Annual EBHS Conference, 39th Annual Economic and Business History Society Conference

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A Brief History of Sears' Holdings and Its Forerunners
Mark L Gardner

Last modified: 2014-05-19


Abstract--“A Brief History of Sears Holdings and Its Forerunners”

by Mark L Gardner, Retired Professor of Economics, Piedmont College

Feb. 28, 2014

The purpose of this paper is to present a brief history of the department store chain, now known as Sears Holdings, Inc., that was started by railroad clerk Richard Sears in 1887 by selling watches through the mail.  The focus will be on the lives and managerial skills of those who helped the company grow and prosper including Sears,  Alvah Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald, retired US Army General Robert E. Wood, and others.  The author also interviewed three recent retirees of the company using a mailed questionnaire.

The paper will be become part of a series of eight similar papers, each dealing with the history of a different department store chain, that the author has written over the past twenty years.  Should the opportunity present itself, the author would like to combine these papers into an anthology.  The author would like to present the paper to the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Economic and Business History Society, if accepted and if funding for travel can be found.  The purpose of the paper is to educate other academics and people in general about innovations in retailing that were introduced by the Sears organization.

The author plans to rely heavily on secondary sources such as Sears Roebuck USA by Gordon L. Weil, (1977), and Shaping an American Institution:  Robert E. Wood and Sears, Roebuck, by James C. Worthy, (1984).  Information on more recent events will be taken from newspapers such at The Wall Street Journal.