Aaron Montgomery Ward was a visionary. Working as a door-to-door salesman in Illinois, he dealt with rural customers on a regular basis who longed to purchase goods readily available in cities but were at the mercy of local dry goods merchants who had little inventory space and no competition. Prices for special orders were exorbitant and quality could not be guaranteed. Ward believed that people would be willing to wait for goods if they could be purchased at fair price, so he set up a mail-order business in a single room in Chicago.
In 1872, he put out his first catalogue, a single sheet of paper containing descriptions of 163 items focused mostly on farming implements. In 1875, he began the unprecedented campaign of “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.” His popularity skyrocketed. By 1883, his catalogue had become known as the “Wish Book” and had swollen to 240 pages with over 10,000 items. Montgomery Ward was the Amazon.com of the 19th century.
Out of all the resource books I use when writing, none gets more regular use than my reprint of the 1895 Montgomery Ward Catalogue. The information is priceless. Not only can I see pictures of items I want to describe (everything from furniture, to clothing, to kitchen utensils, to jewelry), but I can see prices and detailed descriptions. To give you an example, here are a few images taken from the catalogue. Even a rugged cowboy could get just about anything he needed from the Wish Book. Below are just a few samples:
Do you remember flipping through catalogues as a kid? What were you’re favorite items to wish for?
I can remember the Sears and J.C. Penney catalogues that were so thick, my mom used them as a booster seat for me at the dinner table.
Speaking of mail order – or Kindle order – my novella, A Cowboy Unmatched, which was originally printed in the collection A Match Made in Texas, is now available as an e-single from Amazon for only $1.99. This is Neill Archer’s story. Right now, you can actually get all four of the novellas in the series for less than the collection as a whole if you buy them as e-singles.
A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer
Tired of living in the shadow of his older brothers, Neill Archer leaves the family ranch, determined to prove himself his own man. After two years of doing everything from laying railroad track to driving cattle, he’s nearly saved enough to purchase his own spread. While passing through a small town in the Texas panhandle, a handwritten ad literally falls into his lap during the local church service and convinces Neill that God is steering him toward his next job.
There are two things Clara Danvers cannot hide—her grandmother’s Comanche blood and her hugely pregnant stomach. After her husband got himself shot cheating at cards six months back, she has worked hard to make the shabby cabin he’d left behind truly hers. But there are some things a pregnant woman can’t repair, and a leaky roof is one of them. When a handsome cowboy shows up at her door with a tale about a nameless woman hiring him to fix her roof, she’s suspicious but desperate enough to let him work.
Scarred by the men who have failed her in the past, Clara is forced to trust the stranger when danger threatens her child. Neill might prove to be an able protector, but can she trust him with the battered remains of her heart?