Richard Warren Sears started a business selling watches through mail order catalogs in Redwood Falls, Minnesota in 1888. By 1894, the Sears catalog had grown to 322 pages, featuring sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods, automobiles (produced from 1905–1915 by Lincoln Motor Car Works of Chicago, not related to the current Ford Motor Company brand of the same name) and a host of other new items.
Organizing the company so it could handle orders on an economical and efficient basis, Chicago clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald became a part-owner in 1895. By the following year, dolls, refrigerators, stoves and groceries had been added to the catalog. Sears, Roebuck and Co. soon developed a reputation for high quality products and customer satisfaction. By 1895, the company was producing a 532-page catalog with the largest variety of items that anybody at the time could have imagined. “In 1893, the sales topped 400,000 dollars. Two years later they exceeded 750,000 dollars.”
In 1906 Sears opened its catalog plant and the Sears Merchandise Building Tower. And by that time, the Sears catalog had become known in the industry as “the Consumers’ Bible”. In 1933, Sears, Roebuck and Co. produced the first of its famous Christmas catalogs known as the “Sears Wishbook“, a catalog featuring toys and gifts and separate from the annual Christmas Catalog.
From 1908 to 1940, Sears also sold kit houses by mail order, selling 70,000 to 75,000 such homes, many of which are still lived in today.
In 1859, George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman entered the mail-order tea business from a storefront and warehouse at 31 Vesey Street in New York City. The Great American Tea Company grew steadily over the next decade and was renamed The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company in 1870. They reasoned that they could skip the middleman by buying tea directly from the ships that docked a short walk away on the harbor. The chain store concept was born.
As it grew more and more businesses with recognizable, common names began to spurt up across the nation. Most were in cities, urban areas, but some were in the sticks. In 1902 James Cash Penny began his business in Wyoming and we all know that at mid-century arguable the greatest brick and mortar retailer in history opened his little five and ten in a square in northwest Arkansas.
Generally the concentrations of population of Americans is broken into three segments, rural, urban and since about the middle of the 20th century suburban
Rural has been defined in many ways, most often in terms of non-urban status. Three of the most commonly used definitions are from the U.S. Bureau of the Census during Census 2000, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) defines rural as located outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), or located in a rural census tract of a MSA as determined under the Goldsmith Modification or the Rural Urban Commuting Areas.
- The Bureau of the Census classifies “urban” as territory, population, and housing units located within an urbanized area (UA) or an urban cluster (UC), which has:
- a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile; and
- surrounding census blocks with an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile.
The Bureau of the Census classifies “rural” as all territory, population and housing units located outside of UAs and UCs.
- The Office of Management and Budget defines a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as:
- one city with a population of 50,000 or more, or
- an urbanized area (as defined by the Bureau of the Census) with a population of at least 50,000 and a total MSA population of at least 100,000 (75,000 in New England).
Each MSA must include the county in which the central city is located and additional contiguous counties (fringe counties), if they are economically and socially integrated with the central county. Any county not included in an MSA is considered non-metro or “rural.”
- The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) uses rural-urban continuum codes, to distinguish metro counties by size and non-metro counties by their degree of urbanization or proximity to metro areas. USDA defines codes zero to 3 as metro and 4 to 9 as non-metro (e.g., 4 = Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area; a code of 9 = completely rural or urban population of fewer than 2,500, not adjacent to a metro area).
Of course the criteria for what is a metro area has changed dramatically over the years. The following is an estimate from 1800 to 2010
1800 - 5,308,483
1830 - 12,866,020
1850 - 23,191,876
1860 - 31,443,321
1880 - 50,189,209
1910 - 92,228,496
1950 - 151,325,798
1960 - 179,323,175
1970 - 203,302,031
1990 - 248,709,873
2010 - 307,745,538
The chart below shows how the rural vs. urban population has changed: