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A Rush of Nostalgia for New York’s Bonwit Teller Department Store

Have you seen this vintage shopping bag design from New York’s Bonwit Teller department store, the establishment located until 1990 at Fifth Avenue and 56th street?

An item featuring the above photo is currently the most popular artifact at the Bagatelle Museum, an online collection curated by lifelong shopping bag and box collector Courtney Lichterman. After growing up in New York City and attending college in Ohio, this future travel writer moved to the west coast and has over her lifetime amassed a huge personal collection.

Lichterman revamped the Bagatelle site last fall but has only recently, in the past few months, begun to actively promote the blog. “I’m not sure if the popularity of the Bonwit Teller bag has something to do with Mad Men,” Lichterman tells FishbowlNY via telephone. “But in the comments and especially via email, I’ve gotten into great anecdotal conversations with people about the store.”

There’s plenty more Manhattan nostalgia coursing through Lichterman’s website, including some 1970s Chase Manhattan Bank Gloria Vanderbilt bags and a 1960s Bloomingdale’s art-motif. Lichterman keeps her thousands of collected items in meticulously labeled air-tight boxes and, to the chagrin of some of her website visitors, has no current plans to sell.

Back in 2008, as a travel writer for, Lichterman got a taste of some much larger Web traffic. Her article about the “World’s Top Ten Ugliest Buildings and Monuments” wound up on the front page of Yahoo and was sourced by Boston mayor Thomas Menino as part of a campaign to get rid of one of the highlighted structures.

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