22 Years Ago In Time

It is hard to remember a time when CATALOGUES were "refreshing." But before the Web, mail-order shopping was a breakthrough, releasing consumers from the grip of the mall, as this TIME cover illustrates.

The mail order industry ... caters to every conceivable need of the American buyer except finding parking space, spending hours to find the objects he seeks and quite possibly dealing with surly salesclerks in jampacked retail stores. Those catalogues, offering everything from $29 anoraks to $4 Zippo lighters, have become a major factor in the U.S. economy. As subtly and sneakily as a falling nightgown strap from the...

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