Brooks Brothers – Christmas 1947

Harry S. Truman is president, and the United States was beginning its transition from World War to Cold War. In the early 1940s, an economic boom spurred by the war had spurred some of the highest GDP growth rates in much of US history. With America once again the world’s richest country, it was only fitting for America’s preeminent menswear supplier to be at the height of its glory as well. In this era which spawned powerful corporations and even more powerful business magnates, there were but a few stores worthy of their business.

Passengers at Pennsylvania Station

Christmas of 1947 brought a surprise blizzard to Manhattan, with over 2 feet falling over the city.

As the first offering from our holiday lineup of content, please enjoy the 1947 Christmas Catalog from Brooks Brothers, representing their 130th Christmas season in business.  To convert to modern prices, you’ll need to multiply by 10.8 times the values shown in this catalog.  You can also view as a PDF.

Our catalog starts with this letter from Winthrop H. Brooks, who ran the company from 1935 until its sale in 1946. 1947 marked the first year Brooks Brothers ownership transitioned away from the original Brooks family, however Winthrop Brooks remained at the company as the Chairman for some time. At this time New York still used an exchange-name telephone system, so the “Murray Hill 2-8800” seen at the top of the letter is actually a phone number.

Storefront at 346 Madison Avenue, the same building that the flagship store operates out of today.

The modern-day storefront at 346 Madison Avenue has changed very little in the past 70+ years.

I’m fond of that cocktail shaker with a spout and handle.

These rocks glasses featuring hunting motifs will be making another appearance in our next catalog

Swiss made watch by Universal Genève for the modern day price of $1,026

What a tobacco enthusiast would give to smoke one of these Golden Fleece cigars. It’s interesting to see so many tobacco products being sold at a clothing store – but this is also a time when over 80% of adult males smoked.

Hand-carved briar pipes.

The “toilet water” has since been re-branded using the French name, “Eau de toilette”.

A few of these repp tie designs above can still be found on store shelves today. There appears to have been a wider range in prices in the past, with repps being among the more aforable choices. Perhaps this is what cemented their popularity among prep school and college aged wearers.

Loud motif sweaters have remained a thing for over 70 years.

Made-in-England crewneck tees for $20 would be a steal today.

Apparently synthetic fabrics have already made their way into ties (an unwelcome addition, but here they are priced at the modern equivalent of $16 each.

A button-down collar shirt (A Brooks Brothers invention) in oxford cloth – soon to become the hallmark of the brand for generations.

With only 5 retail stores at this point and a by-mail operation, Brooks Brothers was nowhere near as global as they are today, with over 100 stores in the US and many more internationally, in addition to internet based retailing. A lot has changed since 1947, but interestingly enough, the items we love the most, have remained more or less exactly the same.

For more vintage catalogs, please visit our Archives

 

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