Friday, October 14, 2011

What Happened To Roebuck?

So, what happened to Roebuck?

Of the famous Sears, Roebuck & Company.

Richard Warren Sears, on the left, made a deal with a watch retailer to accept a scam consignment of watches at a lower price. He then made a second deal with the wholesaler, netted $5000 on his first transaction, and started the R.W. Sears Watch Company in Chicago.

Putting an ad in the paper for a watchmaker, only one person answered the ad - Alvah Curtis Roebuck.

And a partnership was born and in 1893 they co-founded Sears, Roebuck and Company, including a mail-order catalog selling only watches. Sears was 30 years old, and Roebuck 29.

Only two years later, bored with the business, Roebuck asked Sears to buy him out for $20,000. Sears complied. His company, and catalog, expanded. By 1897 the catalog was 500 pages and sold everything, including houses! Retiring in 1908 due to failing health, Sears passed away in 1914. He was only 50 years old.

And Roebuck? He semi-retired to Florida (before air conditioning) and used his money to finance and begin two businesses. He also served as president of the Emerson Typewriter Company, inventing an improved typewriter called "The Woodstock." After financial losses in the stock market crash of 1929 he returned to Chicago.

In 1934 a Sears store manager asked him to make a public appearance at his store. It was such a success and so many people showed up, that the Sears, Roebuck & Company hired him to make public appearances all over the country. He was then employed as a corporate historian. The world was introduced to Roebuck!

And free enterprise? Alvah Roebuck did many different things and always seemed to do what he enjoyed. He was free to begin and manage businesses, employ others and be employed by others. He enjoyed a long, happy and successful life. He was able to come back from adversity and make a great life.


Once when asked about his ex-partner's great wealth as compared to his own modest wealth, he replied, "He's dead. Me? I never felt better." He lived until 1948 to the age of 84!

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