Sears, Richard W.

Sears, Richard W. (Warren)

(1863–1914) merchant; born in Stewartville, Minn. At age 17 he supported his widowed mother and sisters by working for the Minneapolis and St. Louis railway in Minneapolis. In 1886 while a station agent in Redwood, Minn., he acquired a shipment of watches that had been refused, and he sold them through the mail at considerable profit; he then bought more watches and advertised in the newspaper establishing the mail-order R. W. Sears Watch Company. A success, this "Barnum of merchandising" advertised nationally, moved to Chicago, and hired watch repairman Alvah C. Roebuck. In 1889 he sold the business, retired to Iowa as a country banker, but grew bored, and returned to Minneapolis where he established the A. C. Roebuck mail-order business, selling watches and jewelry. Returning to Chicago in 1893 as Sears, Roebuck & Company, the business grew from a 25-item catalogue to a 1,000-page book in just a few years. As president, Sears directed all the advertising and copy writing and owed much of his success to buying large amounts of advertising space in newspapers each month. He retired in 1909 to his farm north of Chicago.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.