Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

John Wanamaker felt ill. He didn’t have time for an autumn cold. There was so much work to do, espe­cially now as his great department store readied itself for the coming Christmas season. Anticipating a busier day tomorrow, he made an heroic effort to stem the cas­cade of papers across his desk into orderly piles before taking a parting glance around his office.

Banks of filing cabinets, mahogany bookcases and his mammoth desk overflowed with thousands of books and the accumulated records and mementos of a long, extraordi­nary public, and often contro­versial, lifetime. From among his five cases of Sunday school books and Bibles; a dozen more of histories, business theory, and Victorian literary classics; the complete writings of Benjamin Franklin and numerous copies of How to Live on 24 Hours a Day; peeked the naughty Lady Mechante and Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Goal to reveal a mer­chant of uncommonly elevated and varied interests. Like lighthouses dotting a sea of clutter, Wanamaker’s collection of thermometers, barometers and clocks stood out every­where, as if he believed the presence of these scientific instruments of measurement could somehow impose order and direction upon the neigh­boring chaos of flags and pho­tographs, clothing samples and notions, walking sticks and commemorative shovels, assorted souvenirs, German helmets and Japanese swords, all battling for space in a room which granted the eye little repose. Standing, sitting, listening and watching over this domain, Wanamaker’s beloved porcelain cats, his “silent partners,” kept their vigil while one of his favorites – exiled to the outermost corner of his desk lest the lazy feline set a bad example – continued to sleep on the job, blissfully unaware that its owner was not to return.

Taking the elevator down from his office, Philadelphia’s lauded merchant prince, an aging monarch now, slowly made his way through a store that had never seemed more beautiful and alive. As the regular mid-day musical pro­gram on the world famous Wanamaker Concert Organ concluded, the noisy comings and goings of shoppers echoed through the huge store’s majestic eight-story Grand Court. In its midst, the imposing ten-foot Wanamaker Eagle, already a popular meeting place, proudly looked on as weary shoppers rested and expectant visitors awaited rendezvous at its feet. Every­where on this September 1922 day were reflections of the retail revolution he had set in motion in the seventy years since the unhappy Christmas eve when young Wanamaker, shopping for his mother’s holiday gift, was bullied by a surly Philadelphia jeweler into a different purchase than the gift the boy really wanted to buy. Eighty-four years old, portly and leaning heavily on his walking stick, it was that boy, satisfied now, who ac­knowledged his employee’s greetings as he left his “New Kind of Store” for the last time.

John Wanamaker died De­cember 12, 1922. His legacies, inextricably linked with the rise of industrialism and the flowering of the city as the center of American life, were as numerous and wide­-reaching as his interests and activities.

At Thirteenth and Market streets in the heart of Philadelphia, Wanamaker left behind a twelve-story architectural wonder that was the largest­ – as well as the first – fully fire­-protected retail building in the world. Designed at the turn­-of-the-century by Chicago’s renowned Daniel H. Burnham of Columbian Exposition fame and certified in 1980 as a Na­tional Historic Landmark, Wanamaker’s store stands today as one of the last of the opulent consumer palaces which were once the major commercial, and even cultural centers, of America’s growing cities.

As outstanding as it is, this store was only the most visible reflection of Wanamaker’s even more far-reaching legacies. Seeking to make a science of retailing and to elevate the poorly regarded mercantile profession to the level of the learned professions, he devel­oped business policies and an ethics and style of advertising which left a lasting nationwide impact as they were success­fully tested and then adopted by other retailers across the country. His motto, “Accuracy in Word and Print,” and his introduction of full-page daily newspaper advertisements and other innovations played a major role in changing adver­tising from a usually unprincipled – and often haphazard – endeavor into an influential industry. His intro­duction of the single price policy and the money-back guarantee inaugurated the transformation of modern shopping from a time­-consuming battle of wits into an efficient and even entertain­ing new pastime.

Among the first to use and champion the telephone, the telegraph and the latest ad­vances in modern communica­tions, Wanamaker, while serving as Postmaster General under Pres. Benjamin Harri­son, left yet another legacy which historian Daniel Boor­stin has described as one of the least heralded and most important communications revolutions in American his­tory: Rural Free Delivery. In much the same way that de­partment stores like Wanama­ker’s drew people into the cities and allowed the poorest, as well as the wealthiest, of shoppers to gaze in common at an undreamed-of array of merchandise from around the world, Rural Free Delivery, by bringing mail directly to the homes of all individuals re­gardless of how remote, opened up an even larger new shared world of newspapers, national magazines and cata­logues to the more than one­-half of the nation’s population, previously isolated by rural life.

This man who figured so prominently in the sophistica­tion of American life was a country boy himself, born July 11, 1838, in the then-rural outskirts of Philadelphia. With his partner and brother-in-law, Nathan Brown, Wanamaker first made a name for himself in Philadelphia retailing by opening Oak Hall at Sixth and Market streets as a men’s and boy’s clothing store on April 8, 1861, ninety-four hours before the firing on Fort Sumter opened the Civil War. Sea­soned merchants forecast a speedy demise for the “boy clothiers,” warning that war would bring an end to busi­ness and soon leave grass growing in Philadelphia’s streets. The partners’ first day’s take – $24.67 – did little to dispel these harbingers of doom. Wanamaker and Brown spent twenty-four dollars on advertising, saved the sixty­-seven cents to make change for the next day and proceeded to make their fortune. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Wanamaker attempted to en­list, but was rejected because of poor health and so, instead, together with their two cutter­-salesmen and one errand boy, the boy clothiers began equip­ping soldiers for the front.

Perhaps inspired by linger­ing memories of his boyhood encounter with the surly Phila­delphia jeweler, Wanamaker immediately began to intro­duce reforms in retailing and in the treatment of employees. To make business dealings more agreeable and to improve the general character of the mercantile trade, he aston­ished competitors in 1861 by guaranteeing the quality of his merchandise in writing. De­ceptive advertising and un­scrupulous salespeople became a thing of the past. The year 1862 brought cash payment on the spot to his working people and shorter business days, followed in 1865 by his most daring reforms – one fair price to all and refunds. Pricetags? Even loyal Wanamaker’s salespeople wondered if these would work and braced themselves for the very worst. With set prices, goods returnable and refunds now standard retailing prac­tices, it’s difficult to appreciate the furor these and other Wanamaker innovations caused in an age when there were no established prices for goods and the best bargains feU to the best hagglers.

Before Wanamaker, New York’s A.T. Steward and the new generation of merchants they inspired, shopping was an ordeal during which it could easily take hours to buy a single item. Wrangling over the price, an endless round of buyers’ accusations of highway robbery for shoddy goods would inevitably be met by sellers’ protestations of immi­nent bankruptcy as each viewed the other an an enemy to be bested. “Let the buyer beware!” was the guiding principle. Goods labeled “French” were, as likely as not, imported from across the river in Manayunk. Customers choosing not to buy some­times did so at their peril, as one young Philadelphia woman once learned in trying to leave a Second Street store only to find the shopkeeper had barred the door! Thanks to a rear window, she man­aged to make her escape from a forced purchase and the shop. There was little joy in being a salesperson either. In addition to suffering the con­tempt of understandably sus­picious patrons, store hours were long – usually from about 6:30 A.M. until 7:30 P.M., six days a week – and payment was often in goods, not wages.

It’s small wonder Oak Hall was a resounding success with store patrons and employees alike. Wanamaker quickly followed his changes in tradi­tional business practices with equally dramatic innovations in advertising. Store advertise­ments were generally simple notices of goods for sale, printed in microscopic type and buried inside the newspa­pers. Wanamaker’s bold new advertisement made quite a splash. Assuming a high de­gree of intelligence on the part of the public, he carefully described his new business policies in detail, explaining the financial logic behind each, in a lengthy essay in an un­precedented copyrighted newspaper ad. Violating the cardinal rule of business that advises against giving away trade secrets, for the first time in retailing history Wanamaker let the public in on store­keeping from the other side of the counter. So successful were his new policies and advertising strategies that, by 1871, Oak Hall had expanded to nearly two acres of floor­space to become the largest store of its kind in the nation.

An even bigger store was needed and, in 1874, Wanama­ker bought Philadelphia’s cavernous old Pennsylvania Railroad depot at Thirteenth and Market Streets. “That green John Wanamaker is crazy!,” the place was much too big, he would never be able to do enough business to sustain such an enormous capital outlay, seasoned mer­chants concurred. Wanama­ker’s phenomenal success with his “New Kind of Store,” which became famous as the Grand Depot, proved that times were definitely changing.

The rising fortunes of John Wanamaker and his depart­ment store coincided with the age of rampant industrialism, an era characterized by tre­mendous optimism, in which it was popularly believed that technological progress was necessarily good and that great things were possible. Truly a child of this age, no one shared its optimism and faith in progress more than John Wanamaker himself. In many ways, his choice of the Grand Depot could not have been more fitting – truly a new kind of store which celebrated the fruits of American manu­facturing, housed in the same vast space which formerly sheltered one of the ultimate symbols on the industrial epoch, the giant locomotives whose speed and power had just conquered the vast dis­tances of a continent.

The industrial age was also the great age of world’s fairs, grand scale spectacles combin­ing entertainment, education and commerce in celebration of technology’s latest wonders. It was not by chance that the opening of the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, America’s first world’s fair, coincided so closely with the May 6, 1876, opening of the Grand Depot. A member of the Centennial Board of Fi­nance, which initiated the fundraising for the fair, Wana­maker quite naturally came to see his own store as a kind of world’s fair itself, where the riches of the world were brought together as far as the eye could see in a giant hall filled with light.

The Grand Depot did, in fact, become a kind of Centen­nial annex as visitors to the world’s fair also made a point of visiting the world’s largest clothing store. “Why this re­minds of a western prairie! It’s most as big!” marveled one westerner while, looking at a huge pile of black suits, a North Dakotan remarked, “I never expected to see the Black Hills with as little peril to my scalp.” Summing it up, a visi­tor from Minnesota said, “I am simply enjoying a feast of the mind.” Dutifully noted by store employees, these com­ments offer a colorful and probably even accurate impres­sion of the enthusiasm in­spired by Wanamaker’s “New Kind of Store.” But was only his curtain-raiser for even bigger acts to follow.

In the fall of 1876, Wanama­ker added women’s apparel and began sending buyers abroad. The first mail-order bureau and the first restaurant in any store also opened in the Grand Depot that year. On March 12, 1877, Wanamaker added dry goods and reno­vated the Grand Depot. “Most respectfully,” he closed his lengthy informative advertise­ment announcing its reopen­ing with the invitation, “Will the people come on Monday, or at their leisure, and see what we have done?” Come they did, more than seventy thousand people on opening day. The store that awaited them was like nothing the public had ever seen. Its two­-thirds of a mile of counters and fourteen hundred stools were arranged like huge wheels within wheels, with one hun­dred ninety-six foot aisles radiating like giant spokes from the ninety foot circular counter at its center. The in­dustrial symbolism of this bold new layout was certainly not lost on Wanamaker. In a pre­-opening address to his em­ployees, now grown to a small army of nearly seven hundred, he appealed to each as an important spoke essential to the work of keeping the giant wheel of progress turning. A few days later, while buying his clothes at the Grand Depot before embarking on his world tour, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was inspired to remark to a Philadelphia newspaper edi­tor, “It takes as much general­ship to organize a business like this as to organize an army.”

To his surprise, Wanamaker became the center of contro­versy as his patrons’ enthusi­asm was equaled by the furor of competitors who feared the success of his sweeping changes and volume sales would drive them out of busi­ness. Wanamaker’s was forced to manufacture Morris chairs in its own shop when furni­ture manufacturers were threatened with a boycott if they dared sell to Wanamaker. “Billions of Millions! … have visited our Immense Empo­rium during the first week of its existence and the mammoth headquarters of Monopoly is not an established fact … ;’ parodied one mock advertise­ment as it took on the Grand Depot and Wanamaker’s ad­vertising style. “Something New,” critics mocked, taking aim at his adoption and pro­motion of the latest fruits of modern technology by offer­ing, “Our incomparable com­bined Mince Pie Meat Cutter and Mixer, Onion Peeler, Po­tato Parer, Dish Washer, Fire Tenderer, and Front Door Answerer – a Triumph of Mod­ern Mechanism, invented and perfected by Ourselves … buy one of these Wonderful Ma­chines, wind it up, set it go­ing, lock up the house, come to our Emporium, and be happy.” Far from driving other businesses out, however, Wanamaker’s success created a climate in which commerce thrived. The Grand Depot became a magnet holding together a new centralized business district drawing crowds that patronized Wana­maker’s competitors as well.

Wanamaker responded to the controversy with the intro­duction of a breathless succes­sion of new technical innovations and retailing “firsts.” Paris and Berlin fash­ions received their first major American presentation at the Grand Depot in 1877, and on December 26, 1878, the Depot became the first store ever lighted by electricity. The fol­lowing December, Wanamaker took out the first full-page newspaper advertisements placed by a store. This new “Wanamaker Style” of advertising – the bold use of consecutive full-page adver­tisements which were like news items themselves­ – marked the beginning of his unprecedented effort to make a science of advertising. To create advertisements which would be a veritable “Textbook of Merchandise,” Wanamaker began to educate his advertis­ing staff, sending them to visit factories, interview artists and become familiar with quality, sources of supply and manu­facturing processes. In addi­tion to its impact on modern advertising practices, the Wanamaker Style, soon emu­lated by other retailers, played a major role in the rapid rise of powerful and increasingly independent city daily news­papers by infusing them with the advertising dollars, which began to provide a substantial and reliable new revenue base.

In 1880, Wanamaker began opening foreign retail embas­sies in Paris, Berlin and Tokyo while, at home, salespeople were introduced to their founder’s latest toy as the Grand Depot became the first store to dispatch cash and receipts directly to the ac­counting office through pneu­matic tubes.

Like a train picking up speed as it leaves the station, the Wanamaker store moved ahead at a dizzying rate as the 1880s accelerated into the 1890s. Already accounting for twenty-one percent of the nation’s linen business, in 1885 the Grand Depot became the first store to have a million­-dollar day in total sales. A record 11,850 pairs of women’s stockings were sold by 3 P.M. during one 1890 sale. Wanama­ker measured progress, how­ever, by more than sales alone.

“Every educational institu­tion should be industrial and every industrial institution should be educational,” wrote Herbert Spencer, the patron philosopher of the Industrial Age whose pragmatist ideas Wanamaker diligently strove to translate into practice. Wana­maker advertisements began to talk of “the convenience and some degree of culture to the community.” They were fol­lowed by the introduction of public lectures and educational exhibits which became a regu­lar store feature. Beginning to blur the distinction between art and commerce, between museum and store, the centen­nial anniversary of the U.S. Constitution in 1887 was marked by a major Wanamaker exhibit of documents, Revolu­tionary era clothing and period antiques. In 1894, the story of Napoleon was followed by a massive exhibition of thou­sands of paintings, busts, photographs and miniatures depicting “Monarchs and Beauties of the World.” In 1896, the Grand Depot’s recreation of Rue de la Park offered shop­pers a taste of Paris in the spring, as well as glimpses of rare antique French armor and the latest Paris salon paintings.

“As the business rises it must lift every worker with it,” Wanamaker said in one of the many addresses the voluable and opinionated merchant was so fond of giving. In an era all too often characterized by its inhuman working conditions, Wanamaker’s policies did, indeed, mark a quiet revolu­tion in labor-management relations. Beginning in 1886 with his introduction of the half-day on Saturdays, he led the way in reducing the work week to five and a half days. Medical benefits and a fixed retirement plan were practi­cally unheard of until Wana­maker, Stetson and Philadelphia’s other noted “benevolent patriarchs” intro­duced them. His most far­-reaching innovation, however, was the John Wanamaker Commercial Institute, begun simply in 1896 as a morning tutoring session in public school studies in reading, writing and mathematics for the store’s young boys whose circumstances had deprived them of an education. Ex­panded to include a similar school for girls and a night school for older boys, Wana­maker’s Institute was formally chartered in December 1908 as the American University of Trade and Applied Commerce, the first store university in the world. A pragmatist to the end, justifying humanitarian instincts by reasoning that education improves earning capacity and therefore helps remove the antagonisms be­tween labor and capital, amus­ing echoes of Herbert Spencer’s pragmatism still ring in Wanamaker’s admonition, “No dead languages,” which summarized his stout belief that education should be prac­tical, used to help people bet­ter engineer their lives.

The Grand Depot, mean­while, engulfed an entire city block and was beyond further expansion. Again, a new store was needed. Dazzled by the buildings Daniel Burnham designed for the Columbian Exposition’s fabulous White City in 1893, Wanamaker charged Burnham, one of the nation’s most honored archi­tects with the modest instruc­tions: “What you must do for me is to say in stone what the business has said to the world in deed. You must make a building that is solid and true. It shall be granite and steel throughout.” Giving in to his tendency to get a bit carried away, Wanamaker continued, “It shall stand four-square to the city-simple, unpreten­tious, noble, classic-a. work of art and, humanly speaking, a monument for all time.” Burnham and his engineering staff also faced the formidable challenge of building the enor­mous new store on the existing Grand Depot site without interrupting a day of business. Ground-breaking ceremonies were held February 2, 1902, accompanied by a little speech from Wanamaker. As the new building’s massive power plant was set in motion in 1905, its cornerstone laid in 1909, and it’s capstone in 1910 – all duly accompanied by Wanamaker speeches – business contin­ued as usual and so did the stream of Wanamaker “firsts.” In 1903-1904, the store sold Ford automobiles and guaran­teed buyers against the possi­ble loss of their purchase due to a pending patent suit. Previ­ously afraid to buy Fords, the Wanamaker guarantee reas­sured the public and helped lay the groundwork for Ford’s eventual success. Radium, newly discovered, was exhib­ited for the first time in Amer­ica at Wanamaker’s in 1904 and, the following year, Wana­maker’s became the first store in the world to provide its customers with twenty-four hour telephone service. In 1907, it became the first store in the world to receive Mar­conigrams and, in 1911 the Wanamaker stores in Philadel­phia (as well as the store in New York purchased from department store pioneer A.T. Stewart) became the world’s first to be equipped with offi­cial wireless stations, which were the second most power­ful stations in the country. When Bleriot captured the world’s imagination by flying across the English Channel, Wanamaker’s was the first to show the motion pictures of the world’s first aeronautic meet at Rheims and, in No­vember 1909, to actually place aeroplanes on sale.

If anything, the Wanamaker store’s educational and cultural promotions became even more elaborate. In a famous exhibit, displays of valuable historical documents and artifacts pre­sented the story of the French Revolution as its major events unfolded in a richly detailed series of tableaux with cos­tumed wax figures.

Wanamaker’s son, Rodman, also began playing an increas­ingly important role in the business and cultural activities of the store. Appointed head of the store’s Paris office, Rod­man Wanamaker shipped millions of dollars of French salon paintings to the Philadel­phia and New York stores, virtually turning them into public art museums.

Adding a less pragmatic, more adventuresome element to his father’s fascination with new technology, Rodman commissioned Glen Curtis in 1914 to build The America, the first plane manufactured for trans-Atlantic flight. Perhaps most famous and of most lasting importance, however, were the Rodman Wanamaker expeditions to study and re­cord the customs of the Ameri­can Indian tribes of the American West. Conducted with the approval of the fed­eral government, the notes, photographs and motion pic­tures which Wanamaker de­posited with the National Archives provide an invaluable record of a vanishing people and way of life. Hiawatha, a motion picture loosely struc­tured around Longfellow’s poem, was filmed on a number of Indian reservations during the first expedition in 1908. In 1909, another motion picture, The Last Great Indian Council, recorded for posterity the great Indian chiefs then alive. These films were also shown to large audiences in the stores, accompanied by the publication of an educational primer on the North American Indian.

In the midst of so much activity and on time for John Wanamaker’s fiftieth anniver­sary in retailing, his great Philadelphia store was finally finished in 1911. Attended by President Taft, Daniel Burnham, and more than thirty thousand spectators, the dedication ceremonies took place on December 30, 1911. “Before our time the monu­ments built by merchants took the form of palaces in which they, themselves, were to live,” Burnham told the crowd. “Not so with John Wanamaker. His monument is his store.” It was a store like no other in the world. Twelve stories high and covering an entire city block, it contained forty-five acres – nearly two million square feet – of floor space. Con­structed of gray granite on a framework of steel, and di­vided into three sections by two firewalls, it was the first fully fire protected store in the world, with sixty-eight hy­draulic elevators and three firetowers which made it pos­sible to evacuate every person from the building in less than two minutes. In many ways, it was this aspect of the new building that made John Wanamaker most proud. De­scribing it in his cornerstone address, he referred to his duty to employees who had “earned the right to live in the safest, most convenient, com­fortable and healthful building we could build.”

It was the Renaissance Revival style store’s Grand Court, that dazzled all who saw it. For special occasions, the immense open space could provide room for twenty-five thousand people and seating for fifty-thousand. White and gold balconies rising to a height of one hundred and fifty feet overlooked the court while Greek and Italian marble arches and fluted columns created graceful patterns re­ceding into the distance.

The huge crowd that gath­ered for the dedication cere­mony was treated to musical accompaniment provided by one of the new store’s most unique features. Commanding a central two-story high posi­tion in the Grand Court, the Wanamaker Concert Organ was originally built for the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 and acquired by John Wanamaker in 1909 in his desire to “bring more music into the lives of the people.” Rodman Wanama­ker, seeking to provide the public with the finest organ in the world, had the huge in­strument shipped to Philadel­phia by rail, requiring thirteen boxcars. Listed in the Guinness Book of Records, the organ is the largest fully functioning musical instrument in the world. Enlarged over the years, it now has 30,067 pipes – some weigh­ing nearly a ton each – and a six-keyboard console with 451 stops and 964 controls. First heard in 1911 and played daily at 11:15 A.M. and 5:15 P.M. special concerts and recitals have attracted thousands of music lovers from around the world. Among the many spe­cial concerts, one of the most memorable was undoubtedly the performance given by the famous Belgian organist Charles Courboin, who was accompanied by the Philadel­phia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Sto­kowski.

Standing above the crowd and dominating the center of the Grand Court is the famous Wanamaker Eagle, also ac­quired at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Modeled by August Gaul of Berlin, and fashioned by a large team of metal workers from the Dueren Metal Works, the huge bronze eagle weighs twenty-five hundred pounds. Its granite base weighs forty­-four hundred pounds and extra girders were needed to support the floor of the Grand Court before the bronze bird could be installed in 1911. The statue, which has become one of Philadelphia’s most famous meeting places, has five thou­sand individually hand­-wrought feathers, sixteen hundred of which are on the head alone.

In addition to the Grand Court and a number of lav­ishly decorated period audito­riums and meeting rooms, such as Greek Hall, Egyptian Hall, the Byzantine Chamber, and the Louis XIII and XIV suites, the Wanamaker store boasted the Crystal Tea Room, the largest dining room in Philadelphia and one of the largest in the world, with seating for fourteen hundred diners. Modeled after the famous tea room of Revolutionary War financier Robert Morris, the Crystal Tea Room also had side dining rooms and a kitchen capable of feed­ing ten thousand!

As dedication day ap­proached, Wanamaker, Burnham, and Taft vied for the spotlight, with Taft finally winning. Even with a presi­dent’s attendance, no Wana­maker occasion was complete without the introduction of another of the founder’s tech­nical gadgets. For December 30, 1911, events were recorded and a special telephone hook­up was installed so that the speeches could be heard in the New York store simultane­ously.

Wanamaker’s address was curiously lacking its usually florid embellishments. These were trust-busting times, and the founder used the opportu­nity to support Taft’s efforts in promoting fairer trade prac­tices; on Taft’s part, it was good politics to honor a successful and powerful business­man who had so obviously been able to flourish in a cli­mate of fair trade.

Dedication Day marked the end of a year filled with hon­ors for the “boy clothier.” France awarded him with the Legion of Honor. The gentle­men of the American Press, with whom he had established a natural rapport, presented him with “The New Store” mascot, a wooly white lamb, as a tongue-in cheek tribute to Wanamaker’s first promise, made on his first business card, that “Nothing will be sold that is not all-wool.” As the lamb played around Wana­maker’s feet, he read the ac­companying card, “Original and genuine undyed and unadulterated guaranteed all­-wool.” The most touching tribute came, however, from his thirteen thousand friends and employees who took up a collection to present him with the deed to his humble birth­place.

For John Wanamaker, look­ing back on this jubilee year was a time for deep reflection on the extraordinary changes that had taken place both in the world and in the American way of life. Trolleys, electric lights, bicycles, automobiles, telephones, phonographs, airplanes and the wireless were all new innovations. So, too, was Wanamaker’s “New Kind of Store,” the department store. Although a dreamer himself, Wanamaker never imagined the dramatic social and cultural changes these revolutions in transportation, communication, merchandis­ing and advertising would bring, nor could he have ever imagined the lasting role both he and his store would play in it all.

Like so many of the numer­ous philanthropic, business and industrial giants the great age of the robber baron pro­duced, John Wanamaker con­sciously strove not only to build a palatial store – which would serve as a “monument for all time” – but a business legacy for the future as well. Engraved on a column in the Philadelphia store are the words from his capstone speech delivered on June 11, 1910, which were to become his motto: “Let those who follow me continue to build with the plumb of Honor, the level of Truth, the square of Integrity, Education, Courtesy and Mutuality.” John Wanama­ker’s words still stand true and strong today, a tribute to the man who allowed himself to marvel at the latest in technol­ogy and the dreamer who molded retailing with romance.


For Further Reading

Appel, Joseph Herbert. The Busi­ness Biography of John Wana­maker, Founder and Builder, America’s Merchant Pioneer from 1861-1922. New York: Mac­millan, 1930.

Appel, Joseph Herbert. Growing Up With Advertising. New York: Business Bourse, 1940.

Gibbons, Herbert A. John Wana­maker. New York: Harper & Co., 1926.

The Golden Book of the Wana­maker Stores, Jubilee Year 1861-1911. Philadelphia: John Wanamaker, 1911.

Mahoney, Tom and Leonard Sloane. The Great Merchants, America’s Foremost Retail Institutions and the People Who Made Them Great. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

Wanamaker, John. “The Evolution of Mercantile Business.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. XV, 1900.


Linda Kowall is a frequent contrib­utor to this magazine. A graduate of Beaver College and a longtime resident of the Philadelphia area, she is a freelance writer specializ­ing in the history of filmmaking, photography and popular culture. Her articles have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Films in Review, American Film and numerous publications. Her most recent article in Pennsylvania Heritage, The Merry-Go-Round Kings” appeared in the spring 1988 edition.