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Posts Tagged ‘honor built houses’

Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

November 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 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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One Chilly Kilbourne in West Virginia

October 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

My friend Ersela lives in a part of West Virginia that is currently getting hammered by an especially chilly version of Hurricane Sandy. Thus far, almost two feet of wet snow has fallen on her beautiful Kilbourne.

Here in Norfolk (where I live), “Sandy” only hit us with a glancing blow. We had minor power outages, some wind (gusts up to 75 mph) and some rain (about six inches locally), and some tidal flooding (about seven feet above normal) but we got off light. And we know it.

And frankly, coastal storms are just part of living on the Eastern Seaboard. We get Nor’Easters on a regular basis. In fact, the Nor’Easter of 2009 caused Hampton Roads about as much trouble as Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to Ersela, we have other family in West Virginia, and many of them live in Elkins. The entire town of Elkins is also inundated with snow. The town has lost power, and roofs are starting to collapse under the weight of the thick, wet blanket of snow.

But West Virginians are a tough breed. Most of the ones that I’ve met are true-blue “preppers.” Many (if not most) households in West Virginia have a heat source independent of traditional central heating systems, such as wood stoves or coal stoves. When the lights go out, the heat stays on.

Gosh I love West Virginia!  :)

Many thanks to Ersela for allowing me to publish these photos.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Erselas home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this Kilbourne was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Ersela's home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this "Kilbourne" was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful home. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful Kilbourne. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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COmfy

I can personally attest to the delights of sitting on the homey porch of the Kilbourne.

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homey porch

"Many have remarked about the 'homey porch.'" Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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tornade

Years ago, a tornado went through this area and did some damage to the house, and took out two small windows flanking the fireplace. In this photo, you can see that the windows have been bricked up. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

From the 1928 catalog.

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house

Here's a picture from the Sears Modern Homes catalog showing two children getting ready to blow up a Sears Kilbourne off in the distance. Or that's what it looks like to be. Looks like "Sis" has her hand on the plunger and Big Brother is just waiting for the Big BOOM!

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second

The second floor has an odd arrangement. Two dormers are dedicated to closet space.

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house

The Kilbourne had an "expandable" attic, which explains the five/eight room option.

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My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, Naturally, unaccented English.

My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, "Naturally, unaccented English."

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To learn more about West Virginia, click here.

To read more about the kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

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