Vintage 1930s Grocery Receipt Book - Handwritten Paper Ephemera circa 1936
Accounts must be paid every two weeks...
In 1936, this is how you paid for your groceries at your neighborhood general store. There was no need to carry a billfold or a coin purse when you were walking just a couple of blocks to gather your foodstuffs. All you needed to bring was this little orange receipt book, which acted like a promise-to-pay receipt. The clerk at the store would handle the rest.
Once you gathered everything on your list, the store clerk would record what you bought in this little book along with price and quantity and then you'd head home. No money changed hands. Every two weeks you would pay your running tab. A simple system set up for success for all parties involved.
This book was used in 1936 at the height of the Great Depression when it must have been really reassuring to know that your food costs would at least be covered on a credit basis every two weeks. Let's see what was being bought by our shopper here in the bustling city of Wilkes-Barre, PA during the autumn of 1936...
- Soap .... $0.25
- Coffee... $0.40
- Cheese... $0.10
- Lard... $0.16
- Sugar... $0.28
- Oranges... $0.10
- Milk... $0.13
- Seafood $1.48
- Peas... $0.25
Here in the Vintage Kitchen, we love the intimacy of this little paper book, and the story it tells about the relationship between the grocer H. Zwass on West Chestnut Street and his customer. Whether this was general practice at the store or a special circumstance of this specific customer, this account was never paid in full every two weeks. It seems there was a continual running balance of around $50.00 for most of the season.
It's also lovely to see how the handwriting changes across the fifty pages of receipts, evidence that there were multiple clerks that helped ring up groceries in the shop. Wilkes-Barre was known for its coal mining during the early 1900s and attracted many immigrant families to the area to work in the mines. At the time this receipt book was in use, the city was home to about 85,000 residents. Independent groceries were located throughout the city on neighborhood blocks making it convenient for locals to do their food shopping on foot.
Such an interesting piece of Americana, vintage mercantile history, and paper ephemera all rolled into one!
- Completely intact paper book
- Each sheet of paper was backed with carbon paper, which the store clerk would have kept to record the daily purchases of each customer. Since this book was actively used those carbon sheets have been removed as the shopper purchased items each week
In lovely vintage condition, given its 86 years of age and its fragile paper construction. The entire receipt book is fully intact. There is fading and staining to the front and back covers. Thankfully to the way the book is assembled there are two front and back covers, one set is much brighter and cleaner. All interior pages are intact. Handwriting is very clear. Please see photos.
Measures 5" inches (length) x 4.5"inches (width) x .5" inch (thickness) and weighs 2.6 oz.