Sunday, February 17, 2013
Businessman and originator of mail order Aaron Montgomery Ward was born on February 17, 1843, in Chatham Township, NJ. As a traveling salesman for dry goods retailers, including the forerunner of Marshall Field & Co., he devised a plan to sell general merchandise directly to rural customers who wanted products available in cities but were at the mercy of sellers that often overcharged, failed to deliver or cheated on quality. He founded Montgomery Ward & Company in Chicago in 1872 with a strategy of buying goods at low cost for cash, eliminating intermediaries, accepting catalog orders by mail and delivering goods to the nearest railroad station. His first catalog was one-sheet price list of 163 items. In 1904 Wards mailed three million catalogs (known as the "Wish Book"), each weighing 4 pounds. In 1939, Wards created "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as a Christmas promotion. Pictured: 1934 catalog.