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Before Amazon: Mail Order in Appalachia

A virtual exhibit exploring mail order in Appalachia through the Artifacts in the Appalachian Artifacts Teaching Collection

In rural Appalachia, like all of rural America, the advent of mail order shopping was hugely impactful.  Evidence is found in the array of things people owned and used—the material culture of Appalachia.  Below is a selection of mail order objects found in our Appalachian Artifacts Teaching Collection.

The "Ideal" Re- & De-Capper for Shotgun Shells

This shotgun shell loading equipment was owned by James O. Evans (1877-1968), a farmer in Clark Co., Kentucky.  It is part of a set of equipment owned by Evans that allowed him to manufacture his own shotgun shells.  It is artifact number 1984.1.3 in the Evans Collection.  The ad is from the 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue


Carriage Lamp

This carriage lamp is from an unknown household in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It made light by burning kerosene and fit into standardized mounts built into commercially made carriages.   It is artifact number 1969.1.889 in the Edna Lynn Simms Collection.  The ad is from the 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue.


Lamp Shade Holder

This lamp shade hardware is from eastern Kentucky. It was used to hold a lamp glass or tin lampshade to an electric light bulb socket.  It is artifact number 1997.26.1 in the collection. The ad is from the 190s Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue: