Age of Great Inventions
Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913) introduced the mail order retail business in 1872 with the founding of Montgomery Ward & Co., Inc. in Chicago. Ward's first catalog was a single sheet listing about 150 items for sale, but it stands as a defining moment in the early history of American mass consumption.
The initial innovation of the business was to exploit the national rail network as a distribution channel for goods bought wholesale and sold directly to rural consumers, but Ward proved a brilliant mass marketer, as well. His catalogs featured woodcut illustrations of products, included pictures of his managers to give the company a human face, and offered one of the first money-back guarantees in retail. By 1888, Montgomery Ward had reached $1 million in annual sales and reshaped the way America shopped.