As Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) , the parent of Sears and Kmart, follows CEO Eddie Lampert down the fiery road to what will likely be its ultimate demise, remember that the bricks-and-mortar once had better days.

Now the victim of disruption caused by the rise of Amazon (AMZN) , it's easy to forget that Sears was once the one doing the disrupting. Founded as the R.W. Sears Watch Company in 1896, Sears came to be the saving grace of rural farmers, offering mail-order wholesale at a steep discount when compare to monopolistic general stores.

Sears grew to be the dominant force in catalog shopping before opening its first store in Chicago in 1925. Brick and mortar locations subsequently spread throughout the U.S. and eventually internationally.

Beyond retail, Sears once encompassed brands including Allstate (ALL - Get Report) , Discover (DFS - Get Report) , and many more.

It wasn't until the end of the millennium that things took a turn as Sears was forced to shut down it's unprofitable catalog business in 1993 and was eventually bought by Kmart under Lampert in 2004.

Now, the struggling retailer is struggling to stay alive, as it rapidly closes stores and considers selling its numerous iconic retail brands amid what could be a futile attempt at refinancing. How long will it be until Sears is just another missed question on a history test?

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