Looking Backward From 2000 to 1887
"If I am going to explain our way of shopping to you," said my companion, as we walked
along the street, "you must explain your way to me. I have never been able to understand
it from all I have read on the subject. For example, when you had such a vast number of
shops, each with its different assortment, how could a lady ever settle upon any purchase
till she had visited all the shops? for, until she had, she could not know what there was to
"It was as you suppose; that was the only way she could know," I replied.
"Father calls me an indefatigable shopper, but I should soon be a very fatigued one if I
had to do as they did," was Edith's laughing comment.
"The loss of time in going from shop to shop was indeed a waste which the busy bitterly
complained of," I said; "but as for the ladies of the idle class, though they complained
also, I think the system was really a godsend by furnishing a device to kill time."
"But say there were a thousand shops in a city, hundreds, perhaps, of the same sort, how
could even the idlest find time to make their rounds?"
"They really could not visit all, of course," I replied. "Those who did a great deal of
buying, learned in time where they might expect to find what they wanted. This class had
made a science of the specialties of the shops, and bought at advantage, always getting
the most and best for the least money. It required, however, long experience to acquire
this knowledge. Those who were too busy, or bought too little to gain it, took their
chances and were generally unfortunate, getting the least and worst for the most money.
It was the merest chance if persons not experienced in shopping received the value of
"But why did you put up with such a shockingly inconvenient arrangement when you saw
its faults so plainly?" Edith asked me.
"It was like all our social arrangements," I replied. "You can see their faults scarcely
more plainly than we did, but we saw no remedy for them."
"Here we are at the store of our ward," said Edith, as we turned in at the great portal of
one of the magnificent public buildings I had observed in my morning walk. There was
nothing in the exterior aspect of the edifice to suggest a store to a representative of the
nineteenth century. There was no display of goods in the great windows, or any device to
advertise wares, or attract custom. Nor was there any sort of sign or legend on the front of
the building to indicate the character of the business carried on there; but instead, above
the portal, standing out from the front of the building, a majestic life-size group of
statuary, the central figure of which was a female ideal of Plenty, with her cornucopia.
Judging from the composition of the throng passing in and out, about the same proportion