MAIL ORDER IN NORTH AMERICA
In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward of Chicago produced a mail-order catalogue for his Montgomery Ward mail order business. By buying goods and then reselling them directly to customers, Aaron Montgomery Ward was consequently removing the middlemen at the general store and to the benefit of the customer, lowering drastically the prices.
His first catalogue was a single sheet of paper with a price list, 8 by 12 inches, showing the merchandise for sale and ordering instructions. Montgomery Ward identified a market of merchant-wary farmers in the Midwest. Within two decades, his single-page list of products grew into a 540-page illustrated book selling over 20,000 items.
From about 1921 to 1931, Ward sold prefabricated kit houses, called Wardway Homes, by mail order.
Hammacher Schlemmer is the earliest still surviving mail-order business, established by Alfred Hammacher in New York City in 1848. Offering mechanic’s tools and builder’s hardware, its first catalogue was published in 1881.
T. Eaton Co. Limited was founded in 1869 in Toronto by Timothy Eaton, an Irish immigrant. The first Eaton’s catalogue was a 34-page booklet issued in 1884. As Eaton’s grew, so did the catalogue. By 1920, Eaton’s operated mail order warehouses in Winnipeg, Toronto and Moncton to serve its catalogue customers. Catalogue order offices were also established throughout the country, with the first opening in Oakville in 1916.