Montgomery Ward announced that it was going out of business after 129
years. The company was founded by Aaron
Montgomery Ward in 1872. As for myself, I
had spent a number of years working at the company’s corporate offices in
Chicago and, like many, many others, I was about to be unemployed.
a sad and scary time for everyone. It
was also the end of a retailing era…the death of a retailing giant that had
long been a fixture on the American scene.
I’ve always been a collector of various 'stuff' and consequently I accumulated/purchased
a few Montgomery Ward items over my years with the company. After the closing announcement, many odds and
ends were headed for the trash bin. I
managed to ‘rescue’ a few of them for my collection of Ward’s memorabilia and
my position at Montgomery Ward involved security, loss prevention, safety,
inventory shrinkage, collections…asset protection…it seemed appropriate that
the first item I’ve included in this posting is this old 3” x 5” “Apprehension
Card” that I came across as we closed down our operations.
The juvenile shoplifter’s names have been
blurred as they might possibly still be alive…although they’d be about 93 years
my favorite items in my collection is this pamphlet from 1925 that documents
the history of the company. Even better
is the fact that there are lots of pictures inside which document company
operations… The catalog operations were huge in those days and thousands of
employees filled work station after work station.
figure at the center of the pamphlet is the “Spirit of Progress”. It depicts the goddess Diana, dressed in
flowing robes, balancing on a globe, and holding a torch in her right hand and
a caduceus in her left hand.
from Greek is a "herald's staff" and it’s the staff carried by Hermes
in Greek mythology. The caduceus is a
recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation…
from the pamphlet directly represents this 22.5-foot bronze statue that still
resides on top of the company’s former administration building which was built
on Chicago Avenue in 1907. It had originally
been placed on top of the even older Montgomery Ward Building on Michigan
still even have a few items of new clothing that I've never worn! I did wear the tie on a couple of occasions
but I’ve never used the sweater or the golf shirt. I also have a couple of t-shirts and a
the uninitiated, Electric Ave and More was an attempt by the company to open
specialty stores in smaller markets.
This is a whetstone that looks like a souvenir button or pin. The small whetstone is attached to the back
of the metal front. I have no idea how
old this is…but many of those reading this posting won’t even know what a
for any younger readers…a whetstone is a stone for sharpening cutlery or tools
item was manufactured by the Parisian Novelty Company. That company was founded in Chicago Illinois
in 1898. For over a century Parisian
Novelty was the leading manufacturer of button parts, button making machinery
and equipment for North American companies serving the promotional products
industry. It was purchased in 2008 and
it continues in business as the Matchless Parisian Novelty Company. That company was founded in 1895.
Montgomery Ward “Cold Cooking” booklet of recipes dates back to 1941. It’s all about summertime cooking and
well over 100 security/loss prevention badges and cap medallions that I rescued
from the trash bins when we closed up operations. The first photo includes badges from stores
in Ohio, Maryland and Texas. The second
photo includes a couple of badges from Illinois. There is also a badge from Jefferson Stores
(Jefferson Ward), a discount department store company that Montgomery Ward
purchased and operated for a time. The
third photo shows a couple of the badges I have that were in cases. The gold badge was from a location in Mobile
majority of the badges from over the years are simple silver medallions or stars,
but apparently somewhere along the line more expensive types were ordered by
the security department.
years back, I purchased this toy train set on eBay. I believe it dates back to the early
1960’s…and it doesn’t appear to have ever been used.
opened a store in Fort Smith Arkansas, I was presented with this commemorative
plate. Other stores gave out shirts or
hats. I also have a black acrylic
paperweight from the 1994 opening of a distribution center in Phoenix Arizona. (It
features a rising phoenix!)
another paperweight… These were given out when the company spun off as a
privately held company from its then parent, Mobil Oil.
inch metal Nylint Montgomery Ward 18-wheeler sits on a shelf in our
storeroom. It dates back to the mid to
have a couple of Montgomery Ward delivery trucks that were manufactured by
Ertl. Both the 1932 Ford Panel Delivery
Truck and the 1926 Mack “Bulldog” are also banks. Ertl currently focuses on die-cast farm
are a few Montgomery Ward odds and ends… There’s a plastic coffee mug; an “owl”
keychain with a safety message on the back (“Safety is no accident”); a number
of ‘Gold Medallion Service Award’ cards; a “Kick it up a notch” pen/keychain,
and a metal paint can/bottle opener.
photos are blurry…my camera doesn’t do too well with close-up shots. The pin on the left dates back to 1896 and it
shows the old Montgomery Ward building in downtown Chicago. The other pin is a 2-year Sales Achievement
Award pin, date unknown.
two photos show examples of the service awards that Montgomery Ward handed out
to associates for many years. There were
tie tacks, pins, charm bracelets and brooches.
These awards were for 2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of service. The color of the ‘stones’ changed from clear
to yellow to red depending on how many years the recipient had worked for the
many examples of Montgomery Ward booklets…mostly focused on safety and basic
operations. In addition, I have some old
organization charts, a plethora of executive announcements and other paper
Note: One reason for Montgomery Ward’s demise
is the fact that at one point we churned through 60 executives in 60 months!
executive with the company, my wife and I were issued some ‘special’ Montgomery
Ward credit cards… I especially like the ‘Desert Storm’ card! This photo also includes some old Montgomery
Ward Security stickers, a couple of badges that were used by our associates in
the stores and a laminated card that associates wore for some time that
contained the company’s stated Values and Guiding Principles on one side and
the Mission Statement on the reverse.
ephemera…a Security and a Loss Prevention shoulder patch plus 3 more Montgomery
Ward/Electric Ave pens. Originally,
(long before my tenure), my function was called the Protection Department. Then it became the Security Department, then
Loss Prevention and Safety. When the
company closed, the term for the department was migrating toward the label of ‘Asset
item at the bottom of this photo is a “Gold Medallion Service Pin”. The watch is a special Holiday item. I don’t know when it was marketed but this
‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Limited Edition’ watch was licensed by the
Robert L. May Co. for sale by Montgomery Ward.
Lewis May, (1905 – 1976), was the creator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. May’s parents were hard hit by the Great
Depression and they lost just about everything.
Sometime in the 1930s, May moved to Chicago and took a job as a low-paid
in-house advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward. In early 1939, May’s boss at Montgomery Ward
asked him to write a “cheery” Christmas book for shoppers and suggested that an
animal be the star of the book.
to make a deer the central character of the book. His then 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, loved
the deer in the Chicago zoo. The Rudolph
poem booklet was first distributed during the 1939 holiday season. Shoppers loved the poem and 2.4 million copies
were distributed. During WWII restrictions
on paper use prevented a re-issue until 1946. In that year, another 3.6 million copies were
distributed to Montgomery Ward shoppers!
Even though the concept had been developed while May was employed by the
company, by 1947 the rights to Rudolf were given to him.
an old aerial photograph of downtown Chicago and the “new” Montgomery Ward
complex on the north branch of the Chicago River. I wish that I knew when this picture was
company’s huge facilities stretch from the lower left side all the way to the
right center portion of the photo. In
the 1960’s a 25-story corporate tower was added to the complex and by the time
I joined the company most of the large building in the center was either empty
or used for storage. That 2,000.000
square foot building used to be the focus of the company’s catalog operations…
addition to everything else, I have a couple of maps of the United States that
show the locations of Montgomery Ward Store and Warehouses. I also have a color coded atlas that shows
locations and facility types by state. The
first map was published in 1957 and the second was issued in 1999.
about it for now… I will be posting a number of Montgomery Ward related
postcards and related materials at a later date.
click on any of these photos to enlarge them…
for stopping by for a visit!
Care, Big Daddy Dave