Contextualizing the apparatus : film in the turn-of-the-century Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s Consumers guide
Is part ofExposing the film apparatus : the film archive as a research laboratory ; p. 97-106
Publisher(s)Amsterdam University Press
The Sears, Roebuck & CO. 1898 Consumers Guide Published by America and Canada’s largest mail order company, the 10.8 x 8.5 inches (27.4 x 21.6 cm), 1120-page catalog was filled with illustrations, descriptions, and testimonials regarding every possible commodity, including motion-picture-related items. Several million copies per year found their way to farms and small towns across the continent. The Consumers Guide offered projectors and films for sale, itemizing the medium’s technological requirements, its business models, and programming possibilities for the general public. It provides a highly detailed documentation of what the turn-of-the-century public could be expected to know about the film medium shortly after its birth. Theoretical Framing : A catalog can be an apparatus of sorts, as a causal agent and source of documentation and evidence. The 1898 Sears Consumers Guide helped to position the medium of film in the imagination of millions of readers, locating it as a technology, business opportunity, and source of information and entertainment. From a 21st-century perspective, it offers evidence regarding the intricate relationship of technology and text, of the material conditions facing those who would use the medium, and of the period’s cross-media endeavors. The Consumers Guide is an apparatus for understanding the horizon of expectations that greeted the new medium of motion pictures.