A Mania For Buying Results In A Strange Collection

Hoarding is well known enough today that we even have a TV show about people who amass enormous amounts of crap. But apparently in 1910, it was news!

One difference between the hoarders on that TV show and this woman, Mrs. Theodore Moss, is that apparently she was wealthy and could afford what she bought (including a lot of jewelry, which took a while to find among all her other trinkets after she died).

From the article:

The very fact that she was shrewd in business matters — that she knew the value of a dollar, and that her buying was systematic and with a knowledge of values — makes all the more strange the story of her vast collectings…

In her earlier purchases it is probable that Mrs. Moss bought with an idea of the practical utility of her possessions. Fine linens and silks and laces, tableware, silver, crockery, and the thousand and one odds and ends which fit out the feminine wardrobe and the household might readily enough tempt any woman with a taste for beautiful things and the means to gratify it.

But the idea of finding use for all her many purchases must have been discarded many years ago, if she ever thought about it. And still this strange victim of the collecting mania — for it is that when it reaches such a point as this — went on adding to her stores, duplicating and triplicating item after item, and locking up a veritable fortune in material things, many of which became less and less valuable as time went on…

So far as could be learned, the Moss family was never aware of the extent to which Mrs Moss was investing in this merchandise. The house in Madison Avenue contains seventeen or more rooms and of these at least ten were used as a storehouse by Mrs. Moss. She carried the keys, and no one ever entered the rooms but herself. Here her purchases were tucked away as fast as they arrived and when, after her death, the rooms were opened, the sight was one to amaze even those who knew of Mrs. Moss’s remarkable inclination for buying.

If only a show like Hoarders had been around back then to film it all. What an episode.

Update: Rob Walker, who writes the Consumed column in the present-day New York Times Magazine, has written a nice commentary on this post on his personal blog Murketing.

A MANIA FOR BUYING RESULTS IN A STRANGE COLLECTION: Sale of the Effects of the Late Mrs. Theodore Moss Reveals a Remarkable Assortment of Things Gathered Apparently Through the Mere Love of Shopping (PDF)

From May 1, 1910

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