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Montgomery Ward & Company

Partners and Founders of the Firm of Montgomery Ward & Co. in 1872

Image of the founding partners of Montgomery Ward & Company; A. Montgomery Ward and George R. Thorne. This can be found on page 68 of Mr. Boller's scrapbook.

Mr. Boller worked for Montgomery Ward & Co. for nearly ten years; from September 29, 1896[1] until January 1, 1906.[2]

Montgomery Ward & Co. was the first U.S. business run exclusively by mail order. It was established in 1872 by its namesake Aaron Montgomery Ward at 825 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois. [3] After years of working as a traveling salesman, Mr. Ward observed that rural country stores offered their customers limited selections of goods at high prices. Being there were so few local stores, farmers were left with no other choice than to buy what the local general store had to offer. Mr. Ward had the radical notion to sell directly to the farmers by mail through the implementation of a catalog. He started with a one page price list of about 163 items.[4] By 1895 its catalog had grown to over 600 pages and sales had surpassed the $4 million mark.[5]

Mr. C. V. Boller began in the clothing division of Montgomery Ward & Co. handling their correspondence. Shortly thereafter he was promoted to assistant manager. In 1898, Mr. Boller originated the Tailoring Division, often refer to as Division V. By 1905 he was the manager of both Division V (Tailoring) and Division W (Clothing, Hats, and Gloves). At the time, the clothing division was the largest in the world doing business entirely through mail-order catalogs, without agents, for ready-made and made-to-order garments. The Company credited this accolade to Mr. Boller's hard work and knowledge of the clothing industry.[6]

On December 14, 1904 an event occurred in Mr. Boller’s cutting room of Montgomery Ward & Co. that would come to deeply effect the city of Chicago and the history of labor unions in the United States. To learn more about the incidents see the section of this website called “1905 Teamsters’ Strike.”

This dramatic event does not seem to be what defined Mr. Boller's career at Montgomery Ward & Co., though. His scrapbook contains much more about his employment there than just newspaper clippings about the strike. There are programs from events held by the company for their employees as well as dance cards, ribbons, and advertisements. One gets the sense that Mr. Boller genuinely enjoyed his time at Montgomery Ward and was well respected among his colleagues. It does, however, seem that his departure was an effort on his part to extricate himself from the horror of the strike.



[1] Montgomery Ward & Co. "Up From the Ranks," in Among Ourselves, a Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of the Employees of Montgomery Ward & Co., Chicago, 1, no. 9 (June 1904): 435-436. Google book, accessed November 10, https://books.google.com/books?id=bHxIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA435#v=onepage&q=boller&f=false.

[2] Montgomery Ward & Co. "A Tribute to Mr. Boller," in Among Ourselves, a Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of the Employees of Montgomery Ward & Co., Chicago, 2, no. 4 (January, 1906), 227. Google book, accessed November 10, https://books.google.com/books?id=H4RIAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA227&ots=oMcgJTvhRJ&dq=tribute%20to%20mr.%20boller&pg=PA227#v=onepage&q=tribute%20to%20mr.%20boller&f=false.

[3] Patrick Robertson, Robertson's Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the First Time (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011). Google Book, accessed November 10, 2015.https://books.google.com/books?id=2TEEaCrPiWsC&lpg=PT732&pg=PT483#v=onepage&q=ward&f=false.

[4] Frank Brown Latham, 1872-1972: A Century of Serving Consumers: The Story of Montgomery Ward, (n.p.: Chicago, Montgomery Ward, 1972), 7.

[5] Montgomery Ward & Co., Catalogue and Buyers' Guide, No. 57, Spring and Summer, 1895 (New York: Dover Publications, 1969), vi.