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Collections Cameo, November 2012

Robertson's Christmas Catalogue, 1956

Lake Forest men’s clothing store Robertson’s issued this 14-page catalogue in 1956. According to a letter printed on the inside cover from proprietor Ted Washburne and manager Bill Robertson, this was their “first attempt on an original Christmas catalogue which we feel represents Robertson’s.”

The letter reads as follows:

“Dear customer:

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for the patronage you have given us in 1956. We have tried to give you a broad selection of quality merchandise and the extensive personal services you have always been accustomed to at Robertson’s. If we have failed in any way, or if you have any suggestions as to how we may improve our merchandise selection or service, we want to hear from you.

Many of you will be pleased to hear that in response to your repeated requests, we are opening a Boys’ Department shortly after the first of the year on our lower floor. We hope you will have an opportunity to see it, as much work and planning have gone into it to make it the type of department you want.

To all our customers and friends, our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Yours truly,

H. Washburne Jr., Proprietor
E. W. Robertson, Manager”

Click here for a photo gallery of all 13 pages of the Robertson’s Christmas catalogue.

The sketches in the catalogue, done by Josephine M. Thompson, highlight a range of Robertson’s fine men’s merchandise like leather gloves, cashmere mufflers, madras coats and wool jackets, as well as essentials like pajamas, socks and underwear. Included are pages for “Shirts for the City,” “Shirts for the Country,” “Robertson’s Correct Clothing,” “Formal Clothing and Accessories for the Holidays,” and “Resort and Cruise Wear.” The latter features “the famous ‘Chemise Lacoste’” – complete with alligator logo – “in cotton mesh with extra long tails to stay tucked in for active sports, white, navy, red, yellow or light blue,” for $8.

This catalogue was issued at a time of transition for Robertson’s. The new 240 E. Deerpath store (pictured) had opened a few years before. It was just down the street from the two prior locations at 279 E. Deerpath and 276 E. Deerpath. Original owner George G. Robertson, who founded the store in 1922, had retired earlier that year. In addition to the Boys Department mentioned in the letter, a women’s section would also soon be added, perhaps foreshadowed by the “Gifts for Ladies and Boys” page in the catalogue.

This item is part of a collection of materials donated to the museum by the Swanton family. Frank Swanton became the proprietor of Robertson’s in 1979. The store closed in February 1993 after 71 years in business.