in the Wild West
is hard to imagine the Wild West of the mid-1800s, where
individuals could have a strangle hold over a community
and it's ability to provide the basic necessities of
USA circa 1880
In the late 1880's; There were only 38 United States.
Their population was only 58 million and 65% of the
population lived in rural areas. There were only about
a dozen cities with populations of 200,000 or more.
Brewing on Main Street
Many of these small towns were ruled by the owner of
the general store. He held a monopoly on all of the
goods that the local population needed to survive. In
the 1870's the Lincoln County War made famous by Billy
the Kid erupted over two groups competing to run the
general store there (see the Ruidoso, New Mexico page
for details). Approximately one-third of the population
of the town of Lincoln was thought to have died in this
watches that changed America
One day in 1886 some gold watches from Chicago were refused
by a jeweler in Redwood Falls Minnesota. An entrepreneurial
station agent in nearby North Redwood by the name of Richard
Sears bought the watches instead of having them returned.
He sold them up and down the railway line to other station
agents at a nice profit and then ordered more. The following
year he moved to Chicago and hired watchmaker Alvah Roebuck
and they started the firm Sears, Roebuck and Co.
one up for the Underdogs
Farmers were angry at the cost they had to pay for their goods
at the locally run monopolistic stores. They even formed protest
movements like the "Grange" to do battle against
the evil "middleman" who jacked up prices. These
problems were eliminated by Sears, Roebuck and Co. and other
mail-order companies as they began delivering every nature
of goods to these rural areas with the help of the train lines.
does all of this have to do with Kanab?
As the Sears, Roebuck and Co. grew, so did it's list of
offered products. Within a few years, Sears grew from
watches and jewelry to just about every conceivable product
for the house. It seemed only natural to then offer the
house itself! A Sears 1912 Mail Order house can be seen
on the historic house tour of Kanab.