Hi all FB & Blog friends…
I was recently sent this hugely fascinating article about the Mail
Order business and how it started back in the day, by a watch maker
If you were in the market for a watch in 1880, would you know where
to get one? You would go to a store, right? Well, of course you
could do that, but if you wanted one that was cheaper and a bit
better than most of the store watches, you went to the train
station! Sound a bit odd?
Well, for about 500 towns across the northern United States, that’s
where the best buys were found.
Why were the best buys found at the train station? The railroad
company wasn’t selling the watches, not at all. The telegraph
Most of the time the telegraph operator was located in the railroad
station because the telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks
from town to town.
It was usually the shortest distance and the right-of-ways had
already been secured for the rail line.
Most of the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators
and that was the primary way that they communicated with the
railroad. They would know when trains left the previous station and
when they were due at their next station. And it was the telegraph
operator who had the watches. As a matter of fact, they sold more
of them than almost all the stores combined for a period of about
This was all arranged by “Richard”, who was a telegraph operator
He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train station one
day when a load of watches arrived from the East. It was a huge
crate of pocket watches. No one ever came to claim them. So Richard
sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted
to do with the watches. The manufacturer didn’t want to pay the
freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them.
So Richard did. He sent a wire to every agent in the system asking
them if they wanted a cheap, but good, pocket watch.
He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome
That started it all. He ordered more watches from the watch company
and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in
the station offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all
the travelers. It worked! It didn’t take long for the word to
spread and, before long, people other than travelers came to the
train station to buy watches.
Richard became so busy that he had to hire a professional watch
maker to help him with the orders. That was Alvah. And the rest is,
as they say, history.
The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry
Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to
Chicago – and it’s still there.
YES, IT’S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a while in the 1880s, the
biggest watch retailer in the country was at the train station. It
all started with a telegraph operator:
Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck!
Bet You Didn’t Know That! Neither did I!
Blogger Barry: Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed. Please
share if you like. Til next time.