Famous Retailer Montgomery Ward Spent His Childhood in Niles, Michigan
Remember Montgomery Ward?
The store - yeah, sure, probably.
But did you know the man himself, Montgomery Ward, was from Michigan? Niles, to be exact.
There has been a popular misconception that Montgomery Ward stores were named after two people…you know, like Sears-Roebuck. Nope. MW was one guy.
His full name was Aaron Montgomery Ward, born in New Jersey in 1843. When he was somewhere between the ages of 6 and 9 (sources vary) his family packed up and moved to Niles, where little Aaron would spend the remainder of his school years. At fourteen, he found work in order to help with family expenses.
Needing more, he went to St. Joseph in search of a better job. Getting a position in a shoe store was the seed that planted his success. He started as a salesman and later became head clerk at a general store. It was at the store where he learned all about retailing and later was promoted to general manager. In 1865 he moved to Chicago where he became a salesman for a lamp shop.
Chicago was all about dry goods, and he ended up working for Marshall Field (before the Field’s company was established. Ward learned by hands-on, not by books or orators. Tiresome trips across the states, selling, hiring, fielding complaints, merchandising, mail-order sales, all had their toll. Ward was just about ready for his own place. According to the Digital Research Library of Illinois, Ward “shaped a plan to buy goods at low cost for cash. By eliminating intermediaries, with their markups and commissions, he drastically cut the selling costs and could sell goods to people, however remote, at appealing prices”.
To make this long story shorter, he finally opened his own mail-order business in 1872. The first “Montgomery Ward” was in an apartment at 825 North Clark Street, Chicago. Ward also came up with the slogan, “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back” which is still used by thousands of worldwide businesses to this day.
In the photo gallery below, see if you can spot the Montgomery Ward stores in various Michigan towns.
Aaron Montgomery Ward passed away on December 7, 1913 and is buried in a mausoleum in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago.
It was in 1939 that one of Ward’s ad copywriters - Robert L. May – created a special treat for children at Christmas time: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". His poem was printed and handed out to the kids that Christmas season. It became one of the most famous and beloved Christmas songs and stories of all time…and it originated at Montgomery Ward’s.
All Montgomery Ward stores were closed down by 2001, but has remained an online retailer since 2004.
Not bad for a schoolkid from Niles, Michigan.