Today's superstores offer a wide variety of goods including food, clothing, cleaning agents, tobacco products, sporting goods, hardware, and automotive supplies and service.
It wasn't all the different back in early Dodge City. General stores offered a wide range of items. However these stores were much smaller and, instead of gasoline and car supplies, they had corn and oats for livestock and equipment for wagons and draft animals.
Ledgers from Wright, Beverley & Co. General store from the late 1870s and 1880s reveal more than the historical facts we find in history books. People tend to remember famous people and conflicts when looking back in history. However, these ledgers tell us a lot about how people actually lived from day to day.
W.B & Co. sold staples such as flour, sugar, salt, lard, butter, eggs and meat. And, surprisingly, they sold a lot of fruit. However, most fruit was canned or dried. Most fresh produce was available only in season. Various berries, peaches and cherries came in cans. Raisins and other dried fruits were in stock. People purchased fresh apples, lemons and oranges. Vegetables W.B & Co. sold consisted mainly of potatoes, onions and canned tomatoes.
Though Kansas is far from any ocean, customers enjoyed oysters, sardines, cod and mackerel; though they were canned. Occasionally Wright and Beverly sold lobsters. The ledgers did not indicate if they were live, canned or if they were shipped frozen.
Men bought more pre-made clothing than women, but the store supplied shoes, underwear, stockings, gloves and mittens for males and females of all ages. Women turned to the store for fabric, thread, sewing needles, buttons and trim to make clothing. People bought a lot of soap, starch and bluing to facilitate laundering and personal hygiene.
The people in early Dodge City did not have utilities such as gas and electricity. They had to go to the General Store for cooking, lighting and heating needs. Lamps, lamp oil, coal and candles came from the store, and plenty of matches were sold to light lamps, candles and stoves, as well as to light the numerous cigars and tobacco pipes men smoked - very few women used tobacco products.
Just like today's superstores, Wright and Beverly sold firearms and ammunition, which were used for sporting and self-defense.
Hardware including, screws, rope, nails, wire and staples provided families and business with the means to make household repairs. If the repairs required were beyond the skills of the customer, the Store's staff would do the work for a fee.
Instead of pulling automobiles into a service bay, people pulled in wagons and carts to be fixed. They also purchased hardware associated with them, as well as the tack used on the animals that pulled their carts and wagons. If a wagon or buggy couldn't be repaired, people could buy a new one at the general store. It would have been equivalent of buying an automobile at the local superstore.
Instead of a gas station out front, Wright, Beverley & Co. had corn and oats by the ton available to fuel those draft animals which drew wagons, carts and buggies.
The things sold by W.B & Co. varied due to the needs or the tastes of the customers. More to come on this in future articles.