Profile America: First Mail-Order Catalog 

Friday, August 19 — Even in this Internet world, many of us still receive printed catalogs through the mail. The first such catalog — more of a flyer — was sent out by Montgomery Ward this week in 1872. That first catalog consisted of only one page, featuring 163 items for mail order purchase. By 1904, the Ward’s catalog weighed in at four pounds. Montgomery Ward ceased producing its catalog in 1985, and the company itself eventually failed in the largest retail bankruptcy liquidation in American history to that time. But the home shopping business is still thriving. There are over 32,000 electronic shopping and mail order houses, and each year they sell over $323 billion worth of goods. 

Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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