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Sears, Roebuck and Company

  • By: Regina Lee Blaszczyk
  • In: Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture
  • Edited by: Dale Southerton
  • Subject:Sociology of Consumption, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Culture

Established in 1893, Sears, Roebuck and Company grew into America's premier mass merchandiser during the twentieth century, helping to create a national market for consumer goods. Based in Chicago, Sears remained the largest retailer in the United States until the triumph of big-box retailers like Walmart. Sears is important to the history of consumer society because it extended the promise of abundance to a large percentage of Americans, first reaching consumers through mail-order catalogs and later through retail stores.

During the early nineteenth century, Americans bought necessities and luxuries from small shopkeepers, rural general merchants, and roadside peddlers. These local retailers acquired processed foods and manufactured products from urban wholesalers that specialized in grain, textiles, crockery, hardware, and other lines. As goods passed through multiple hands, ...

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