The first of our BIG THREE merchandisers originated in, and operated out of, Chicago. Aaron Montgomery Ward started a mail-order business in August 1872, with George R. Thorne becoming a business partner 2 years later. The target Montgomery Ward customer was the rural farmer.
At the time, those living outside larger cities had few shopping options, with prices charged for merchandise often being exorbitant. Goods sold by Montgomery Ward were much cheaper. The economy of purchasing from Wards brought the fledgling firm a great deal of business, as did the introduction of an unconditional money-back guarantee, in 1875.
Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913), who originally hailed from Chatham, New Jersey. He went on the establish "The Cheapest Cash House on Earth."
Photo from Wikipedia
Competition from Sears, Roebuck & Company, another Chicago-centric mail-order house, intensified in the 1890s. By the turn of the century, Sears had gained a competitive edge. At the time, both Montgomery Ward and Sears shipped merchandise to customers via railroad.
In 1913, the U.S. Post Office instituted its parcel post system, which was of great benefit to both Wards and Sears. However, the retail scene was evolving away from mail-order purchasing by the 1920s. Following Sears' lead, the first freestanding brick & mortar Montgomery Ward store opened in 1926.
A photo of the very first Montgomery Ward retail store, which was located in Plymouth, Indiana. Its original function was only as a "display store", where merchandise on exhibit had to be ordered from the Wards Catalog. Soon after the store's opening, over-the-counter sales were initiated.
Photo from http://pleasantfamilyshopping.blogspot.com / "1872-1972 A Century Serving Consumers-The Story of Montgomery Ward"