Corporations: Chip Off the Same Block

When he left Montgomery Ward to join its more or less moribund mail order rival, Sears, Roebuck & Co., as vice president 44 years ago, General Robert Elkington Wood brought with him a long catalogue of eccentricities.

Head of the Army quartermaster corps in World War I, he liked to urge fellow executives to "Charge!" Enamored of detail, he pored over endless reams of census and population statistics while gobbling caramels — cellophane wrappers and all. Out of all that charging and chewing came a discovery that still shapes U.S. merchandising. "Imagine it," Wood recalls. "The country was filled...

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