Houston History – Glimpses of the Past

Houston has such a vast and eclectic history, I thought it might be fun to do a random weekly in which people bring up old places and people in Houston that they might like to see, some old memorabilia or nostalgic ads, etc.

Anthony Ratbun suggested the following:
Shopping malls, radio promos, Sears, Foley’s, local legends gone by like Ol’ Bear from Superior Waterbeds

So I started with Foley’s.

The downtown Houston store was opened in 1900 by brothers Pat and James Foley with money borrowed by an uncle. The uncle was William L Foley who already had a dry good store. In fact, here’s an ad from a 1897 newspaper for William L Foley’s store. According to the ad, their goods were “the most popular on earth,” and they had wagons at the ready for delivery!

The store had all kinds of items available. Here are a few that were in that 1897 ad. Flannels, ginghams, silks, picture books, games, neckties, and more!

So in 1900, William L Foley lent money to his nephews Pat and James Foley who opened the store located at 507 Main Street in Houston, Texas. In 1905 they expanded next door and added ready-made clothing as well. Here’s a 1908 ad for one of those ready-made outfits. Cute isn’t it? I’d totally buy it. Too bad I’m only a century too late..


Sears & Roebuck was founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in 1893 as a mail ordering catalog company. Retail stores came later, starting around 1925.

“Before the Sears catalog, farmers near small rural towns usually purchased supplies—often at high prices and on credit—from local general stores with narrow selections of goods. Prices were negotiated and relied on the storekeeper’s estimate of a customer’s creditworthiness.
Sears took advantage of this by publishing catalogs offering customers a wider selection of products at clearly stated prices.” (wikipedia)

In this next clipping you can see how Sears & Roebuck got their name out there in the early days when they were mail-order only. In this ad in 1899, they were offering a new 1899 gents’ or ladies’ Acme King Bicycle for only one dollar, with the stipulation being that the person receiving the bicycle at such a huge discount agree to hand out a 1000 small circulars “which you can do in 3 hours.”

So that was a pretty good deal, especially since this next ad from 1900 shows that a new bicycle was going for $13.75 at that time.


Meanwhile, Sears kept expanding with what they offered. This ad from November 14th, 1920 shows what some lovely evening in your home might look like if you were to purchase this fine phonograph Sears was selling.
Oh and by the way, they were so certain you’d be satisfied with your phonograph, they offered to ship it to you with no money down for you to just try it out for 2 weeks. Because hey, they know you’ll love it. It is the finest, certainly for that price. Take a look.
____________________Here’s around how much you could get a radio for in 1924



When I come across a clearer copy, I’ll switch it out. But here’s a temporary schedule.


Well I don’t have anything on shopping malls at the moment, or on local legends gone by like Ol’ Bear from Superior Waterbeds. But hey, if any of you reading this have old photos or memorabilia of any of those, or any topics you’d like to see here, you can email them to admin@AlternativeHouston.com


Oh and also check back because the next one is going to be on Marvin Zindler.




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