A chain department store, akin to Sears or JC Penny. Founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872 as a mail-order catalog, the Chicago tycoon turned the direct-mail business into one of the largest symbols of American Capitalism and middle-class life. In 1875, Ward coined the phrase "Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back".

In 1926, Montgomery Ward opened their first retail store in Plymouth, Indiana. In 1939, the store invented Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as part of a Christmas ad campaign. They were the first store to offer a charge card in 1961.

The company merged with Container Corporation in 1968, forming Marcor. In 1976, Marcor was bought by Mobil Oil. In 1985, Montgomery Ward ceased publishing their catalog, and focused on specialty stores, such as jewelry, electronics, and home items, as well as clothing. The management bought the company from Mobil in 1988 for $3.8 billion dollars, the largest management-led acquisition in US history.

In 1997, Montgomery Ward filed for bankruptcy, fired their management team, and attempted to re-brand the store. Now simply Wards, their new "smarter" look has led to several new store openings and a slow upswing in business.

In January of 2001, thanks to a poor holiday season of sales, Wards announced that it would be closing all its stores and filing for bankruptcy again, thus closing a chapter in modern American history. Could Sears be next? Stay tuned...

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