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Co-Founder
Alvah Roebuck, ca. 1890s."It was our constant desire to maintain our margin of superiority by means of improvements and new inventions." (1934)

Alvah Curtis Roebuck, co-founder of Sears, Roebuck and Co., was born on January 9, 1864, in Lafayette, Ind., of English parentage.

When Alvah was three years old, his family moved to a farm about five miles outside of Lafayette. It was there that Alvah attended country school, and his mother took over the family farm when her husband died in 1876.

At an early age, Alvah showed a great interest in mechanical things, and at 16 he was already a self-taught watchmaker. When he reached 22, Alvah secured a position in a small jewelry store in Hammond, Ind. The following year, impatient to get ahead and earn more money, he began scanning the help-wanted sections of Chicago newspapers.

On April 1, 1887, Roebuck answered an advertisement for a watchmaker in the Chicago Daily News, and two days later he received a reply—Richard W. Sears wanted to hire him. Thus began the association of two men who would soon form one of the world's best-known business partnerships. The firm was incorporated as Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1893.

In 1895, Roebuck asked Sears to buy him out. However, at Richard Sears' request, he took charge of a division that handled watches, jewelry, optical goods, and, later, phonographs, magic lanterns and motion picture machines. His business interests did not end with Sears. He later organized and financed two companies: a manufacturer and a distributor of motion picture machines and accessories. Roebuck also served as president (1909-1924) of Emerson Typewriter Company, where he invented an improved typewriter, called the "Woodstock."

After several years in semi-retirement in Florida, the financial losses he suffered in the stock market crash of 1929 forced Roebuck to return to Chicago. By 1933, Roebuck had rejoined Sears, Roebuck and Co., where he largely devoted his time to compiling a history of the company he helped found.

Then, in September of 1934, a Sears store manager asked Mr. Roebuck to make a public appearance at his store. After an enthusiastic public turnout, Mr. Roebuck went on tour, appearing at retail stores across the country for the next several years.

Alvah Roebuck returned to his desk at company headquarters in Chicago, where he enthusiastically assumed the task of compiling a corporate history until his death on June 18, 1948.

 
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