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Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

November 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Richard Warren Sears is one of my favorite characters in American history. He truly was a marketing genius, a fascinating entrepreneur and a real family man. Throughout his life, he maintained a deep and profound devotion to his family.

Richard Warren Sears was about 16 years old when his father died. That’s when Richard went to work to support the family.

By the mid-1880s, he’d found gainful employment as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Early in his career, Sears paid a mere $50 for a shipment of watches that arrived at the train station and had been refused by a local merchant. Selling them to other railway agents and passengers, Sears turned $50 worth of watches into $5000 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive, people could now travel easily throughout the country, but there was one problem with all this zipping to and fro:  In the early 1880s, our country had 300 time zones.

Many rural communities still relied on sun-time. Travelers headed west we’re expected to subtract one minute for every 12 miles of travel. Travelers headed east did the opposite.

Hope youre good at ciphering!

In November 1883, railway companies lobbied Congress to establish four time zones, to help standardize complicated train schedules. And what need did this new-fangled law breed? Watches.

Suddenly, they were a very hot commodity.

In 1886, 23-year-old Sears invested his $5000 cash profit into a new watch business and called it the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He advertised in regional newspapers and soon moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Occasionally the watches came back needing repairs, so in 1887, Sears decided it was time to hire a helper. A young watch repairman from Hammond, Indiana responded to Sears help wanted ad and was hired immediately.

And what was the watch repairman’s name?

Alvah Curtis Roebuck.

Richard and Alvah became good friends and eventually partners.

In 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog (52 pages), offering jewelry and watches. By 1893, the little catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. By the following year, the catalog hit 507 pages.

In 1895, Alvah Roebuck decided he wanted out. The 31-year old watch repairman’s health was collapsing under the strain of this new fast-growing business. The enormous burden of debt coupled with Sears wild ways of doing business were too much for mild-mannered, methodical Alvah.

He asked Sears to buy his one-third interest in the company for $25,000.

Of course, Sears didn’t have that kind of cash on hand, so he offered Chicago businessmen Aaron Nusbaum and Julius Rosenwald (Nusbaums brother-in-law) a one-half interest in the company. The price - $75,000, or $37,500 each. Six years later, in 1901, Rosenwald and Sears decided to buy out Nusbaum and offered him $1 million for his share of the business. Nusbaum refused and asked for $1.25 million, which he received.

(Pretty tidy profit for six years!)

Following a nationwide depression in 1907, Rosenwald and Sears were at loggerheads on the best course of action to weather the economic storm. This disagreement really did highlight their radically different concepts about everything.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse, closed-door meeting with Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company.

Sears reason for retiring: He didnt see the work as fun anymore. A short time later, Sears sold his stock for $10 million dollars. There was another reason for his departure. Sears wanted more time to take care of his ailing wife, who had suffered from ill health for years.

In September 1914, at the age of 50, Sears died from kidney disease, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multimillion dollar mail-order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Not too bad for a kid that got his start selling unwanted watches at a little train depot in Redwood Falls.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. Hes shown here in his office in Sears World Headquarters (Chicago).

Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. He's shown here in his office the Sears' Headquarters (Chicago), at the corner of Homan Avenue and Arthington Street. It's claimed that Mr. Sears had one of the very first telephones in the state of Illinois. He had another telephone installed in his mother's home in Oak Park. Now *that's* a good son! :)

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Look at that telephone!

Look at that telephone! I bet that would fetch a pretty price on eBay! And you may notice that Mr. Sears is holding a Sears catalog in his right hand. He was quite the promoter.

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Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown above).

Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first "Sears Modern Homes" catalog (shown above).

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Did you know that Sears sold cars in the 1950s? You’ll never guess the brand name they gave to their vehicles!  :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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The Glendale: A Good Substantial House of Nice Appearance

November 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

World-famous Realtor and Sears House aficionado Catarina Bannier found this Glendale in the DC area, and sent me a bevy of wonderful photos, showcasing this beautiful Glendale.

Probably built in the early 1910s, this house is in amazingly original condition. And Catarina got some great photos!

The double windows situated at the corners of this foursquare make the Glendale easy to spot. The smaller windows (front and side) with the diamond muntins are also a distinctive feature.

To learn more about the Sears Homes that Catarina has found in DC, click here.

To learn more about Sears Houses in Illinois, click here.

The Sears Glendale, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Glendale, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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An unhappy Glendale in Mounds, Illinois (just outside of Cairo).

An unhappy Glendale in Mounds, Illinois (just outside of Cairo). This photo was snapped in 2010. Most likely, this house has now been torn down.

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Mounds

"Every bit of space has been used to the best advantage..." And all this for $1,748.

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And heres Catarinas Glendale in the DC area.

And here's Catarina's Glendale in the DC area. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view.

Another view. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Did I mention that this house is in wonderfully original condition?  WOW, look at the details!

Did I mention that this house is in wonderfully original condition? WOW, look at the details! How many hands have brushed past the finial on this newel post in the last 100 years? Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up from the original catalog page.

Close-up of the newel posts from the original catalog page.

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Original windows, too!

Original windows, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Out

The Glendale had two small fixed sashes on the first floor.

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Inside, it looked like this!

Inside, it looks like this! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The newel posts inside are even prettier!

The newel posts inside are even prettier! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And further down the staircase, youll see the distinctive plinth block that is typically found in Sears Homes. The problem of matching up difficult compound joints was solved with this simple block.

And further down the staircase, you'll see the distinctive plinth block that is typically found in Sears Homes. The problem of matching up difficult compound joints was solved with this simple block. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And theres an original light fixture in one of the bedrooms.

And there's an original light fixture in one of the bedrooms. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Built

This massive built-in China hutch retains its original finish. And it's beautiful! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Original hardware, too!

Original hardware, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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original

If you look closely at the floorplan, you'll see the built-in hutch in the dining room. Also, take a look at the lone column in the doorway between the "parlor" and the dining room.

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wino

The second floor shows four tiny bedrooms and a very long hallway.

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A view of those original windows from inside.

A view of those original windows from inside. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside, there's a column and small shelf on just ONE side of the living room/dining room entry. This is also shown on the floorplan (above). Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the PERFECT Christmas gift, click here. You’ll be glad you did!  :)

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Riverside or Claremont?

June 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

Friend and fellow-Sears House aficionado Cindy Catanzara Goebel sent me some photos and asked, “Is this a Sears Riverside or Claremont?”

I didn’t have a clue, so I dug out the old catalogs and studied the two models.

And then I learned something new.

The Sears Riverside and the Sears Claremont are the same house - down to the details. The floor plans are identical, as are the room dimensions. Why did Sears use two different names on one house design?

Just to confuse us 70+ years later, I suppose.  :)

In the late 1920s, this little Cape Cod was known as The Claremont. Sometime in the early 1930s, it was renamed The Riverside.

Cindy found this house by searching old mortgage records. According to her research, the house was built in 1929, and the original mortgage amount was $4,600.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see pictures of the big fancy Sears Houses, click here.

The Sears Riverside, as seen in the 1934 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Riverside, as seen in the 1934 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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The Sears Claremont appeared in the 1928 catalog.

The Sears Claremont appeared in the 1928 catalog.

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Not much difference between the two houses!

Not much difference between the two houses! The Claremont (1928) is on the right, and the Riverside is on the right. Why, they even have the same bushes in the front!!

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Riverside floorplan

The Riverside was 24' by 36'.

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And so was the Claremont.  :)

And so was the Claremont.

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So, the Riverside/Claremont (Rivermont?) was the same house. But it was a very attractive Cape Cod.

So, the Riverside/Claremont (Rivermont?) was the same model with two names (1928 and 1934). And, best of all, it was a very attractive Cape Cod.

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And here is the Clareside (Rivermont?) in Mechanicsburg, Ohio.

And here is the Clareside (Rivermont?) in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. Notice the chimney on the end wall. Is there a fireplace in that 9x10 bedroom? I doubt it. Most likely, the wall was removed between the living room and bedroom, creating a more spacious living room. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another view of the Claremont and Riverside.

Another view of the Claremont and Riverside. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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This photo really shows that asymmetrical gable kissing the ground on one side. Very distinctive feature. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To read the next fascinating blog, click here.

To read about the other kit houses in Mechanicsburg, click here.

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