RETAIL TRADE: Bosom Boards & Buggies

Cataloguers at the Library of Congress last week recorded a new entry: a mile-long microfilm of every Sears, Roebuck catalogue, from the slim booklet of 1892 to 1956's Spring-Summer four-pounder, 1,360 pages long. The film replaced dog-eared issues frayed by generations of historians, playwrights, economists, artists and others seeking a picture of the U.S. past.

The 64-year micro-record is a reminder that Americans were offered and bought some odd artifacts—crocodile sofas, mourning handkerchiefs, dog-powered butter churns, solid gold toothpicks with ear-spoon attached, mustache cups ("appropriate gift for the man of elegance") and bosom boards (wooden stiffeners used to shape...