Aldens (department store)

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Company typePrivate
Industrycatalog merchant
FounderBenjamin J. Rosenthal
HeadquartersChicago, Illinois

Aldens was an American catalog merchant company.


Aldens was founded by Benjamin J. Rosenthal[1] in 1889 in Chicago under the name Chicago Mail Order and Millinery Company and was incorporated on December 15, 1902.[2] The company primarily sold fashion apparel and accessories for women and men via its catalog.[2]

In 1906, the name was changed to Chicago Mail Order Company.[2]

In the 1930s, the company expanded through acquisitions: in 1935, it purchased the mailing lists of M.W. Savage Company of Minneapolis; and in 1936, those of Hamilton Garment of New York and D.T. Bohon of Kentucky.[2] Soon after, Chicago Mail Order Company began offering a monthly payment plan to its customers, essentially granting credit; and expanded their line to include books, toys, and linens.[2]

In 1938, they expanded to include home furnishings and housewares; and sales increased to $24 million.[2]

In 1943, they built a large distribution warehouse in Chicago with 690,000 square feet of floor space.[2]

In 1944, they began to develop a retail network primarily in the Midwest (which eventually expanded to 16 stores by 1959).[2]

In 1947, the company was the fourth-largest mail-order distributor in the United States with $79.2 million in sales and changed its name to Aldens, Inc.[2] In 1957, sales were $102.4 million, they had 4,795 employees, and operated catalog telephone stores in 68 cities.[2]

In 1961, they began selling life insurance via their subsidiary, the John Alden Life Insurance Company.[2] In 1964, Gamble-Skogmo (which had previously purchased a 46% interest in Aldens), purchased the remaining stock in the company including the life insurance unit.[3] The catalog operation was liquidated in 1985 as part of bankruptcy proceedings for Wickes Companies, which had purchased Gamble-Skogmo in 1980.


  1. ^ Chicago Jewish History: "Ernest Byfield: The Pump Room and The Pageant" by William Roth September 2006
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Harvard Business School: "Lehman brothers Collection - Aldens, Inc." retrieved December 19, 2017
  3. ^ Corporate Report, Inc (August 12, 1964). "Park City Daily News Fact Book".