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Shopping in the 1940s


Shopping at the A&P in 1945

Piggly Wiggly
National Tea

In the old days, most people did their food shopping at small local grocery stores. The products were kept in glass cases or on shelves behind the counter, and "shopping" involved giving your list to the grocer, who obtained the items for you.

Piggly Wiggly developed the self-service supermarket concept in 1916, and by the 1940s nearly half of all grocery stores were using this method. Now that shoppers could pick items directly from the shelves and take them to the cashier, grocery stores could expand and offer more products.

The Saturday Evening Post took a humorous look at the new supermarket trend in 1940

Supermarket History & Architecture
Piggly Wiggly


the corner drugstore
In any town or city, the drugstore was the place to be! Get your prescriptions filled, buy some penny candy or a magazine, get your photographs developed or have a refreshing soft drink at the fountain. Whatever you want, they've got it!

the five-and-dime
The local variety store was a great place to shop for just about anything. At places like Ben Franklin, Woolworth's, Kresge's or McCrory's, you could find housewares, fabrics, shoes, clothing, penny candy, toys, cosmetics and even a lunch counter.

Ben Franklin Nostalgia 1939-1945
Ben Franklin Nostalgia 1946-1950

department stores

Our friendly staff is
waiting to assist you!

Large department stores provided many useful services in addition to merchandise. In Chicago, Marshall Fields had a "Visitor's Room" where shoppers could send and receive telegrams, consult railroad timetables, use a long-distance telephone or buy tickets.

Marshall Fields in Chicago

All decked out
for Christmas

Higbee's in Cleveland

Gimbel's Uses TV To Sell Merchandise
Marshall Fields

along the highway

Your trip wasn't complete without a stop at the curio shop. Here you could find all sorts of cheap about a postcard, a collector's plate, some salt & pepper shakers or some Indian beadwork?

clothing & shoes

At the shoe store, you could stick your foot into the X-ray machine, look through the viewer, and see if your new shoes were fitted properly. Health concerns caused the machines to be removed from most shoe stores in the 1950s.

Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope

record shops
Music stores gave out record catalogs that were frequently updated. This was a great way to keep up with the hot trends in popular music. They also provided listening booths so you could listen to a record before you bought it.
Teen culture was coming to the forefront in the 1940s. Before this, young people of high school age didn't seem to fit in anywhere. They were too old for children's fashions and childish games, and not quite old enough to dress or act like adults. During the 1940s, teenagers began to develop their own tastes in clothing, music, dancing and recreation. Clothing stores designed especially for teen girls started to feature more youthful fashions.

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Town & Country

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