After 50 years of mail-order catalog sales, Montgomery Ward, opened its first retail store in 1926, following the lead of Sears (who opened its first retail store in 1925). Under the direction of Ward’s president George Everett, the retailer opened hundreds of new stores throughout the country.

The 1920s, 30s and 40s turned out to be the halcyon days of youth for Montgomery Ward.

By the mid-20th Century, competitors such Sears, Penney’s, and Macy’s, had moved from their downtown locations to the suburbs but Montgomery Ward was slow to follow. Economic historians note this as the decision that brought Ward’s down. In 1976 the cash-strapped retailer was purchased by Mobil Oil but even this influx of cash and new ownership wasn’t enough to save the company.

In 1985, the hallmark of Ward’s business, the mail order catalog, was discontinued. A bankruptcy in 1997 and the closing of 250 stores didn’t save Ward. In December 2000, Montgomery Ward announced that their remaining 250 retail stores would permanently close.

In 2004, catalog marketer Direct Marketing Services purchased the Montgomery Ward name and launched it as an online retailer Wards.com (Columbus Dispatch, January 15, 2009).

All that remains of those halcyon days are photos (like the one below) showing Montgomery Ward at the peak of its success.

To learn more about Montgomery Ward’s Kit Homes, click here.

Ward's Employees lined up in front of a store (location unknown)

Better view of people in front of store

Another view of people