Friday, November 25, 2022

Black Friday-1800s Style by Zina Abbott


“Black Friday” is a fairly recent marketing innovation designed to help businesses to get their profit and loss sheets “in the black” through promoting sales for Christmas. However, in the 1800s, when many people still lived in rural areas, the situation was much different than from today. Most of what people acquired they either made themselves, or they bought from a local dry goods store or mercantile—or specialty shops. However, what about those items that were either not available from local shops, or which, by the time the local retailer added his profit margin, were too expensive for the average person to purchase?

Toward the end of the century, another means of purchasing wanted goods at a reasonable price became available—mail order catalogs.Unlike today, those shopping by catalog dared not wait until the Friday after Thanksgiving (especially in the years Thanksgiving fell on the fifth Thursday until the Forth Thursday was established).

Between the mid-to-late 1800s and the mid-1930s, Chicago was one of the most important industrial centers in the country. It was from Chicago folks all over North America could order goods from a catalog.


The first of what became the two biggest general appeal mail order catalogs was the Montgomery Ward catalog founded by Aaron Mongomery Ward. 

It is believed he started his business at his first office, either in a single room at 825 North Clark Street. or in a loft above a livery stable on Kinzie Street, between Rush and State Streets.

While working as a traveling salesman for various dry-goods retailers, Aaron Montgomery Ward came in contact with members of rural American communities, who desired strongly the comforts of city life. Unfortunately many in rural areas were subject to inflated costs passed on by intermediaries. Also, the levels of product quality were often at question. Ward’s goal was to eliminate the intermediaries, and, thereby, provide goods for rural community members at a lower cost. Using his catalog, customers would purchase goods by mail and have them delivered to their nearest train station.

Ward experienced a challenging beginning to his business, including having his inventory destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He did manage to establish his business at his offices on the corner of North Clark and Kinzie streets with two partners and $1,600 in start-up capital.

Early Mongomery Ward catalogs

On August 18, 1872, the first Montgomery Ward catalog—designed by Mr. Ward himself—was released. There were other businesses that published mail order catalogs, but Aaron Montgomery Ward is credited with coining the term “general public mail order catalog.”  The catalog was first distributed as a single sheet of paper that sold 163 items and included instructions on how to order.

The following year, Ward was abandoned by his two partners. He continued his business with the help of his future brother-in-law, Richard Thorne.

Throughout the next several decades, Ward experienced rapid growth. Most rural customers were attracted to the wide range of items they otherwise could not purchase locally. Starting in 1875, Ward began his policy of satisfaction guaranteed or your money back, which prompted customers to place a great deal of trust in his catalog products. Ward’s catalog would quickly prove to be a success, with the catalog growing to 32 pages by 1874 and to 152, with 3,000 items, in 1876.

By 1883, a single page had turned into 200 pages, with over 10,000 items. The catalog, which became popularly known as the "Wish Book", later grew to 240 pages and 10,000 items with over three million subscribers.

In 1896, Wards encountered its first serious competition in the mail order business, when Richard Warren Sears introduced his first general catalog. In 1900, Wards had total sales of $8.7 million, compared to $10 million for Sears. Both companies struggled for dominance during much of the 20th century.


After his family lost their fortune, Richard Warren Sears went to work for the railroad. In 1886, when he was twenty-three, his station received a shipment of gold watches from a Chicago manufacturer.

A common scam existing at the time involved wholesalers who would ship their products to retailers who had not ordered them. Upon refusal, the wholesaler would offer the already price-hiked items to the retailer at a lower consignment cost in the guise of alleviating the cost to ship the items back. The unsuspecting retailer would then agree to take this new-found bargain off the wholesaler's hands, mark up the items and sell them to the public, making a small profit in the transaction.

Knowing about the scam, the local consignee, jeweler Edward Stegerson, refused the unsolicited shipment.

Sears jumped at the opportunity, and made an agreement with the wholesaler to keep any profit he reaped above $12, and then he set about offering his wares to other station agents along the railroad line for $14. The watches were considered an item of urban sophistication. Also because of the growth of railways, and the recent application of time zones, farmers and railroads alike now needed to keep time accurately. For those two reasons the station agents had no trouble selling the watches to passers-by.

Within six months, Sears had netted $5,000. He felt so confident in this venture that he moved to Minneapolis and founded the R. W. Sears Watch Company. Possessing a talent for writing promotional copy, he placed advertisements in farm publications and mailed flyers to potential clients. He used the personal approach, speaking directly to rural and small-town communities, using his ads to persuade them to purchase by mail-order.

In 1887, Sears moved his company to Chicago. The same year, he also hired watch repairman, Alvah Curtis Roebuck to repair any watches being returned. Roebuck was Sears's first employee, and, in 1891, he became co-founder of Sears, Roebuck & Company.

In 1895 the company was short of cash. Roebuck left the business. Sears sold one half of the company for $75,000.00 to Aaron Nusbaum and his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenwald. The company was incorporated in Illinois as Sear Roebuck & Co. of Illinois on September 7, 1895.

The first Sears catalog was published in 1893 and offered only watches.

By 1897, items such as men's and ladies clothing,

Children’s clothing,


Sewing machines, sofas, chairs, and baby buggies


Stoves, silverware,

Bicycles, and athletic equipment were offered.

The 500-page catalog was sent to some 300,000 homes.

Like Ward, Sears catered to the rural customer. He knew what the rural customer needed. He also had experience working with the railroad and he knew how to ship merchandise to remote areas.

I have a reproduction copy of the 1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog. What fun it is to scan through it and see the “hot” items of that era. Oh, if prices today were only the same.



After claiming land in New Ponca, Oklahoma Territory, during the 1893 Cherokee Outlet Land Run, Marigold Calloway, my heroine in Marigold, Christmas Quilt Brides, Book 2, ordered in a kit house to be shipped in by rail and assembled on her town lot. Although Sears catalog sold kit homes starting in 1908, hers was not from that company. However, in 1894, the year this story takes place, she definitely could have shopped using either of the featured catalogs.

To find the book description and link for Marigold, please CLICK HERE.



Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Ranching in Canada ~ Lorraine Nelson


rider at Calgary Stampede 2002

Ranching in Canada has traditionally been dominated by the province of Alberta. The most successful early settlers of the province were the ranchers, who found Alberta's foothills to be ideal for raising cattle. Most of Alberta's ranchers were English settlers, but cowboys such as John Ware—who brought the first cattle into the province in 1876—were American. American style open range dryland ranching began to dominate southern Alberta (and, to a lesser extent, southwestern Saskatchewan) by the 1880s. The nearby city of Calgary became the centre of the Canadian cattle industry, earning it the nickname "Cowtown".

The cattle industry is still extremely important to Alberta, and cattle outnumber people in the province. While cattle ranches defined by barbed-wire fences replaced the open range just as they did in the US, the cowboy influence lives on.

Canada's first rodeo, the Raymond Stampede, was established in 1902. In 1912, the Calgary Stampede began, and today it is the world's richest cash rodeo. Each year, Calgary's northern rival Edmonton, Alberta stages the Canadian Finals Rodeo, and dozens of regional rodeos are held through the province. British Columbia also has a significant ranching history and cowboy culture in the interior, and has been home to the Williams Lake Stampede since 1920.

courtesy of Wikipedia

Now that I’ve shared some of the history of ranching in my country, Canada, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and leave you with this Christmas song.


"Christmas For Cowboys"

Tall in the saddle, we spend Christmas Day,

driving the cattle on the snow covered-plains.
All of the good gifts given today,

ours is the sky and the wide open range.
Back in the city they have different ways,

football and eggnog and Christmas parades.
I'll take the blanket, I'll take the reins,

Christmas for cowboys and wide-open plains.

A campfire for warmth as we stop for the night,

the stars overhead are Christmas tree lights.
The wind sings a hymn as we bow down to pray,

Christmas for cowboys and wide-open plains.

Tall in the saddle we spend Christmas Day,

driving the cattle on the snow-covered plains.
So many gifts have been opened today,

ours is the sky and the wide-open range.
It's Christmas for cowboys and wide-open plains.

 JOHN DENVER - Christmas for Cowboys (1975) - YouTube

Sunday, November 20, 2022

November is National Novel Writing Month!

 November is National Novel Writing Month.

I hope that everyone participating in this event has had a successful month!

The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I have yet to succeed at this. It seems when November comes, I have ultimate writers block! I'm going to give it a try again this year. My plan is to write a Wild Love Series novella. Hopefully I'll get it finished. November is almost over, and I feel that I won't quite get it finished. But this has been the most successful NaNoWriMo I've ever done!!!!

The Novella will be about Bryan McNeal and Tessa Allen. If the last names sound familiar, they should. Both names were featured in Outlaw's Redemption. McNeal was part of the outlaw gang that murdered the Allen family and burned the farm to the ground.

I didn't plan on writing a book about McNeal, he was a brief character in Outlaw's Redemption. But he was given a chance to get away from the outlaw ways and start a new life. Seemed fair to me because he was a decent kid that got mixed up with the wrong people. 

And then......  My little brain suddenly wondered, "What happened to him?" And a book idea was born.

McNeal, now a bounty hunter, returns to Rimrock to make peace with the past. He was there during the murder of the Allen family, and it has haunted him for the past five years. What he doesn't know is that Tessa, the oldest Allen daughter, was away at school when her family was murdered. She has now returned to work her family's farm.

Guilt from past events and the need to protect her, cause McNeal to stay and work the farm with her. A ruthless rancher wants her land and McNeal knows he will have to stay and fight for her. What he didn't expect, was to fall in love with her. Can he be with her every day and not confess the truth of what happened to her family? Will she hate him and force him to leave the farm?

You can get Outlaw's Redemption and get to know Bryan McNeal if you haven't already.

Available at all E-Book stores. Print copies at Amazon and Lulu

Links available at my website    Wild Love Series | TK Conklin-Author

A promise made to a dying man brought Boone Cain to the town of Rimrock. Four years of war had left scars on his body and soul and years of drifting had turned him into a dangerous gunman. He had been prepared for a lot in fulfilling his promise, but he hadn’t been prepared for Leslie Barkley. She melted the ice surrounding his heart and his need for her could make keeping his promise extremely difficult. Getting involved with her was something he couldn’t let happen, but his need for her could win and put her in danger. Leslie’s gift of premonitions had not warned her about the gunman that came to her boardinghouse looking for a place to stay. Nor had it warned her of the trouble that would follow this handsome, haunted man. Though Leslie had never met Boone before, he is familiar to her. A past premonition? This secretive gunman is connected to her in a way she never imagined, and the truth will test her feelings for him. Can they put the past to rest and live the lives they were destined for?

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Horses of the Old West-The Palomino


The palomino is one of the most famous horses in the West. Roy Roger’s Trigger catapulted this horse to fame in the popular Roy Roger’s television series back in the fifties that ran from 1951-1957. The horse was nearly as popular as Roger’s himself. Trigger was part thoroughbred and very smart.  His original name was Golden Cloud. After riding him, Roger’s liked him so much he purchased him for $2500 and paid off the bill in installments. He considered it the best $2500 he’d ever spent. For dangerous stunts, Trigger had stunt horses that filled in for him. He knew over a hundred tricks and could walk nearly fifty feet on his hind legs. He was referred to as the smartest horse in movies. Trigger lived to be thirty years old. Roy loved him so much that when Trigger died, he had him stuffed and mounted.

The television show Mr. Ed also starred a palomino. AND Elvis Presley had a palomino named Rising Sun. Queen Isabella of Spain had hundreds of palominos.


Like the piebald, the palomino is not a breed but a color.  The color is golden or yellow and they have white manes and tails. Even though palominos can be any breed, most are quarter horses.

On the whole these horses have great temperaments and are good-sized animals that weigh at least a thousand pounds.

Because of their temperament they are good family horses, easily trained and loyal.


Palominos fall into four colors: golden—the best known and most popular—, chocolate and pearl—both  uncommon—and light palomino. Their coat colors can be affected by diet and the seasons.

They also live a few years longer than the average horse. In some cases they can live up to thirty-five years.

All in all, a definite keeper in the horse world. 


*Two of my heroines think so too, Gwen Slade of GwenSlade, Bounty Hunter and Abigail Jennings of Montana Shootists.

Got a favorite in the horse world? What’s your thoughts on palominos?