Richard Warren Sears
Birthplace: Stewartville, Minn.
Though the Sears family had been wealthy, his father lost the family fortune through speculative investments. Upon his father's death, young Sears began working in the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway at age 17 to support mother and sisters. He had a keen eye for opportunity, and when a shipment of watches was refused, he bought them up and sold them through the mail to other station agents. His considerable profit led him to found the R. W. Sears Watch Company in 1886, for which he hired Alvah C. Roebuck, a watch repairman. The firm moved to Chicago in 1887 and began producing its mail-order catalogs of jewelry, watches, and diamonds. In 1889, Sears sold the business for $100,000, intending to retire to become a rural banker. Four years later, he was back in Chicago, having re-teamed with Roebuck to run Sears, Roebuck and Company (originally A.C. Roebuck & Co.). Sears wrote all the catalog and advertising for the 196-page catalog in 1893; it grew to 500 pages by 1894, and 1,000 pages just a few years later. The catalog featured a virtual department store of goods appealing to rural Midwestern America. Roebuck sold his stake in 1895, and Sears stayed on as president until 1909 when he quit in a dispute over the advertising budget.Died: 9/28/1914