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Kanab, Utah

Revolution in the Wild West

It 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 life.

Snapshot 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.

Kanab's General Store

Old Barn Playhouse

Trouble 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 "war".

The 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.

Chalk 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.

A Sears 1912 Mail Order house.
What 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.
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