The Life of Aaron Montgomery Ward and his Mail Order Business

On February 17 in the year 1844, one of the most influential businessmen of all times was born in New Jersey, United States. His name is Aaron Montgomery Ward, the founder of the eponymous mail order company.

Aaron Montgomery Ward
Aaron Montgomery Ward (Credit: wiki commons)

Aaron Montgomery Ward was the son of a couple of modest means. He dropped out of school at age fourteen in order to start working to support his parents and siblings. He first worked in a factory that gave him 25 cents per day. After that, he hopped from one job to another until he became a manager of a dry goods store which sent him to the rural areas to gain more customers.

In 1865, Aaron moved to Chicago which was by then the established trading and transportation hub of the midwest. He joined the leading merchandiser at the time: Field Palmer and Leither. After two years, he left to work for Wills, Greg & Co., also for two years. In these two companies, he gained a lot of experiences travelling to rural places where he saw and heard the most complaint of the residents there: that of high prices of goods. He then sought a way to lower prices by cutting the middlemen. When he bought out his plans to his friend and relatives, they only laughed at him and even called him lunatic. He went on to try his novel idea. Just when he bought his first merchandize, the Great Fire of Chicago occurred and his goods were suddenly reduced to ashes.

Undaunted, Aaron Montgomery Ward re-established his mail order business in 1872 with a capital of $1,600. He named his firm Montgomery Ward and Co. and printed his first attractive catalogue for distribution. The following year, his two partners left but luckily, his brother-in-law joined him and injected another $500 in new capital. Since then, the company went off and running. To gain more customers, it introduced installment payment, a novelty at the time. With exceptional customer service, the company prospered. Soon, other companies like Sears, Roebuck and Co. imitated his strategy by putting up their own mail order business.

Aaron Montgomery Ward died in 1913 at the age of 69. At the time of his death, sales went up to $40 million, way up from under a million in the 1880s.


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