Vintage Photos of People Mesmerized by Holiday Windows - Atlas Obscura
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Vintage Photos of People Mesmerized by Holiday Windows


Children looking at toys, c. 1900. (Photo: Library of Congress

Each year department stores unveil their holiday window displays to admiring crowds. Festive windows have been a tradition in New York City since the 1870s; R.H. Macy, of the retailer Macy’s, is largely credited with having created one of the first Christmas window displays in 1874. Today, an estimated 15,000 people pass by the store’s elaborate windows every hour during the season.

In recent years, gazing into store windows has become almost as much a tradition as the actual buying of gifts, which of course, is the ultimate goal of the windows–to get shoppers in the door. Design and production for displays often begins more than a year in advance, despite estimates that 46 percent of Christmas shopping will be done online in 2015. 

Today we look back to a time before online shopping, when browsing was done through a pane of glass. Delight in these vintage photos of people mesmerized by store windows stocked with Christmas goodies.  

Two women admire a shop window at Christmastime, 1949, Holland. (Photo: Nationaal Archief/flickr)

A boy stands by a window display of Christmas ornaments, c. 1940. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Shoppers gather around a window. c. 1900. (Photo: Library of Congress)

New York window shoppers at Christmas. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Trees and wreaths on display, c. 1941. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Christmas toys on display, c. 1910. (Photo: Library of Congress)  

A boy gazes at a Christmas window. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Captivated by Christmas toys, c. 1915. (Photo: Library of Congress)