There’s a story behind the Two Pan’s Needles, Dogs, and Secrets posted last week.
It surprised the woofers out of me to discover that sewing needles were a precious commodity in the newly opened Western territories. It was easier to find bullets and bear traps than sewing necessities. (Now days, you can find mending kits at convenience stores. That’s a handy change I won’t squint at)
Women’s Voices from the Oregon Trail* records only one darning needle in Pass Creek Valley in 1853. It was carried like precious cargo in its potato transport. According to the child walking it to the next homestead miles away, (Side note: How far do we let kids walk today—unescorted?), it was the bear’s fault he lost the potato. (I suppose hiding from a mama bear with two cubs might cause spud separation.) This was such a catastrophe, all of the community kicked trail duff and clawed through underbrush for days until they found the potato.
Months later, a peddler passed through the valley. When he heard the story, he gave a “Christmas present” to each territorial family—a needle.
The peddler, Aaron Meier, went on to establish a chain of department stores. One-hundered years later, in 1967, one of their ads stated:
We still want every woman to have a darning needle of her own. Come into our Fabric Center…Tuesday and get yours, free.
In 2006, the 16 store/acquisitions were sold to Macy’s. Since then, the only free thing I’ve received are wads of Macy’s coupons. (I don’t count the perfume stinkums as gifts.)
“FREE” remains the most effective word in advertising. That hasn’t changed.
To compete with the new Safeway Monster, our small local grocery has giveaways. No sewing needles yet…
but last week I was gifted with a 5# bag of potatoes. I can always use food.