Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Aldens, Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Aldens, Inc.

List of Deals

Aldens was established in 1889 under the name Chicago Mail Order and Millinery Company and was incorporated in Illinois on December 15, 1902. In 1906 the name of the business changed to Chicago Mail Order Company.

In the mid-1930s Aldens expanded its operations through acquisitions. It acquired the goodwill and mailing lists of M.W. Savage Company of Minneapolis in April 1935, Hamilton Garment of New York in May 1936, and D.T. Bohon of Kentucky in June 1936.

In 1936 Aldens began selling goods to its mail-order customers on a monthly payment plan. Besides its principal activity as a mail-order business, Aldens established offices for placing orders and began operating retail stores on an experimental basis. In 1938 sales totaled $24 million. The company initially specialized in the sale of apparel and accessories for women and men, especially fashion merchandise. Soon the company added curtains, sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, fabrics, and book and toys. In 1938 these lines of goods were expanded to include home furnishings and house wares.

By 1943 Aldens had a main plant with 690,000 square feet of floor space in Chicago. The company extended its operations into the retail department store field in 1944 and over the next fifteen years opened sixteen stores, primarily in the Midwest. After World War II, apparel merchandise grew to represent a substantial portion of Alden's sales.

In 1946 the company changed its name to Aldens, Inc., and was the fourth-largest mail-order distributor in the United States. By 1957 sales for Aldens grew to $102.4 million as compared to $79.2 million in 1947. It employed 4,795 employees and now operated catalog telephone stores in 68 cities.

Beginning in 1961 the company began offering life insurance for sale through its catalog, operated by its wholly owned subsidiary, John Alden Life Insurance Company.

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