What a Hundred-Year-Old Department Store Can Tell Us About the Overlap of Retail, Religion and PoliticsBreaking News
tags: religion, politics, Philadelphia, shopping, department stores, retail
The story of large-scale, non-Amazon retail today is often one of frustration and failure, from Sears’s recent financial difficulties to the closure of Toys ‘R’ Us earlier this year. Abandoned big-box stores, department stores losing ground to online establishments and shopping malls falling out of fashion auger bleak financial implications for the communities where these spaces are located. It’s in sharp contrast to the often-extravagant stores run by the early pioneers of American retail—men like John Wanamaker, Marshall Field and Julius Rosenwald. Their stores blended extensive selections of goods for sale with public programs, art galleries and fine dining, and helped change what a nation thought “going to the store” could entail.
Even as the idea of a department store as a cultural destination has waned, echoes of the retail establishment’s heyday remain, from the ceremonial unveiling of holiday window decorations to celebrity appearances.
But there’s more to this story than simply the evolution of retail: from small shops to department stores to online retailers that mirror the selection of retail palaces without the physical space. Nicole C. Kirk’s new book Wanamaker’s Temple: The Business of Religion in an Iconic Department Store delves into how John Wanamaker’s religious and political beliefs shaped his retail empire, which at its peak included 16 stores around the mid-Atlantic region. At a point in time where retail and politics seem inexorably connected, the saga of Wanamaker offers numerous parallels to the ways we think about shopping today.
comments powered by Disqus
- Hurricane Dorian Unearths Civil War Cannonballs at South Carolina Beach
- Ms. Monopoly is here. Psst: A woman invented the game in the first place
- 9/11 Is History Now. Here's How American Kids Are Learning About It in Class
- Why Don't We Consider Cannabis Part of the American Herbal Renaissance
- A woman who ran for president in 1872 was compared to Satan and locked up. It wasn’t for her emails.
- Historians push to create public archive of documents from massive opioid litigation
- Fake Citations Kill Historian's Career
- Jim McGrath on Podcasts and Public History
- Uncovering the History of Child Psychiatry: A Conversation with Deborah Blythe Doroshow
- Gerald Ford, Impeachment, and The Difference Between Politics and Law Enforcement