The Fine Print by Linda Broday

LindaFellow Filly sister, Karen Witemeyer, blogged a few months back about the Montgomery Ward catalog in the 1800s. Well, I immediately went to Amazon and bought a copy. Not only was the extensive list of merchandise interesting but I loved the fine print in the front.

They assure the purchaser that they employ no agents or traveling collectors and lay out their rules for ordering.

RULE #1:

“We will ship goods by freight to ANYONE if money accompanies the order. We will ship goods in our name and collect the bill through your banker if sufficient money is sent with the order to cover the freight charges. Be sure to give us the name and location of your bank.”

 freight wagonRULE #2:

“Goods will be sent by express, C.O.D. (collect on delivery) when, in our opinion, the articles ordered are suitable. Value, bulk, weight, class, distance, etc., will determine our acceptance or refusal of all such orders. We will not send C.O.D. for amounts under $5.00.” (It goes on to say that the purchaser has to pay all possible shipping charges up front and that no goods will be sent to points off a railway unless paid for in advance. It seems the prepayment of the shipping was a big deal.

RULE #3:

montgomery-ward-catalogMail Shipments (sending prepaid goods through the U.S. mail): “Postage by mail is 1 cent per ounce or 16 cents per pound. No one package must exceed 4 pounds, but any number of packages may be sent to the same address weighing 4 lbs. or less each. Packages can be sent by registered mail for 8 cents per package extra. We positively require cash in advance for both goods and postage. We will return the amount overpaid, if any. Explosives, poisonous or inflammable articles are unmailable. Sharp pointed instruments and glass such as needles, knives, pens, lantern slides etc. can go in mailing cases at an extra cost of 5 cents.”

And then there’s a section on insuring the merchandise ordered by mail. The cost was 5 cents for each package of $5.00 or under in value. Value of goods from $5 to $10 was 10 cents. Over that was an extra 5 cents additional. They tell the customer to be sure to write “Insure” on their order and enclose the appropriate fee.

RULE #4:

Discounts for cash. They gave 2% discount on orders $20 to $50. 3% on 50 to $100 and on up to 5% for orders over $150. But this only applied to cash sales. They even addressed how to send money for those paying in cash—Bank Draft, Postal Money Order, or Express Money Order.

And of course there’s a section addressing returned goods. Their motto was money back guarantee and they stood behind their promise to the customer.

Of Interest: There are 36 pages of books of all kinds listed in this 1895 catalog.

This book is an invaluable resource of historical writers or just anyone who loves history. You can find a copy on

As you read this, I’ll be en route to San Antonio, Texas for the huge Romance of America conference. Don’t let that stop you. Come on in and leave a comment and I’ll respond when I can.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

9 thoughts on “The Fine Print by Linda Broday”

  1. Gotta get it, Linda. What a great post. I so enjoy learning about the past. And I was so sad When MW went out of business…Americas first retailer. They used to have excellent coupon discounts LOL. Have a wonderful time in San Antonio…so wish it had worked out for me to be there,sob. Have fun and safe travels. Xo

  2. That sounds sooooo cool. Now you know I’m going to have to pop right over and get one, too. LOL I can only imagine how thrilling it must have been “back in the day” to receive the MW catalogue and pore through it, day after day. I be the pages were worn down to nothing. Great post, Linda! Have fun at RWA!

  3. I will have to share this with my husband and daughter who are both postal clerks.
    It sounds like customer service was a concern and handled well. We take for granted how easy it is to order anything we want and have it within a few days. I think it is amazing that orders were so relatively easy and inexpensive to order and ship.
    Thanks for an interesting post. Enjoy the convention.

  4. I have the 1897 edition of the Sears & Roebuck catalog. It would be fun to get the Montgomery Ward’s catalog and compare the two. Thanks for the interesting post.

  5. Thanks Everyone for posting a comment. I apologize that I was unable to respond on Tuesday. I’m here in San Antonio and having a wonderful time. Met my Sourcebooks editor and loved her immediately. Meet with my agent in the morning and looking forward to seeing her. Workshops are great. Every hour I have to make difficult decisions because there are so many workshops I want to attend. Just one more day after this and I head for home. I’ll be exhausted but am anxious to buckle down and gete back to writing. Have so many things waiting on me.

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