What was on a Christmas wish list from the 1920s? Roller skates? A baseball bat? How about a new refrigerator, or tool set? Or a flashlight to spy on Santa? Whatever it was customers didn’t need Sears, or Montgomery Wards, they could find it all under one name, Winchester.
In 1919, attempting to recover from loans taken out to expand for wartime production, Winchester used the sources the factories possessed to produce consumer goods. Merging with Simmons Hardware Co. and transforming a number of stores throughout the country to Winchester Stores, the firearms company began providing everything from fishing poles to footballs.
Marketing was revised for the company, as well, and Winchester sent letters and included suggestions in the Winchester Herald to distributors outlining the best methods for setting up their stores and for selling the new merchandise, as well as continuing to promote Winchester firearms. For example, setting the Winchester’s .22 rifles in a prominent place where the gaze of young boys and fathers connects with the small-bore rifle. Set stoves out early in the fall so as thoughts of holiday cooking and warmth in the coming winter will be on the minds of women as they walk by the store. Also, Winchester formed and sponsored sports teams (i.e. baseball, football, boxing, hockey, rifle teams, etc.) to promote sporting goods.
Even with the flood of merchandise and promotional campaigns Winchester Repeating Arms Co. could not recover fully, and the Great Depression was the final blow. By 1929, the stores had closed. In 1931 the company was bought at auction by the Olin family’s Western Cartridge Company.
So, whether customers wanted a father and son pocket knife set, or a red wagon for a decade the Winchester Store was the place to find everything for under the tree…even a rifle.
Letters and memorandums in MS20, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company Archive. Gift of the Olin Corporation, Winchester Arms Collection.
Copies of Winchester Herald MS20, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company Archive, ca. 1920s. Gift of the Olin Corporation, Winchester Arms Collection.
Images courtesy of MS20, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company Archive. Gift of the Olin Corporation, Winchester Arms Collection.