clothing on Wards Monthly Payment Plan! See Inside of Back cover for Details."

A Ward's page offered five different styles of heavy, long overcoats. There were both belted and non-belted styles there was also one done with sailor detailing. There were for younger boys of primary age. The coats are done in a size smaller than the suits shown on the same page. They seen to be coats that would have been worn to school.

Montgomery Wards

Although the word "consumerism" has a modern ring, it was personal concern for an early consumer movement, the "National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry," That inspired a young traveling salesman named Aaron Montgomery Ward to start the world's first general merchandise mail-order company in 1872. Aaron Montgomery Ward was born on February 17, 1844, in Chatham, New Jersey, to a family whose forebears had served as officers in the French and Indian Wars as well as in the American Revolution. Looking for something more compatible, Monty left home and followed the river to Lake Michigan and the town of St. Joseph, county seat and market for outlying fruit orchards. Chicago was the center of the wholesale dry goods trade and in the 1860s Ward joined the leading dry goods house, Field Palmer & Leiter. As a retailer, Potter Palmer had previously built a reputation for fair dealing. Ward absorbed these principles while working as a clerk for $5. The Chicago City Directories for 1868 through 1870 listed Ward as a salesman for Wills, Greg & Co. and later for Stetthauers & Wineman, both dry goods houses. In 1870, after canvassing territory in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ward was again footloose. The plan shaping in Ward's mind was to buy goods at low cost for cash. By eliminating intermediaries, with their markups and commissions, and cutting selling costs to the bone, he could offer goods to people, however remote, at appealing prices - for cash. Since its founding in 1872, the company has literally "grown up with America" and has had a major impact on the shopping habits of a nation of consumers. Montgomery Ward & Co. discontinued its catalog operations in 1985 as part of its restructuring effort to change itself into a modern, competitive chain of value-driven specialty stores, a move which for a time saved the company. week.


These garments appeared in the Wards Fall and winter, 1937 catalog on p. 196.

Coat Styles

Wards offers five different overcoats for younger boys. The styles, however seem quite similar Most have pocket flaps. Some are belted and some are not. The major difference in the coats seem to be the fabric and pattern. Even the one with a sailor sleeve badge is styled just like the others.

Accompanying Clothes

The boys are all show eraring the same style of cap. It is not one I have commonly noted American boys wearing. It seems to be a style that Wards was selling on another page. The caps pictured are on page 206 of the catalog. Notice that the illustrations show the boys wearin knickers, even though the suits offered on this page were mostly long pants suits. By 1937 more boys were wearing long pants. A reader writes, "It might be worth noting on the overcoat display that none of the boys is wearing long trousers under the overcoat. These boys are all wearing either knickers or long stockings, and since the stockings are without pattern (most of the knee socks then being sold had quite bold patterns), they are probably long stockings. They seem to be of the type that Wards on their long stocking page referred to as "Derby Rib", i.e., wide rather than fine ribbed stockings. The absence of long trousers here is somewhat ironic inasmuch as the display of suits just above on the same page is for "longies" except in a single case." yes it is a good example of the accompanying clothes not beeing a good indicator of the cirrent styles. The plain colorsof the hosiery may suggest long stickings, but they may also be a function of the illustrator not taking time to draw patterns because they are tedious to draw and would detract from the overcoat which was the item for sale. A reader writes, "You mention that patterned knee socks would be tedious and difficult for the illustrator to "draw", but surely these are photographs of actual boys modeling the clothing. So I doubt that drawing would be an issue.?" Well yes and no. If you look carefully at the models here you will see thsat the legs do not look photographic, but more like they were drawn on to create the images. And there are two issues here. One is the drawing. The other is the fact that patterned socks would have distracted from the main item being sold--the coat.


The sizes indicate these suits are for younger boys from about 3 to 10 years. This varies slightly for the differet styles. Some are for boys 3-9 years of age. One is for boys 5-10 years old.

Purchasing Complete Outfits

It is also interesting to note that some mothers at the height of the Great Depression wanted to buy outfits for boys that included everything--not only trousers and jacket but also shirts ("blouses"), neckties, and belts.

Garments Offered

Wards offered five different overcoats on this page. Four were grouped together and one advertized separately. Ward advises, "You Can Include Boys' Clothing on Wards Monthly Payment Plan! See Inside of Back cover for Details."

All Wool with All Wool Lining

The Ward's ad copy read, "All Wool with All Wool Lining. $7.95. Raglan Shoulders. Rayon Yoke and Sleeve Linings. Sports Back. The body of this fine-looking Overcoat is lined with an All Wool fabric to make it one of the warmest overcoats for boys we've ever seen. Has two front slash pockets. Colors: Medium Blue, Gray or Brown. Age-Sizes 5 to 10 years. State age-size and color. See Age-Size chart on page 788. Ship wt. 4 lbs, 8 oz. 39 C 4029--All Wool Overcoat $7.95."

Medium-Weight All Wool Fleece

The Ward's ad copy read, "Medium-Weight All Wool Fleece. $5.95. Part Wool Lining. Full-cut. It's Wards lowest priced All Wool Overcoat, but it has quality features of higher priced coats. Warm part wool body lining; Rayon serge sleeve linings. Yoke sports back. Belt has leather buckle. Colors: Med. Blue, Gray or Brown. Age-sizes 3 to 9 years. State age-size and color. Ship wt. 4 lbs. 8 oz. 39 C 4021--All Wool $5.95."

Sturdy Overcoat Warmly Lined

The Ward's ad copy read, "Sturdy Overcoat Warmly Lined. 3/4 Wool $4.98. New Style Half Belt, Sports Back, Full Cut. Carefully tailored from a warm 32-oz. fabric. The sports back has inverted center pleat and button-type half belt. Big pockets in front, large collar. Rayon yoke and sleeve linings. Colors: Brown or Gray. Age-sizes: 3 to 9 years. State age-size, color. Ship wt 4 lbs. 39 C 4016--Overcoat $4.98."

Warm Chinchilla

The Ward's ad copy read, "Warm Chinchilla. All Wool $4.98. 3/4 Wool $3.98. Cotton Kasha Body Lining, Lustrous Rayon Yoke and Sleeve Linings. Full Belt, Metal Buckle. Everyone knows how well Chinchilla wears, how neat it looks! Strongly tailored. Emblem on sleeve. Navy Blue. Age-Sizes: 3 to 9 years. State age-size. Ship. wt. ea 3 lbs., 12 oz. 39 C 4022--All Wool $4.98. 39 C 4004--3/4 Wool $3.98."

Unknown style

A fifth overcoat was located at the lower-right hand corner of the page. Unfortunately we can not make out the ad copy.


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Created: 8:12 PM 7/8/2006
Last updated: 6:39 AM 7/10/2006