Friday, August 14, 2020

Field is famous, but Ward’s legacy echoes

"Spirit of Progress" atop former Ward's Building.  
      History is not fair. It does not dole out fame in strict proportion with significance, but instead assigns it haphazardly, based on eye-catching flourishes.
     For instance. Most Chicagoans know Marshall Field, the department store founder whose namesake flagship State Street store became a beloved icon. Field didn’t originate the idea of a department store, he perfected it, forging cherished personal memories for many Chicagoans who made pilgrimages in December to ogle fabulous Christmas windows.
     But the truly revolutionary Chicago figure, whose legacy outstrips Field’s though his name is more remote from public memory, is a clerk who worked for Field: Aaron Montgomery Ward. It was Ward who, in mid-August, 1872, printed out a single sheet of 163 items for sale and mailed it to farmers. Ward created the first mail-order catalogue.
     We forget how revolutionary Ward’s business really was. People at the time had trouble wrapping their heads around it. The Chicago Tribune denounced Ward, editorially, as an obvious crook. “Beware! Don’t patronize Montgomery Ward & Co. They are deadbeats!” the paper warned Nov. 8, 1873. Beside the impossibly low prices and suspiciously wide range of goods, the company “retired from the public gaze,” with no roving agents or actual place of business. What was that?


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9 comments:

  1. This is where Mike Bloomberg should step in & offer to pay for First Class postage for all ballots & applications.
    He could easily pay for it.

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  2. Perfection today, NS! especially here:

    Trump’s complete failure to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic — directly resulting in the deaths of 160,000 Americans, to date, with 300,000 certain by Christmas — only dampens his realistic hopes of re-election, So Trump installed a toady, Louis DeJoy, atop the Postal Service, with a mandate to tear apart the system — to make it more difficult, not only for Amazon to deliver lipsticks, but also for Americans to vote by mail. This way, the results, should Trump lose, can be delayed and questioned. That this might hamper his own voters, who skew older, and are the exact people who should protect themselves from infection, is the sort of strategic thinking our president is miserable at.

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  3. If you look at the loonier corners of the rightosphere, like OANN or Newsmax, they're doing a lot of fulminating about how the Democrats are planning to steal the election. By, I dunno, casting ballots or something.

    Of course with these people, the subtext is never hard to figure out.

    "I don't think Obama is a natural born citizen" = "I don't think a Black man should be president."

    "The Democrats are going to steal the election" = "I don't think Black people should be allowed to vote."

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  4. It’s good to remind people of the sycophancy of our idiot leader’s supporters. He does and says so many stupid and ridiculous and dishonest things that we may think, “Okay, now it must be clear to everyone that he’s deranged.” But it isn’t. Really. It isn’t. It’s like trying to teach something really complicated to a hamster.

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  5. "in mid-August, 1872, printed out a single sheet of 163 items for sale" Hmmm... Why, it's mid-August right now. And your next book is about events that happened on each day of the year. Will this perhaps be a topic for a segment? : )

    "the second-hand locomotive, 'Pioneer,' was brought here aboard a ship because there were no tracks leading to Chicago." This kind of thing intrigues me. How, one wonders, was the locomotive put on the ship? How was it taken from the ship and placed on the new tracks? I assume, as with building the pyramids, it was aliens that did it.

    As for the brazen, outrageous attack on the Postal Service, Neil retweeted this on Twitter, but I imagine many EGD fans pay no attention to Twitter. A minute-long video making this point:

    "After five draft deferments Donald Trump has finally found a war he wants to fight - against the USPS! If he had served, he'd know veterans rely on the USPS for voting, medication, and employment. We take this VERY personally, and so should you."

    https://twitter.com/votevets/status/1293916263945707522

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    Replies
    1. Shhh...you'll give it away! Yes, Ward's came from book research. The established anniversary of the Ward catalogue is Aug. 18, but being cited in a hundred web sites is not itself proof. I hadn't planned to use it, but the more I thought about Ward, the more important he became. I imagine they drove it onto a ship—those ships could be pretty big—and set up some kind of track bridge and drove it off. Though a derrick could have done it. The thing isn't all that big.

      Delete
    2. Yes, MW's idea and business do seem worthy of inclusion. Thanks for replying.

      That makes the locomotive shipment sound so simple. I bet they got the strategy from aliens, though. ; )

      Delete
  6. The closer we get to the election, the scarier the situation looks to me. Trump delights in chaos, constantly contradicting not only scientists, but himself as well. God only knows what catastrophe he might create to ward off defeat.

    john

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  7. Finally read this today. Since my wife and I met at Fields (I was her supervisor) we have special memories of that place. Refuse to go into a Macy's.
    Wards also plays a role in my wife's family.
    Was not expecting this to turn into another exposure of the fraud in the WH. You hit all the right spots.

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