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100-Year-Old Challenge Draws to Close Sept. 15 at Wilson Library


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Montgomery Ward Catalog Challenge, Part II
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015
5 p.m. Reception and viewing of materials | Lobby
5:30 p.m. Program | Pleasants Family Assembly Room
Wilson Special Collections Library
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203

In 1915, former UNC President Kemp Plummer Battle sent a mysterious box to the North Carolina Historical Society. It contained a Montgomery Ward mail-order catalog from that year and instructions to members of the University community to use that catalog in order to reflect on changes in society both fifty and a hundred years later.

UNC Chancellor Robert B. House claimed the $50 prize in 1965 with his essay “Great & Important Changes.” This year, members of the UNC Department of History partnered with the Library to host a series of faculty lectures on the theme. UNC professors John Kasson and Dana McMahan delivered the first talks in April.

The final talks will take place in the Wilson Special Collections Library during a free public program. At 5 p.m., attendees can enjoy refreshments in the lobby and a chance to view Battle’s original letter, plus the 1915 and 1965 catalogs. At 5:30 p.m., two talks will take place in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room. They are:

  • “Welcome to the Monkey Ward: Mail Order, Bricks, and Clicks, Oh My!” by Peter Coclanis, Albert Ray Newsome Distinguished Professor of History at UNC; and
  • “The Montgomery Ward Catalog: Creative Destruction in Practice,” by Lee Craig, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University.

Fitz Brundage, chair of the Department of History at UNC, will introduce the program. Special guest John Baumann, President and CEO of Colony Brands, which owns and operates Montgomery Ward catalog and online retailer, will also make brief remarks on the topic “Montgomery Ward Today.”

Wilson Library has digitized from its collection the 1915 and 1965 Montgomery Ward catalogs and Robert B. House’s 1965 essay.

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