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Celebrating Mom Through the Decades

May 3rd, 2007

Last updated: January 28th, 2020.

We decided to have a little fun and list each decade all the way back to the 20s, when Mother’s Day was first introduced, and end up at the 90s. Under each decade is a description of gift giving trends, followed by some examples of items that capture the essence of those times. We hope you like it!

1920s: Mother’s Day Becomes Official

Mothers Day Trends in the 20’s

  • As soon as the Mother’s Day became official, florists everywhere began selling carnations, which was the flower given out to mothers by the founder of the Mother’s Day movement, Anna Jarvis.
  • FTD’s “flowers-by-wire” service already made it possible to order flowers by phone in some locations around the U.S.

Gifts from the 20s


1930s: Tradition of Flowers

Gifts of flowers for Mother’s Day became a tradition. Carnations were still a staple and almost all mothers wore them to church, which was still the norm.

Mothers Day Trends in the 30’s

  • The floral industry exploded when Mother’s Day rolled around. Plants and simple floral arrangements became de rigueur. But compared to today’s standards floral options would have been limited. This was the period of The Great Depression and luxuries were largely dispensed with.

Gifts from the 30s


1940s: Limited Resources, Modest Gifts

World War II was in full swing during the 40s and resources were limited. Mother’s Day was typically limited to small gestures, by today’s comparison.

Mothers Day Trends in the 40’s

  • Flower arrangements grew in popularity and were widely given as Mother’s Day gifts. The flowers by phone business grew.
  • By the mid 40s, Hallmark cards landed in the mainstream. Commercial gift cards, especially Valentines and Christmas cards, had been popular and very successful since the late 1800s. But now a name was associated with the growing business. However, wartime demanded a rationing of resources. Even paper was in short supply, so even though gift cards had entered a commercial realm they would have been limited.
  • Innovations in food preservation made specialty foods more widely available. Carvel ice cream—one of the first big commercial ice cream companies in the Northeast—included a Mother’s Day ice cream cake among its products.
  • Boxed chocolates were commonplace on drug store shelves and became traditional gifts for Moms.

Gifts from the 40s


1950s: Commercialization

With the advent of television, advertising began to play a role in the typical consumer’s daily life. Mother’s Day and other holidays became much more commercialized. As consumers gained widespread access to luxury goods their tastes in gift giving grew, as well.

Mothers Day Trends in the 50’s

  • Hallmark cards became a household name in the early 1950s. No longer were consumers limited to Christmas and Valentines gift cards, but commercial card manufacturers quickly capitalized on all manner of holidays, including Mother’s Day.
  • Gift cards and gift-wrap became mainstream. No more would gifts have to be wrapped in brown paper and decorated by hand.
  • Department stores such as Macy’s and Dayton’s thrived in urban areas and gave cosmopolitan consumers access to a broad range of goods, including jewelry, apparel, perfumes and other products.
  • Fashion magazines such as Harpers Bazaar and Cosmopolitan came into their own. These publications advertised apparel and jewelry for the modern, sophisticated woman.
  • The 50s was the era of the ultimate homemakers and Mother’s Day gifts for the home and modern kitchen were commonplace.

Gifts from the 50s


1960s: Rise of Discount Shopping

Discount department stores sprang up across suburban America and brought inexpensive and affordable goods to consumers. They heavily marketed gifts for all occasions.

Mothers Day Trends in the 60’s

  • By this time consumers could order a much wider selection of floral arrangements over the phone and have them delivered almost anywhere in the U.S. as long as there was a florist nearby.
  • Inexpensive keepsakes and engraved gift items were typical gifts from children, many of whom continued to craft their own handmade cards for Mom.

Gifts from the 60s


1970s: Family Restaurants Sell Mother’s Day Out

During the 70s Moms returned to work and began their double-duty lives. In the meantime the rise in family restaurants and changes in eating drove up demand for more convenient ways to feed families.

Mothers Day Trends in the 70’s

  • Moms were often taken out to eat for Mother’s Day. Ads nationwide sold families on Mother’s Day brunches and dinner specials. Since then, restaurants have capitalized on the occasion with discounts, coupon specials and even upscale brunches, buffets and luncheons.

Gifts from the 70s


1980s: Pre-E-Commerce

The sky was the limit for Mother’s Day gifts and practices in the 80s. Even though the ecommerce trade had not come along, consumers had widespread access to gifts via catalogs. Credit cards made over the phone purchases second nature. Flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner and brunch out continued to be commonplace and traditional gifts. 

Video games, movies, fitness and animal themed gifts became popular.

Gifts from the 80s


1990s: Digital Age in Gifts

Internet retail businesses took off during the late 90s. This allowed consumers much greater flexibility with Mother’s Day gifts as online retailers expanded their product lines in response to the growing demand.

Mothers Day Trends in the 90’s

  • Online floral delivery companies added gift baskets and non-floral items to their inventories.
  • Online purchases became increasingly effortless and deliveries were guaranteed to be on time.
  • The gift card industry also added Mother’s Day e-cards to their product lines. Established as a means to advertise their goods, personalized online cards have become almost as popular among younger generations as store-bought cards.
  • Electronic gadgets have entered the mainstream gift market. Moms may be given digital cameras, CDs, DVDs, even laptops and cellphones.
  • Restaurants do some of their best business on Mother’s Day and consumers have become more lavish spenders.
  • Mother’s Day gifts don’t stop at affordable; some Moms are treated to expensive jewelry, upscale getaways and shopping sprees.

Best Gifts from the 90s 


2000s: The Longtail of Gifts

eBay makes childhood collectibles easy to find for you, your mother, and her mother. Many once-hot childhood toys like Garbage Patch Kids or Beanie Babies sell for a song. 

Amazon offers a virtually limitless supply of new goods & makes finding old out-of-print books a cinch. On November 19, 2007 Amazon launched the Kindle e-reading device.

Electronics like the iPod make it easier to take your music with you. Apple launched the iTunes store on January 9, 2001 and launched their original iPod MP3 player on October 23, 2001.

Health, fitness & wellness products become popular gifts with the original Fitbit classic being released in September 2009. Cell phones later added pedometers to their suite of built in apps.

Best Gifts from the 2000s 

2010s: The Mobile Revolution

Apple’s release of the iPhone on June 29, 2007 quickly made mobile smartphones popular the world over. Google’s Android followed offering a free operating system to manufacturers like Samsung. Windows Mobile dies as iOS and Android dominate the mobile market.

Phone accessories like in-car mounts, Bluetooth headphones, screen protectors, and cases are popular gifts.

On July 10, 2008 Apple expanded their iTunes store beyond music to offer mobile apps. Games are easily the most popular category. Music remains strong along with health, sleep tracking and productivity apps. Apple also allows users to subscribe to other forms of media like Netflix & eventually rolls out their own competing film offering. Apple gift cards & Google Play gift cards are popular gifts.

Some companies create strong competing products which touch on only one category. Netflix comes to dominate the online streaming industry. Fortnite dominates gaming, leading them to try to create an app store of their own. Spotify is a strong competitor to Apple Music & buys out a number of podcasting companies like Gimlet Media to help offer a more differentiated service.

Apple is credited with creating the tablet marketplace when they launched the iPad on April 3, 2010. Users can share their media through iCloud services across computer, tablet and cell phone.

TV streaming sticks like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast allow just about any TV with an HDMI port to be able to stream video content from popular online streaming services like Netflix or Disney Plus.

Technology savvy givers can use a tool like MakeMKV to digitize DVDs onto a hard drive for a loved one and let them run their own Netflix-like service from home using Plex. If you put a lot of effort into that you would probably also want to make a back up hard drive with the same content for if the original hard disk crashes.

Funko has done a great job of cashing in on popular cultural products, offering Pop! products for athletes, ad icons, video games, movie characters & more. I am dating myself a bit here, but my mother loved Popeye as a child.

As digital becomes more of our daily lives and people spend hours per day on a cell phone, it helps create demand for niche handmade products from marketplaces like Etsy. People also begin to look for apps like Calm as a solution to rising anxiety from the stimulation of perpetual media access.

Best Gifts from the 2010s 

2020s: The Age of Personalization

Print-on-demand technology makes it easy to create the perfect custom gift for loved ones made with a print run of one. A photo can be turned into a t-shirt, a mug, a puzzle or even an air freshener.

Many people choose to listen to music on their phones using wifi at home and data plans on the road to access their Spotify or Apple Music subscriptions. If your mother or wife loves to work out and does not want to use her phone for music due to fear of breaking it, you can give her a small cheap MP3 player from Amazon filled with some of her favorite songs on it.

2 Responses

    Rose Says:

    Ace of Base! Wow that really brings back some memories. I remember when I saw the sign, and that song got stuck in my head.

    Jenn Says:

    How about a gift from the 2000s, try 2007 to be exact? Try sending a personalized ecard to your Mother this year. Check out to create a unique webpage after uploading photos to an ecard and sending it to your Mom. This is very cool!

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