Refrigerator magnet pictures vintage wood crate used by Montgomery Ward of Chicago. The Montgomery Ward mail-order business was founded in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913). Ward was a native of New Jersey who relocated with his family to Niles, Michigan as a young boy. After learning the retail dry goods business in Michigan, he moved to Chicago and worked as a traveling salesman for a lamp manufacturer and an early company of Marshall Field's. While so engaged he conceived the idea of a mail order business that would bring low prices to people living in rural areas, by cutting out middlemen.
Aaron Ward's first inventory was destroyed in the Great Chicago fire but he persevered. By 1883 the Montgomery Ward "Wish Book" consisted of 240 pages and 10,000 items with nearly nine million dollars in sales by 1900. Richard Sears entered the business in 1896 and the two companies spenty the next century battling for market share. Montgomery Ward's first retail outlet was opened in 1926 and added 500 more stores in the next three years. During the Christmas selling season of 1930 a MW staff copywriter created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Though it remained the third largest department store chain in America, after World War II Montgomery Ward struggled to compete with Sears. According to some analysts the company was too slow to respond to the suburb- and mall-driven marketplace that appeared 1950-70. In 1968 began three decades of mostly poorly conceived mergers and acquisitions. However, with a kind of phoenix from the ashes perseverance that would have pleased it's founder, the Montgomery Wards company is still in operation and you'll find them here. Just took a look at their bed linens and found a nice selection.
Aaron Ward helped lobby for a parcel post system that became a reality in 1906. He was also a champion for public access to Chicago's Grant Park and Lake Michigan. His widow endowed Northwestern University with a large gift from his estate.