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Video | Mail Order Giants | Chicago Stories

Chicago Stories: Mail Order Giants — Full Episode

Long before the age of online commerce, the mail order catalog was king. Audio-narrated descriptions are available.

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Chicago Stories: Mail Order Giants

In an age before online commerce and Amazon, the catalog was king – and two Chicago mail order giants were responsible for making goods and services accessible to the masses. Chicago Stories traces the histories of Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward and the fierce rivalry between the two bold innovators who founded them and forever changed the way we shop. Audio-narrated descriptions are available.

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The Early Business of Catalogs

Aaron Montgomery Ward saw catalogs as an expression of American values. His catalogs gave more people, especially Black and rural shoppers, more freedom and ease to purchase goods.

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The Sears Wish Book

As business boomed for the Mail Order Giants, people found many uses for catalogs like the Sears Wish Book.

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Was Born in Chicago

A Montgomery Ward copywriter named Robert L. May created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

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The Fall of the Mail Order Giants

Once mail order and retail giants, Sears and Montgomery Ward struggled to adapt to changing economic forces.

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