The 2015 Orvis catalog covers from February (left) and August. (Photo: Courtesy of Orvis)
The 2015 Orvis catalog covers from February (left) and August.

A magazine-like print presentation of a company’s or retailer’s products. Before the Internet, customers would fill out an order form from the catalog and mail it back to the company with a check or money order.

A brief history:

1861: Charles Orvis sends out America’s first gear-oriented catalog, advertising fishing tackle.

1912: Leon Leonwood Bean launches a four-page catalog featuring his flagship Maine hunting boot, the leather-topped rubber duck boot that’s still among L.L.Bean’s most popular products.

1948: REI’s first mail-order catalog goes out to about 3,000 people.

1972: The Early Winters catalog debuts and in 1976 offers the first Gore-Tex product: a tent called the Light Dimension.

1980: Patagonia launches its catalog. According to the 2010 anthology Unexpected: 30 Years of Patagonia Catalog Photography, founder Yvon Chouinard tells the catalog’s first editor, Rick Ridgeway, “Hey Rick, I think I’ve got it figured out. We’ll run photos of real people doing real things.” 

2015: Most catalogs have migrated online, but many companies still use them to drive sales. 

From Outside Magazine, August 2015
Lead Photo: Courtesy of Orvis
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