What was once one of the most popular ways of shopping is remembered each year on August 18th as it is National Mail Order Catalog Day.
Today marks the anniversary of when, in August of 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward, of Chicago, produced the very first Montgomery Wards mail order catalog. It was by buying the goods and then reselling them directly to the customers that Aaron Montgomery Ward removed the middlemen at the general store and to the benefit of the customers drastically lowered prices.
The very first catalog consisted of an eight by 12 inch single sheet of paper which included the merchandise for sale, the price list and ordering instructions. Montgomery Wards single page list of products grew into a 540 page illustrated book selling over 20,000 items.
It was soon after that the Montgomery Wards catalog was copied by other enterprising merchants, most notably Richard Warren Sears. The first general Sears catalog was mailed in 1896. Many others entered the field, and catalog sales grew. By 1971, catalog sales of major United States firms exceeded more than $250 million in postal revenue.
- According to the National Mail Order Association, Benjamin Franklin is believed to have been the very first cataloger in the United States. He formulated the basic mail order concept when he produced the first catalog, which sold scientific and academic books. Franklin also receives credit for offering the first mail order guarantee: “Those persons who live remote, by sending their orders and money to B. Franklin may depend on the same justice as if present.”
Today, mail order catalogs have been replaced with internet websites and the term “mail order” has been replaced with the term “online shopping”.