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Alvah C. Roebuck

Alvah C. RoebuckAKA Alvah Curtis Roebuck

Born: 9-Jun-1864
Birthplace: Lafayette, IN
Died: 18-Jun-1948
Location of death: Chicago, IL
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Acacia Park Cemetery, Chicago, IL

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Sears Roebuck founder

Alvah C. Roebuck was always fascinated by machinery, and taught himself the internal workings of timepieces. He had already worked as a watch repairman for several years when he responded to a help-wanted ad in the Chicago Daily News placed by watchseller Richard W. Sears, and was hired to repair the company's products. He eventually became a partner in the business, which as Sears' finances faltered was briefly called A.C. Roebuck & Company, but was incorporated as Sears Roebuck in 1893. As sales increased so did the company's debt, and Roebuck grew concerned that he might be held personally liable in a bankruptcy, so in 1894 he sold his share of the business. Rather than having him simply quit, however, Sears put Roebuck in charge of several Sears subsidiaries, where he oversaw the production of various subcontracted products.

One of the Sears-owned ventures where Roebuck worked was called the Enterprise Optical Equipment Manufacturing Company (later Motiograph), where Roebuck designed an early motion picture projector originally marketed as a "magic lantern". In 1909, after the Emerson (later Woodstock) Typewriter Company defaulted on loans from Sears Roebuck, Roebuck himself was installed as president, and became deeply involved in the mechanical redesign of the company's typewriters.

Roebuck was never a poor man after meeting Sears, but never approached the multi-millionaire status of his former business partner. After Sears' death in 1914, a reporter asked Roebuck if he had any regrets about selling his share of the business for a mere $20,000 twenty years earlier, and Roebuck replied, "He's dead. Me, I never felt better". His retirement was interrupted by the Great Depression, which led Roebuck to return to Sears Roebuck as sort of a historical icon, making heavily-advertised visits to Sears stores across America as late as the early 1940s.

Father: Samuel Roebuck (farmer, b. 1833, d. 1876)
Mother: Mary Jane Wolf Roebuck (b. 1838)
Brother: Lewis Roebuck (b. 1860)
Sister: Ida Mary Roebuck (b. 1866)
Wife: Sarah Roebuck

    Sears Roebuck Co-Founder (1887-95)
    Enterprise Optical Equipment Manufacturing Company President (1897-1909)
    Woodstock Typewriter Company President (1909-24)
    Sears Roebuck PR Icon (1933-48)
    English Ancestry


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