Spiegel's founder, the German-born Joseph Spiegel, started a home furnishings company in Chicago that would eventually become one of the most important firms in the mail-order industry, just after the Civil War. In 1904, Joseph and his son Arthur decided to move into mail order. The company mailed out its first catalog in 1905. 20 years later, it had over 10 million customers. By 1929, the Spiegel family's company (which by then sold women's clothing as well as furniture) was selling over $20 million in goods per year through the mail. A strategy of generous consumer credit, low prices, and high volume allowed Spiegel to accomplish the remarkable feat of expanding its operations during the Great Depression.
In 1982, Spiegel was bought by Michael Otto, who took it public in 1987. In March 2003, Spiegel Inc. filed for reorganization under the bankruptcy code. The next year, the Spiegel and Newport News catalog businesses were sold to a group headed by Golden Gate Capital Partners and Pangea Holdings Ltd., while the reorganizing company retained its Eddie Bauer unit and eventually assumed its name. Since 2004, Spiegel and the women's fashion catalog Newport News have operated under the name Spiegel Brands, Inc.
Spiegel once operated freestanding department stores.
- Eddie Bauer Holdings, previously Spiegel, Inc. until 2003 bankruptcy