In August 1872, with two employees and a total capital of $1,600, American businessman Aaron Montgomery Ward founded Montgomery Ward & Company. From a small shipping room in Chicago Ward published the world's first general merchandise mail-order catalog, a single 8 x 12 inch price list showing 163 products for sale with ordering instructions. Ward is credited with issuing the first mail-order catalogue intended for the general public. By 1904 his mailing list included 3 million customers.
"Ward had conceived of the idea of a dry goods mail-order business in Chicago, Illinois, after several years of working as a traveling salesman among rural customers. He observed that rural customers often wanted 'city' goods but their only access to them was through rural retailers who had little competition and offered no guarantee of quality. Ward also believed that by eliminating intermediaries, he could cut costs and make a wide variety of goods available to rural customers, who could purchase goods by mail and pick them up at the nearest train station.
"After several false starts, including the destruction of his first inventory by the Great Chicago Fire, Ward started his business at his first office, either in a single room at 825 North Clark Street, or in a loft above a livery stable on Kinzie Street between Rush and State Streets. He had two partners and used $1,600 they had raised in capital. The first catalog in August 1872 consisted of an 8 by 12 in. single-sheet price list, showing 163 articles for sale with ordering instructions. Ward wrote the first catalog copy. His two partners left the following year, but he continued the struggling business and was joined by his future brother-in-law Richard Thorne.
"In the first few years, the business was not well received by rural retailers. Considering Ward a threat, they sometimes publicly burned his catalog. Despite the opposition, however, the business grew at a fast pace over the next several decades, fueled by demand primarily from rural customers who were attracted by the wide selection of items unavailable to them locally. Customers were also attracted by the innovative and unprecedented company policy of 'satisfaction guaranteed or your money back', which Ward began using in 1875" (Wikipedia article on Montgomery Ward, accessed 11-07-2013).