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Sears through the years: From watch seller to tower builder

A Sears building in downtown Houston in 1959.

A Sears building in downtown Houston in 1959. | AP file photo

Sears got its start as a watch seller more than 130 years ago and grew to become one of the world’s largest retailers. But the company has struggled in recent years and on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A look at the company through the years:

1886 — Richard Sears starts the R.W. Sears Watch Co. in Minneapolis.

1888 — The Sears catalog is born, featuring watches and jewelry. By 1894, sewing machines, baby carriages and other items are added.

1893 — The company becomes Sears, Roebuck and Co.

1906 — Sears becomes a public company.

1913 — Sears launches the Kenmore brand of sewing machines. Today, refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances are sold under the name.

1925 — The first Sears brick-and-mortar store opens in Chicago.

1927 — Sears buys the Craftsman trademark for $500 and begins to sell power tools under the brand about two years later. In 2017, it sold the brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. in a $900 million deal.

1931 — Allstate Insurance Co. is launched, offering auto insurance. Sears sold its stake and Allstate became an independent company in the 1990s.

1973 — The company finishes building its new headquarters, the Sears Tower in Chicago. At the time, it was the world’s tallest building at 1,454 feet. Sears sold the landmark in 1994. Its current headquarters are in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

1985 — The Discover Card is introduced nationally. Sears spun off a financial company in the 1990s which included the card.

1993 — Sears stops sending its famous catalog.

2005 — Kmart buys Sears and the company becomes the Sears Holdings Corp.

2017 — The company announces plans to cut $1 billion in costs by selling more store locations, cutting more jobs and putting more of its famous brands on the block.

2018 — Filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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Sources: Sears, AP archives