Give The Lady What She Wants!
In 1856, 21-year-old Marshall Field arrived in the booming city of Chicago, with big dreams. He found work as a dry goods clerk, eventually rising to partner. In January 1881, Field’s bought out his partners and opened Marshall Field & Company, later hiring the brilliant merchant, Harry Gordon Selfridge, to help him convert the business into one of America’s first modern department stores.
In 1902, Marshall Field opened his landmark flagship store on State Street in the Chicago Loop. The largest retail store in the world for a time, it boasted 76 elevators, 31 miles of carpeting, and a Tiffany dome made from 1.6 million pieces of glass. The building, which had 23 acres of selling space, welcomed a swarm of 150,000 shoppers on its opening day.
Marshall Field had several famous mottoes, including ‘Give the lady what she wants’ and ‘The customer is always right.’ Any item purchased there could be returned for a full refund—at any time—with no questions asked. But while the customers ruled, the thousands of employees, many of whom were young, working-class shopgirls, did not have many rights. Store rules prohibited them from frequenting dance halls, gambling houses, or any place that served alcohol.
When Women Ran Fifth Avenue
GLAMOUR and POWER at the DAWN of AMERICAN FASHION
A glittering, glamorous portrait of the golden age of American department stores and of three visionary women who led them, from the award-winning author of The Plaza.