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Butler Bros.

 

 

 

Butler Bros.

Butler Bros. Building, 1928
George and Edward Butler founded a wholesale mail-order company in Boston in 1877. Butler Bros. opened a Chicago warehouse in 1879, and the city became home to the company's catalog department. (All of its operations were based in Chicago after 1930, when the purchasing department moved from New York.) By 1910, the Chicago offices employed about 1,000 people. Like Sears and Montgomery Ward, other Chicago companies that had large mail-order operations, Butler Bros. moved into brick-and-mortar retailing during the 1920s. By the beginning of the 1930s, it operated over 100 of its own “Scott” and “L. C. Burr” stores; at the same time, it had begun a franchising business that allowed independent retailers to become members of the “Ben Franklin” and “Federated” chains, which were supplied by Butler Bros. By 1936, there were about 2,600 Ben Franklin stores and 1,400 Federated stores around the country, mostly in small towns. During the 1940s and 1950s, Butler Bros. approached $120 million a year in wholesale and retail sales, ranking it among the leading wholesalers in the United States. In 1960, after it sold Ben Franklin and its other retail operations to the City Products Corp. of Ohio (which was bought in 1965 by the Household Finance Corp. of Chicago), Butler Bros. faded away.