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Montgomery Ward Catalogs (Wards, Airline)

English | Catalogue Models (not tubes)
 
Author Editor
Publisher ISBN
Montgomery Ward (Wards), United States of America (USA)
Date of issue / Date of first publication Periodicity
Format Pages
Print Type Type
Catalogue Models (not tubes)
Short Description

Information by Wikipedia (July 2014):
"Montgomery Ward was founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872. Ward had conceived of the idea of a dry goods mail-order business in Chicago, Illinois, after several years of working as a traveling salesman among rural customers. He observed that rural customers often wanted "city" goods but their only access to them was through rural retailers who had little competition and offered no guarantee of quality. Ward also believed that by eliminating intermediaries, he could cut costs and make a wide variety of goods available to rural customers, who could purchase goods by mail and pick them up at the nearest train station.

After several false starts, including the destruction of his first inventory by the Great Chicago Fire, Ward started his business at his first office, either in a single room at 825 North Clark Street, or in a loft above a livery stable on Kinzie Street between Rush and State Streets. He and two partners used $1,600 they had raised in capital and issued their first catalog in August 1872 which consisted of an 8 in × 12 in (20 cm × 30 cm) single-sheet price list, listing 163 items for sale with ordering instructions for which Ward had written the copy. His two partners left the following year, but he continued the struggling business and was joined by his future brother-in-law George Robinson Thorne.

In the first few years, the business was not well-received by rural retailers. Considering Ward a threat, they sometimes publicly burned his catalog. Despite the opposition, however, the business grew at a fast pace over the next several decades, fueled by demand primarily from rural customers who were attracted by the wide selection of items unavailable to them locally. Customers were also attracted by the innovative and unprecedented company policy of "satisfaction guaranteed or your money back", which Ward began in 1875. Ward turned the copy writing over to department heads, but he continued poring over every detail in the catalog for accuracy.

In 1883, the company's catalog, which became popularly known as the "Wish Book", had grown to 240 pages and 10,000 items. In 1896, Wards acquired its first serious competition in the mail order business, when Richard Warren Sears introduced his first general catalog. In 1900, Wards had total sales of $8.7 million, compared to $10 million for Sears, Roebuck and Co., and the two companies were to struggle for dominance for much of the 20th century. By 1904, the company had grown such that it mailed three million catalogs, weighing 4 lb (1.8 kg) each, to customers."

Description

"In 1908, the company opened a 1.25 million ft² (116,000 m²) building stretching along nearly one-quarter mile of the Chicago River, north of downtown Chicago. The building, known as the Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog House, served as the company headquarters until 1974, when the offices moved across the street to a new tower designed by Minoru Yamasaki. The catalog house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978 and a Chicago historic landmark in May 2000. In the decades before 1930, Montgomery Ward built a network of large distributions centers across the country in Baltimore, Fort Worth, Kansas City, St. Paul, Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California. In most cases, these reinforced concrete structures were the largest industrial structures in their respective locations. The Baltimore Montgomery Ward Warehouse and Retail Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

Ward died in 1913, after 41 years running the catalog business. The company president, William C. Thorne (eldest son of the co-founder) died in 1917, and was succeeded by Robert J. Thorne. Robert Thorne retired in 1920 due to ill health.

In 1926, the company broke with its mail-order-only tradition when it opened its first retail outlet store in Plymouth, Indiana. It continued to operate its catalog business while pursuing an aggressive campaign to build retail outlets in the late-1920s. In 1928, two years after opening its first outlet, it had opened 244 stores. By 1929, it had more than doubled its number of outlets to 531. Its flagship retail store in Chicago was located on Michigan Avenue between Madison and Washington streets.

In 1930, the company declined a merger offer from its rival chain Sears. Losing money during the Great Depression, the company alarmed its major investors, including J. P. Morgan. In 1931, Morgan hired Sewell Avery as president who cut staff levels and stores, changed lines, hired store rather than catalog managers and refurbished stores. These actions caused the company to turn profitable before the end of the 1930s.

In 1939, as part of a Christmas promotional campaign, staff copywriter Robert L. May created the character and illustrated poem of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." The store distributed six-million copies of the storybook in 1946 and actor and singer Gene Autry popularized the song nationally.

After World War II, Montgomery Ward declined in sales volume compared to Sears, and many people have blamed the conservative decisions of its president, Sewell Avery. Avery seemed to not understand the changing economy of the postwar years and was obsessive in his fear of another Great Depression following the latter war as it had the first. Nonetheless, for many years Wards was still the nation's third-largest department store chain.

In 1946, the Grolier Club, a society of bibliophiles in New York City, exhibited the Wards catalog alongside Webster's Dictionary as one of 100 American books chosen for their influence on life and culture of the people. The brand name of the store became embedded in the popular American consciousness and was often called by the nickname Monkey Ward, both affectionately and derisively.

Government seizure

In April 1944, four months into a nationwide strike by the company’s 12,000 workers, U.S. Army troops seized the Chicago offices of Montgomery Ward & Company because the president refused to settle the strike, as requested by the Roosevelt administration because of its adverse effect on the delivery of needed goods in wartime. The president of Montgomery Ward had refused to comply with a War Labor Board order to recognize the unions and institute the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. Eight months later, with Montgomery Ward continuing to refuse to recognize the unions, President Roosevelt issued an Executive Order seizing all of Montgomery Ward’s property nationwide, citing the War Labor Disputes Act as well as his power under the Constitution as Commander in Chief. In 1945, Truman ended the seizure and the Supreme Court ended the pending appeal as moot.

Downfall

In 1955, investor Louis Wolfson waged a high-profile proxy fight to obtain control of the board of Montgomery Ward. The new board forced the resignation of Avery. This fight led to a state court decision that Illinois corporations are not entitled to stagger election of their board members under that state's laws, as well as to tax litigation over whether the costs of a proxy fight are an "ordinary and necessary business expensed." In time, it helped inspire new Securities and Exchange Commission rules concerning proxies.

Meanwhile, throughout the 1950s, the company was slow to respond to the general movement of the American middle class to suburbia. While its former rivals Sears, JCPenney, Macy's, Gimbels, and Dillard's established new anchor outlets in the growing number of suburban shopping malls, Avery and succeeding top executives had been reluctant to pursue such expansion. They stuck to their downtown and main street stores until the company had lost too much market share to compete with its rivals. Its catalog business had begun to slip by the 1960s. In 1968, it merged with Container Corporation of America to become Marcor Inc.

By the 1990s, however, even its rivals began to lose ground to low-price competition from Kmart, Wal-Mart, and especially Target, which stripped away even more of Montgomery Ward's traditional customer base. In 1997, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging from bankruptcy court protection in August 1999 as a wholly owned subsidiary of GE Capital, by then its largest shareholder. As part of a last-ditch effort to remain competitive, the company closed 250 retail locations in 30 U.S. states, closed all the Lechmere stores, abandoned the specialty store strategy, renamed and rebranded the chain as simply Wards (although unrelated, Wards was the original name for the now-defunct Circuit City), and spent millions of dollars to renovate its remaining outlets to be flashier and more consumer-friendly. But GE reneged on promises of further financial support of Montgomery Ward's restructuring plans.

On December 28, 2000, the company, after lower-than-expected sales during the Christmas season, announced it would cease operating, close its remaining 250 retail outlets and lay-off its 37,000 employees. All the stores closed within weeks of the announcement. The subsequent liquidation was at the time the largest retail bankruptcy liquidation in American history. Roger Goddu, Montgomery Ward's CEO, received an offer from JCPenney to become CEO, but he declined under pressure from GE. One of the last stores to close was the Salem, Oregon location in which the human resources division was located. All of Montgomery Ward was liquidated by the end of May 2001.

Created by: Ernst Erb (17.Jul.14)
Click here for the 757 models documented in this literature, i.a.

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