Businessman (1863–1914) and the founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company with his partner Alvah C. Roebuck. Essentially nonexistent DS, signed “R. W. Sears,” one page, 8 x 13, 1901. An annual contract of indemnity, which reads in full: “Know all men by these presents, that we, Sears, Roebuck & Company, a corporation, organized and existing under the laws of Illinois are held and firmly bound for ourselves, our successors and assigns to the Maine Central Railroad Company, in the sum of Two Thousand ($2,000) dollars, lawful money of the United States.
The condition of the above obligation is such, that, Whereas, the undersigned from time to time has and shall submit claim papers against the Railroad Company, without furnishing the original Bills of Lading; and
Whereas, the undersigned has heretofore made and shall hereafter, from time to time, make changes in the consignment of good shipped by the undersigned over the lines owned, leased or controlled by the said railroad company, without surrendering the original Bill of Lading for the said goods, whereby claims for loss or damage may have arisen or are liable to arise against the said railroad company caused by the misdelivery of goods so shipped, and resulting from the failure to surrender the original Bills of Lading; and
Whereas, upon request of the undersigned, the said railroad company, has instructed its agents to return to the undersigned, any shipment made by the undersigned, which has been on hand or may be on hand for sixty (60) days and refused or unclaimed, whereon billing or marks, show the said goods, to have been shipped from the undersigned from Chicago, Ill.;
Now, therefore, if for and during the term of two years from the 20th day of November A. D. 1901, as to all claims losses, damages, injuries, rates or charges, arising within the period last aforesaid, the undersigned shall indemnify and save harmless the said Railroad Company of and from any and all damages, loss or injuries arising from the failure to furnish or surrender the original Bill of Lading in submitting claim papers, or in case of misdelivery of goods, shipped by the undersigned shall pay all charges and advances on account of the return of the refused or unclaimed shipments as aforesaid, then the obligation shall be void; otherwise, the same to be binding and of full effect.”
Signed at the conclusion in purple ink by Sears, and also signed by part owner and company vice president, Julius Rosenwald. With Rosenwald as VP and Treasurer, the company’s annual sales climbed from $750,000 to upwards of $50 million. When Sears resigned the presidency in 1908, Rosenwald was named president and remained as such until 1924, when he resigned to focus on philanthropic efforts. In very good to fine condition, with intersecting folds, staple holes to top left corner, a few scattered creases, a uniform shade of overall toning, and a small pencil notation to top left. Accompanied by an original stereoview portrait of Sears seated at his desk.
Publishing the first Sears Roebuck mail order catalog in 1888, R. W. Sears helped change the direction of the worldwide marketplace by offering individuals a wide variety of products at reasonable prices and delivering those items directly to them. This gave consumers a new, convenient way to shop, and was the precursor to the electronic commerce that dominates the world today. This document is the firm’s annual contract with Maine Central Railroad Company for the delivery services that made their entire wide-reaching business possible. An important document in the operation of Sears Roebuck, this piece holds the only Sears signature that we have ever seen…anywhere. An incredibly rare autograph from a key figure in the history of American business.