Shopping

Marshall Field department store, Chicago, Illinois, 1906 

Marshall Field department store, Chicago, Illinois, 1906
 

Courtesy of Chicago History Museum

Palaces of Consumption

Marshall Field in Chicago and other retailers built palatial stores. Offering wide selections of goods and services at set prices, they encouraged consumers to spend the day enjoying the pleasures of shopping. These stores employed growing numbers of single women, who also became consumers.

Marshall Field store sign, about 1910

Marshall Field department store, Chicago, Illinois, 1909

Marshall Field department store, Chicago, Illinois, 1909

Department store owners sought upper- and middle-class customers with money to spend on impulse. Working-class people lacked the time to shop as a leisure activity.

Courtesy of Chicago History Museum

Central courtyard with Tiffany dome, 1907

Central courtyard with Tiffany dome, 1907

Basement salesroom

Basement salesroom

Marshall Field created a bargain basement to cater to less affluent consumers and to sell overstocked goods.

Courtesy of Chicago Historical Society

Model of Marshall Field department store, Chicago, Illinois, about 1910

Model of Marshall Field department store, Chicago, Illinois, about 1910

Created for American Enterprise exhibition

Model of hat department, 1890s

Model of hat department, 1890s

Created for American Enterprise exhibition

Model of store windows, 1910

Model of store windows, 1910

Created for American Enterprise exhibition

Model of general office, about 1898

Model of general office, about 1898

Created for American Enterprise exhibition

Cash register, 1921

Department stores were slow to install cash registers, as the cashiers, spread throughout the store, could not easily be supervised for honesty and efficiency.

View object record
Pneumatic tube room at Marshall Field, 1897

Pneumatic tube room at Marshall Field, 1897

A centralized cash office, with pneumatic tubes running throughout the store, allowed managers to closely supervise the money and hire less skilled salesclerks.

Courtesy of Chicago History Museum

Pneumatic tube station, 1910s

Salesclerks sent the customer’s cash to a centralized cash office where change was made and sent back.

View object record

Shopping list, about 1900

Shopping shifted from a utilitarian trek for necessities to a social activity shared with friends.

View object record

J.L. Hudson water fountain, 1928

The department store with its striking architectural appointments became an elegant destination that encouraged shoppers to make an extended visit.

View object record

Toaster, about 1910

Credit purchases of durable goods increased in the 1920s. More than 80 percent of household appliances were purchased with credit in that decade.

View object record

J.L. Hudson credit token, 1919

Consumer credit expanded in the 1920s, promoting a credit revolution. Stores issued credit to favored customers, expecting full payment at the end of the month.

View object record

Managers reorganized department stores, placing high-profit impulse items like cosmetics on the first floor, to tempt women on their way to other items. Until the early 1900s, few American women used cosmetics daily. Consumption increased as women had more disposable income, the freedom to spend it, and examples of Hollywood actresses to follow. In the 1800s, most cosmetics and fragrances came from France, but around 1900 American department stores began selling the highly profitable nationally branded American cosmetics.

Hudnut Orchid Beauty Cream, about 1910

Hudnut “Three Flowers” perfume, 1920s

Clothing and furnishings for men, who were presumed too timid to venture farther into the department store, were usually located on the first floor.

Oxford razor, about 1900

Boxed razor set, about 1900

Boxed razor set, about 1900