Montgomery Ward - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The collection here at the American Treasure Tour, while located just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has many ties to the great city of Chicago.  The Windy City was a major hub in mechanical music manufacturing - with Wurlitzer, Mills, Deagan and other important producers having headquarters there - but it is arguably more famous for some of the mail order companies that had their headquarters there.  We will be talking about Sears tomorrow, but today it is time to honor Montgomery Ward.  

Named after the founder of the company, Aaron Montgomery Ward established a dry goods mail order company in a single room at 825 North Clark Street in 1872.  His goal was to provide to rural consumers goods that traditionally could only be found in big cities.  The first catalog was only one page, with 163 items to select from for purchase.  Traditional retailers hated what Ward was doing, but clearly his customer base did not because, in just over a decade, his one page had grown to 240 with 10,000 items for sale.  In 1896, another mail order catalog entered the arena - Sears - becoming the major competition for Ward.  The rivalry would last through the entire next century, and both companies would certainly have to change to survive.  

Located in the Toy Box are examples of reproduced catalogs from the great competitors. Originals are quite rare today, since the pages often served another purpose in the days before toilet paper....
QUESTION:  What major event compelled the U.S. military to seize control of the Montgomery Ward offices to stop a worker strike?
A)  The Haymarket Bombing
B)  The death of President James Garfield
C)  World War II
D)  Opening of the Panama Canal

SPEAK ... WHAT!?  How often does a famous phrase have a date attached to it?  Well, there is one for today, and it's a doozy.  In 1901, within two weeks of the untimely death of President William McKinley in Buffalo, New York after being shot by Leon Czolgosz, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt was first recorded as saying "Speak softly and carry a big stick."  When he took office later that month, he started pursuing a foreign policy committed to living up to that phrase.  When you have a strong military, you certainly don't need to yell to get what you want....

WHAT DO THE SNOZZBERRIES TASTE LIKE?  Stuart Solomon, a.k.a. Mel Stuart, would have turned 87 today had he not passed away in 2012; however, his art lives on in one of the most beloved movies of the last 44 years.  That is to say, 1971's Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Hardly a one-film director, Stuart made dozens of films for television and film, but this is the one he will be best remembered for. Thanks, Mel!

QUOTE:  Speak softly and carry a big stick. - Theodore Roosevelt.  [Sorry, just walked into that one.]

ANSWER:  C)  World War II.  The government felt that the strike of employees would hinder the war effort by not getting necessary goods to the military.