Photos show how much holiday shopping has changed in America over the years

Crowds of holiday shoppers swarm the streets of New York City.

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Crowds of holiday shoppers swarm the streets of New York City.
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Library of Congress

The holiday-shopping season is here.

Though Black Friday itself is becoming less and less important thanks to the rise of online shopping and frequent discounting year-round, many retailers have been prepping for the shopping season for months. In some cases, stores set their Christmas displays up as early as October.

This year, holiday spending is expected to top over $717 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. And the holiday shopping craze isn’t new – long lines and hectic crowds have always accompanied holiday shopping, long before the term “Black Friday” was coined.

The photos below show how holiday shopping has changed – and stayed the same – since the early 1900s:


Macy’s has long been a destination for holiday shoppers.


This 1933 photo shows shoppers in New York City, admiring the window displays of a department store.

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Library of Congress

Men dressed as Santa stood in the streets, collecting charity donations …

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Library of Congress

… and children gathered around the windows to see the extravagant displays.

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Library of Congress

The streets would be packed with shoppers …

Crowds of holiday shoppers swarm the streets of New York City.

source
Library of Congress

… and vendors would set up shop, selling Christmas postcards for as little as one cent.

source
Library of Congress

Window displays became more extravagant through the years. This photo from 1946 shows shoppers gathered around a “Nutcracker Prince”-themed display window.


Massive crowds are something that has remained the same throughout the years. This photo from 1995 shows shoppers in a hectic Macy’s store around the holidays.


Stores were absolutely packed. This Macy’s store in San Francisco was as hectic and crowded in 2004 as stores were a decade prior.


Department stores have always had extravagant holiday decorations inside, too, in addition to the festive windows.


Window displays at department stores continued becoming more lifelike and intricate.


Not all holiday displays are as over-the-top as those in department stores. Many shoppers now go to stores like Walmart and Target for their holiday shopping instead of the more high-end department stores.


And it seems like Christmas displays are set up earlier and earlier this year. This year, holiday displays hit some stores in early October.

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Kena Betancur / Getty Images

But one thing that has remained the same is the crowds of shoppers that come to stores throughout the holiday season.