Archive Gallery: PopSci’s Vintage Guide to Christmas Past

Our favorite gift guides, DIY decorations, and illustrated Santa Clauses from the past 138 holiday seasons

When it comes to writing wishlists, you often don't know what you want until you see it. Hence our publishing a massive gift guide for guys. "Here are some mouth-watering items chosen with you min mind," we said. "Just clip or underline them as a gentle hint--she'll appreciate it."(wink wink). The hottest items of '67 included: - A double-purpose timer that could count seconds and minutes! - Air horns that came with a two-pound cartridge of Freon - Outdoor speakers with waterproof cones. The left box contains the speaker, while the right box houses a "passive radiator" in time to the sound - Long-range, rechargeable battery-powered walkie talkie with a five-watt transmitter - A staple gun kit with 5,000 staples in four different sizes - A tape player/AM and FM radio set for his car - An insulated jug for picnics. Delightful! Read the full story in "PS Previews the Christmas Gifts You'd Like to Get"

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If there’s one thing our archives will attest to, it’s that times change, but the holiday spirit remains constant. For 138 years, the most wonderful time of the year arrived without fail, whether we were at war, in the midst of a Communist takeover, or mourning over failed space expeditions. That being said, we’ve compiled several of our favorite holiday DIY, how-to’s and gift guides from over the past hundred years. You’ll be surprised at what we put at the top of our wish lists just a few decades ago.

Click to launch the photo gallery.

The 20th century began with a Christmas tree shortage, a phenomenon we could only attribute to “Santa’s stinginess in handing out real Christmas trees.” Being shop work enthusiasts, we suggested that readers make their own high-tech tree by boring holes into wooden poles, sticking decorated pine branches into those holes, and then mounting the structure onto a rotating wooden base.

Later that century, when cameras became more commonplace, we recommended that readers forgo store-bought cards to create their personalized holiday greetings out of family pictures–and so began a tradition we continue today, albeit with the aid of a Photoshop rather than the lightning techniques we describe in the article.

Of course, you can’t have the holidays without presents. One of our earliest Christmas gift guides, published in 1926, gave pointers on buying a radio. (Cone-type loudspeaker? Check. Matches the furniture? Check.) Elsewhere in our pages, we provided housewives with diagrams for eye-catching Christmas decor, such as snowflake-addled balloon-mobiles and a Styrofoam Santa lounging in a Model T.

Whether you need a little holiday cheer, or–like us–you simply enjoy looking at old stuff, click through our gallery for the best of PopSci’s retro holiday coverage.