The Mother of all catalogs! "A former railroad employee, R.W. Sears got into the retail business almost by accident, when he purchased a shipment of watches from a disgruntled wholesaler who had received an incorrect order. Advertising his watches by flyers and mail-order catalogs, Sears quickly turned a profit on his investment and within a year had founded his own company, initially selling only watches." "He soon was joined in the venture by Alvah Roebuck, and in 1893 Sears, Roebuck, and Co. was born. Targeting rural customers with little access to goods produced primarily in the east, and offering stable, straightforward pricing, Sears, Roebuck quickly expanded its business—and the number of pages in the annual catalog they sent to customers." "It was on the back of the mail-order business that Sears built his empire—in fact, he didn’t get around to opening an actual store until more than 30 years later. The company had a number of competitors, including Montgomery Ward, Hammacher Schlemmer and others, but it was the Sears catalog that became an American icon."