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Mail Order and Retail Business By Rachael Kuiper.

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1 Mail Order and Retail Business By Rachael Kuiper

2 Who wants to go to the store when you can order your goods from the mail? During 1800 and 1900s the idea of mail order was becoming more popular to the average person. It was quick, easy, and convenient.

3 Aaron Montgomery Ward was the first man to use mail order for his business. When he was nine years old he took on the job as an apprentice to help support his family. He stayed on for a few years and then decided to find fortune elsewhere. After several years at several jobs he found himself in Chicago, where he found work traveling for whole sale dry- goods house.

4 As he traveled he listened to the complaints from the back-country proprietors about how they had to travel to the city to buy their goods. Soon he came up with the idea of direct mail sales to the families living in the country. In August 1872 he rented a shipping room and published the world’s first general merchandise mail order catalog with 163 products listed. When his brother in-law joined him in business the company flourished! Many rural retailers hated the catalog because it was bad for their business but people in the country loved it and began to refer to it as the “Wish Book”.

5 In 1886 they acquired their first serious competition in the mail order business, when Richard Warren Sears (mentioned in the following paragraph) introduced his first general catalog, and the two companies struggled for dominance much of the 20th century. In 1908 Aaron Montgomery Ward and his brother in-law opened a new building that was north of downtown Chicago. The building, known as the Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog House, served as the company headquarters until 1974.

6 In 1886 Richard W Sears founded the R.W. Sears Watch Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When Mr. Sears moved the headquarters of his business to Chicago, he hired Alvan C. Roebuck to establish a mail order business within the company. The first catalog went out that same year. Mr. Sears and Roebuck sold the company in 1889 and a few years later, they founded another mail order business that became known as Sears, Roebuck and Company.

7 In 1895 Mr. Roebuck left the company to join with Julius Rosenwald, a wealthy clothing company. Meanwhile Mr. Sears wrote the company’s soon-to-be- famous catalog witch featured sporting goods, automobiles, dolls, refrigerators, stoves, groceries, and many more items. The Company grew by selling to farmers at low and affordable prices.

8 Penney, a late comer to the world of business, came at the turn of the century. On April , the founder of the business, Penney, and his two partners opened the Golden Rule of the Dry-goods in Kemmerer, Wyoming. In 1907 Penney bought out his partners and took on a new one. His new partner, Earl Corder Sams (president of the company from 1914 to 1946) was an excellent business man. Soon they had 34 stores in the west and in 1913 they rename the stores JC Penney.

9 In 1958 they started allowing customers to use credit cards and stocking more fashionable merchandise. This allowed JC Penney to compete more directly with other national department stores (Sears, Roebuck and company, Montgomery Ward). The success of the other stores with mail order encouraged Penney to enter the catalog field by acquiring the General Merchandise Company in The first catalog was published the next year.

10 With the growing industry came the need to advertise products. Many businesses used fancy window displays to attract shoppers as they walked along the street. Others used the radio to give a brief description of their product. One of the most popular forms of advertising was in the news paper.

11 Many companies targeted women, trying to convince them that their lives would be better with the product. For example, an advertising company boasted that their electric dishwasher was the “Greatest gift of electricity to the modern house wife.” Another form of advertising was trademarks; using a symbol to represent their companies product. For example Coca-Cola was a new brand that was on the market in the late 1800s.

12 The mail order business was a key component in the growth of American industry. Over the years it has changed dramatically and in doing so it changed the course of American history.

13 Sources: Montgomery Ward, A Brief History of Mail Order, Montgomery Ward, the world’s first mail order business, Sears Roebuck and Company, and-Company JC Penney Corporation Inc., Corporation-Inc Mail Order Business, World Book, Volume 13, Mail Order Business, p.66 Growing Industries, United States History, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2007, Section 1 Boom Times, Page 756


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