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announced that it was ending publication of its famed “Big Book, “ catalog, which for more than 100 years had allowed Americans to buy everything from clothing and food to medicine and automobiles, all from the comforts of their own homes—in fact, Sears might have even sold them the house itself. 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.

Ten years after its last issue hit mailboxes, take a look back at the history of the Sears catalog. 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.

Touch and Feel Textiles By 1905, understanding that some items required more than just illustrations, Sears began incorporating physical samples of its products in the pages of the catalog.

If you were in the market for paint, you could now choose your exact shade.

Tombstones, Monuments and Mortuary Stones Sears even took care of their customers’ needs in the afterlife.Special inserts, which could run more than 50 pages, offered the latest in funerary finery.The catalog featured simple, elegant headstones in marble of varying qualities and everything from elaborate monuments to honor entire families to pillars with and without animals carved on top to massive crosses and shamrock-shaped tombstones.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.By the early 20th century, the Sears catalog had become so entwined with the American psyche that the government began to use it for propaganda purposes at home and abroad.

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