House kits, drugs and drills: All the ways Sears was Amazon before Amazon

Sears’s history is the history of U.S. consumerism, its catalog the picture book of an expanding 19th- and 20th-century America.

Depending on the decade, consumers could order lumber, nails and paint, a house in a kit and a mortgage to finance it. Washable business suits, arsenic wafers for a clear complexion, and your own tombstone were all for sale via mail from the pages of the “Big Book” first printed in 1893. Now 125 years old, Sears was Amazon AMZN, -6.15% before Amazon was Amazon.

Except now Amazon is Amazon, one of just two companies, including Apple, to briefly claim a market capitalization of $1 trillion.

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