Posts Tagged ‘sears and roebuck stores’

Richard Warren Sears: A Few Fun Facts!

November 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in my previous blog, Richard Warren Sears was my hero, and he really was a marketing genius.

Here’s my #1 favorite story that showcases his brilliance:

Knowing that many households would have both his catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, Sears purposefully designed his catalog a little shorter and narrower than the Ward catalog. He knew that when the housewife was tidying up the home, the Sears catalog, being smaller, would be stacked on top of the Wards catalog.

The book Sears Roebuck and Company: 100th Anniversary relates that a Sunday School pupil was asked,”Where did the Ten Commandments come from?” The child innocently replied, “From the Sears, Roebuck catalog.”

Local merchants and owners of general stores were up in arms at the low prices Sears offered in his catalog and the bold promises that buyers could save money by eliminating the middle man. Of course, the middle man that Sears wanted to eliminate was the owner of the general store! In more than a few towns, children were promised a free movie ticket for every Sears catalog they brought into the local store. The catalogs were then piled high and ceremoniously burned in a massive bonfire.

In 1896, the annual sales for the mail order firm of Sears and Roebuck were $1.2 million and by 1914 they hit $101 million. At its peak in 1915, the general merchandise catalog contained 100,000 items in 1200 pages and weighed four pounds.

During World War I, the Sears Roebuck catalog was the book most requested by American soldiers recovering in overseas hospitals. Julius Rosenwald sailed to France in the midst of the Great War (WWI) with four huge wooden crates, each filled with Sears catalogs, for distribution to the American boys lying in a hospital. (The Good Old Days; A History of American Morals and Manners as Seen Through the Sears Roebuck Catalogs.)

According to Sears, Roebuck, USA: The Great American Catalog Store and How It Grew a Sears customer wrote and asked to return several bottles of patent medicine shed purchased from Sears, explaining that the medicine had originally been intended for her husband and he’d since passed on. The clerk who received the inquiry responded by asking the woman if shed like to see a copy of Sears Tombstone Catalog.

The famous Chicago radio station, WLS, actually began as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. The station signed on in 1924 with farm reports and weather information. Sears sold the radio station in the fall of 1928.

In the 1930s, Sears sold live baby chicks through their mail order catalogs. The chicks cost ten cents each and safe, live delivery was promised.

In November 1952, Sears announced it would sell the Allstate - a small car with a 100-inch wheelbase, capable of 35 mpg. It was an incredibly “basic” ride, and the first models lacked trunk lids and glove compartments. The little car with a four or six cylinder engine cost $1395 - $1796. Two years later, Sears stopped selling the cars, having sold about 1500. The reason: Sears was ill-prepared to handle the problem of trade-ins.

To see several beautiful photos of this 1950s Dream Machine, click here.

To see a video of the Henry J (the Sears Allstate), click here.



For 76.99 pounds (British), you can have your own "Henry J" (Sears Allstate) auto. This is a miniature reproduction of the 1952 "Deluxe" Allstate, offered by


To order your own Henry J, click here.


WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.

WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for "World's Largest Store." Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.


Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named Sears and Roebuck Road, but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named Sears Road.

Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named "Sears and Roebuck Road," but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named "Sears Road."


And the other side was named Roebuck Road.

And the other side was named "Roebuck Road."


And Garmin never got the memo...

And Garmin never got the memo...


To read more about the mill in Cairo, click here.

To read the prior blog about Richard Sears, click here.

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“Strikingly Handsome!” - The Sherburne

June 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 9 comments

One of my personal favorite Sears Homes is the Sherburne. For one thing, it’s quite distinctive (and easier to identify than a very simple little house). And, it’s just so pretty. I love the lines, the big front porch, the steeply pitched roof and all those windows.

Enjoy the photos!

Strikingly handsome

The 1921 catalog described the Sherburne as "Strikingly handsome."


And popular (1920)

And apparently, it was popular too (1921).



The first floor had three spacious rooms.


Favorite graphic 1916

My favorite graphic of all time comes from the 1916 catalog, and features the Sherburne. Mom and Dad are living in squalor here, eyeballing the "plans" for their new house, The Sherburne. Look at their circumstance! The house they're in now has GAS lights! The curtains are threadbare, the rug is worn and tired, and the library table is so pedestrian! Such a primitive structure!


Kids wow

But Dad and Mom are already dreaming The American Dream and they've sent in their $1 good faith deposit to Sears. They have started on the path to the "Materialization" of their great dream. And it's a Sears Sherburne!


More weirdness

And now they're moved up to the "Realization" of their wonderful dream! The manifestation of all that dreaming (and working) is an imposing, three-story Sears Sherburne!


Happy ending

And what follows "Anticipation, Materialization and Realization"? Gratification! The kids are dancing a jig! Mom and Dad are happy, happy, happy! And look at the house! They now have electric lights! And a phonograph! And a mantel clock and artwork on the walls! Why, even the library table has grown a marble top. They now have a thick, plush rug!


house in Rudyard

This Sherburne is in Rudyard, Michigan (and is the house mentioned in the testimonial above). This photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.


House in Urbana

This beauty is in Urbana, Illinois. I love the colors on this house. This photo is copyright 2008 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.



And this one is in Decatur, Illinois.


pictures of house

In the 1916 catalog, the Sherburne was $800 less than 1921.


Scary guy

In both the 1916 and 1921 catalogs, this scary guy is on the front porch.


To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about my other favorite Sears kit house, click here.

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High-heeled Pumps and Sears Modern Homes

June 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The kit homes sold by Sears in the early 1900s were known as “Sears Modern Homes” because they were just that - modern!

Plumbing, electrical and heating systems were not part of the kit, but were offered separately for many reasons. For instance, someone in Wisconsin would need a very different heating system than someone in southern Florida!

Sometimes, these homes were more modern than the communities into which they were sold, and there was no need for an “electrical outfit” (wiring and fuse boxes and fixtures) if electricity was not available to the house. (In 1910, only 10% of American households had electricity.)

However, everyone - city dweller and homesteader alike - was tired of hauling water to and fro, so modernistic plumbing systems that provided water at the tap were very valuable.

In this 1930 “Modern Plumbing” catalog, one of the hot items was this “reliable water supply system.” You’ll note that the woman in the picture is standing on the foot pedal whilst dressed in her Sunday best, complete with high heels! The foot pedal is used to give the four-cycle Briggs and Stratton engine a kick start, which provides power to a pump that will draw water from a nearby well.

She probably descended those long, steep, dark basement stairs in a most lady-like fashion, but once she starts that little engine, she’d better be ready to run like a bat out of hell before the carbon monoxide fumes overtake her!


Don't stand there looking dainty! Get ready to RUN!


Is that why they call these shoes "pumps"?


Cover of the 1930 "Sears Modern Plumbing and Heating Systems" catalog. I'm pretty unnerved to see that the house on the cover (at the bottom) is not a Sears house!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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