Marshall Field's

Marshall Field's was a department store based in Chicago, Illinois.

In 2001, it acquired Minnesota-based Dayton's and Michigan-based Hudson's, converting these stores to Marshall Field's. The chain was acquired by Macy's in 2006, converting all Marshall Field's to Macy's.


Early YearsEdit

Marshall Field & Company traces its antecedents to a dry goods store opened at 137 Lake Street[1] in Chicago, Illinois in 1852 by Potter Palmer, (1826–1902), eponymously named P. Palmer & Company.

In 1856, 21-year-old Marshall Field(1834–1906) moved to the booming midwestern city of Chicago on the southwest shores of Lake Michigan from Pittsfield, Massachusetts and found work at the city’s then-largest dry goods firm: Cooley, Wadsworth & Company.

Just prior to the American Civil War, in 1860, Field and bookkeeper Levi Z. Leiter, (1834–1904), became junior partners in the firm, then known as Cooley, Farwell & Company.

In 1864, the firm, then led by senior partner John V. Farwell, Sr., (1825–1908), was renamed Farwell, Field & Company only for Field and Leiter to soon withdraw from the partnership with Farwell when presented with the opportunity of a lifetime.

Potter Palmer, plagued by ailing health, was looking to dispose of his thriving business, so on January 4, 1865, Field and Leiter entered into partnership with him and his brother Milton Palmer. So the firm of P. Palmer & Company became Field, Palmer, Leiter & Company, with Palmer financing much of their initial capital as well as his own contribution.

After Field and Leiter’s immediate success enabled them to pay him back, Palmer withdrew two years later from the partnership in 1867 to focus on his own growing real-estate interests on one of the burgeoning city's important thoroughfares, State Street. His brother, Milton Palmer, left at this time as well. The store was renamed Field, Leiter & Company, sometimes referred to as “Field & Leiter”.

However, the buyout did not bring an end to Potter Palmer’s association with the firm. In 1868, Palmer convinced Field and Leiter to lease a new, six-story edifice he had just built at the northeast corner of State and Washington Streets.

The store was soon referred to as the “Marble Palace” owing to its costly marble stone face.

The Great Chicago FireEdit

When the Great Chicago Fire broke out on October 8, 1871, news of this (one of the worst conflagrations in U.S. history to ever strike an American city) reached company officials Henry Willing and Levi Leiter, who decided to load as much of their expensive merchandise as possible onto wagons and take it to Leiter’s home, which was out of the path of the fire.

The Company’s drivers and teams were ordered out of the barns. Horace B. Parker, a young salesman, rushed to the store’s basement, broke up boxes, and built a fire in the furnace boiler so that the steam-powered elevators could be operated. These employees worked feverishly through the night to remove vital records and valuable goods to safety.

At one point, the gas tank exploded which put out the store’s gaslights. The men worked on by candlelight and the glow from the approaching flames.

The employees got enough steam up to operate the store’s powerful pumps in the basement and volunteers went to the roof and used the store's fire hoses to wet down the roof & the wall on the side of the oncoming fire.

However, early in the following morning, the city's waterworks burned, thus ending the water supply and making further efforts useless. The last employee had scarcely made it out of the building when it burst into flames, shooting fire from every window.

The store burned to the ground. However, as a result of the employees' herculean efforts, so much merchandise was saved that the store was able to reopen in only a few weeks (the Wholesale Department on Oct. 28th and the Retail Department on Nov. 6th) in a temporary location (a horse-streetcar barn of the Chicago City Railway Co. at State & 20th Streets).

Six months later, in April 1872, Field & Leiter reopened in an unburned building at Madison and Market Streets (today's West Wacker Drive). Salesman Parker stayed on with the Company for 45 more years, rising to the level of General Sales Manager.

After the Great FireEdit

Two years later, in October 1873, Field and Leiter returned to State Street at Washington, opening in a new five-story store at their old location they now leased from the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Palmer having sold the land site to finance his own rebuilding activities. This store was expanded in 1876, only to be destroyed by fire again in November 1877.

Ever tenacious, Field and Leiter had a new temporary store opened by the end of the month at a lakefront exposition hall they leased temporarily from the city, located at what is now the site of the present Art Institute of Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Singer company had speculatively built a new, even larger, six-story building on the ruins of their old 1873 store, which, after some contention, was personally bought by Field and Leiter. Field, Leiter & Company now reclaimed their traditional location at the northeast corner of State and Washington for the last time in April 1879.

In January 1881, Field, with the support of his junior partners, bought out Levi Z. Leiter, renaming the business "Marshall Field & Company".

As Palmer had before, Leiter retired to tend his significant real estate investments, which included commissioning a department store, second Leiter Building in 1891 at State Street and Van Buren to house Siegel, Cooper & Company.

In 1932, this building (known as one of the earliest steel-framed commercial buildings built and still standing in the U.S. along with the Equitable Building in Baltimore) was leased to the later famous nationwide mail-order firm Sears, Roebuck & Company.

In 1887, the landmark seven-story Henry Hobson Richardson-designed, (1838–1886), Romanesque-styled, Marshall Field's Wholesale Store opened on Franklin Street between Quincy and Adams (razed c.1930).

Though little remembered today, the wholesale division sold merchandise in bulk to smaller merchants throughout the central and western United States and at that time did six times the sales volume of the local retail store.

Chicago's location at the nexus of the country's railroads and Great Lakes shipping made it the center of the dry goods wholesaling business by the 1870s, with Field's former partner from before the war, John V. Farwell, Sr., (1825–1908), being his largest rival.

It was the scale of the profits generated by the John G. Shedd-led[5] wholesale division during this time that made Marshall Field the richest man in Chicago and one of the richest in the country.

State Street StoreEdit

Following the departure of Leiter, the retail store grew in importance. Though it remained a fraction of the size of the wholesale division, its opulent building and luxurious merchandise differentiated Marshall Field's from the other wholesale dry goods merchants in town.

In 1887, Harry Gordon Selfridge, (1858–1947), was appointed to lead the retail store and headed it as it evolved into a modern department store. That same year, Field personally obtained Leiter's remaining interest in the 1879 Singer building and in 1888 started buying the buildings adjoining his for additional floor space. Marshall Field also had a child at this time.

The famous iconic clock at Marshall Field's State Street and Washington Street store. In 1892, the structures between the 1879 building on State Street and Wabash Avenue to the east were demolished and the famous influential architect Daniel H. Burnham, (1846–1912), and his firm D.H. Burnham & Company was commissioned to erect a new building in anticipation of the influx of visitors from the World's Columbian Exposition scheduled for 1893.

The nine-story "Annex" at the northwest corner of Wabash and Washington Streets was opened under the direction of Burnham associate Charles B. Atwood, (1849–1895),[8] in August 1893, towards the end of the Exposition.

In 1897, the old 1879 store was rebuilt and had two additional floors added, while the first of Marshall Field's iconic landmark Great Clocks was installed at the corner of State and Washington Streets on November 26.[9]

In 1901, Marshall Field & Company, previously a private partnership, was incorporated. Spurred on by Selfridge, Marshall Field razed the three buildings north of it which had been occupied since 1888, as well as the Dankmar Adler, (1844–1900), and Louis Sullivan, (1856–1924),-designed 1879 Central Music Hall at the southeast corner of State and Randolph Streets in 1901.

In their place rose a massive, twelve-story building fronting on State Street in 1902, including a grand new entrance. In 1906, a third new building opened on Wabash Avenue north of the 1893 structure, which was then the oldest part of the store.

In the midst of the construction, Selfridge abruptly resigned from the company in 1904, buying rival store Schlesinger & Mayer, but sold it only three months later. Schlesinger & Mayer in 1899 had commissioned the Louis Sullivan-designed building now known as the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building, which is the firm to which Selfridge sold the business.

After trying retirement, he went on to establish Selfridges in London.

The Shedd EraEdit

Marshall Field died on January 16, 1906 in New York City. On the day of his funeral, all the stores along State Street (big and small) closed and the Chicago Board of Trade suspended afternoon trading in his honor.

The board of Marshall Field and Company appointed John G. Shedd, (1850–1926) whom Field had once called "the greatest merchant in the United States", to serve as the company's new president.

Shedd became head of a company that employed 12,000 people in Chicago (two-thirds of them in retail) and was doing about $25 million in yearly retail sales in addition to nearly $50 million in wholesale.

Under Shedd's leadership for the next 16 years, Marshall Field & Co. continued to rebuild its store, fulfilling plans approved by Field himself to pull down the 1879 structure later in 1906. In its stead rose a new south State Street building with a continuation of the 1902 street façade.

Opened in September 1907, it included a Louis Comfort Tiffany, (1848–1933), decorated ceiling that is both the first and largest ceiling ever built in favrile glass, containing over 1.6 million pieces.

With completion of the 1907 building, Marshall Field's momentarily possessed the title of "world's largest department store" over John Wanamaker & Co. in Philadelphia and R.H. Macy & Co. in New York.

In 1912, the 16-story Trude Building at the southwest corner of Wabash and Randolph, was acquired and demolished, an act that was considered to be one of the first, if not the first, demolition of a high-rise skyscraper of those just recently being built.

In its place rose the 1914 building by designed by the Graham, Burnham & Company architectural firm, completing the present-day store and now encompassing the entire square city block, bounded by Washington, State, Wabash & Randolph Streets.

Also in 1914, the same Graham, Burnham & Company supervised the opening of a new twenty-story Marshall Field Annex across the street at 25 East Washington, which housed "Marshall Field's Store for Men" on its first six floors.

These buildings recaptured its status as the world's largest department store, its many restaurants and separate men's and women's lounges becoming an important social destination for upscale Chicago.

Shedd continued to expand Field's wholesale business and grew its manufacturing business, buying textile mills in the South in 1911 as well as overseeing the purchase of the Marshall Field Trust's interest in the business in 1917.

The Field Family eventually retained only a ten percent stake. Second company president, John G. Shedd retired in late 1922.

1913 Illinois State Senate investigationEdit

In 1913, representatives of Carson Pirie Scott and Marshall Field's were called to the state capital of Illinois at Springfield for the Illinois State Senate's investigation of the low wages of the female employees of the major department stores.

At Marshall Field's, women were not only typists or other types of clerical workers, they also had a major role in the sales department.

Women sales clerks were trained in etiquette and acquired a thorough understanding of the merchandise. The presence of saleswomen was a crucial part of the success of Marshall Field's, as they made female customers more comfortable and therefore made shopping at Marshall Field's fun.

The opportunities available for women at Marshall Field's created a subculture of working women. During the early and middle decades of the 20th century, many women migrated into the labor force often becoming adrift in a new city with new opportunities.

Many of these women lived apart from family and relatives, were young and single and came from varied backgrounds and ethnicities. This subculture of women was greatly affected by wages and opportunities offered through Marshall Field's.

However, the wages of the female employees were not representative of their role in the company and, therefore, became the subject of the 1913 Illinois Senate Investigation. Women were paid very low wages, the average being $5 to $8 per week.

The "testimony at an Illinois Senate investigation in 1913 from spokesmen for the Illinois Manufacturers' Association; banks; Sears; Roebuck; and Marshall Field's revealed that most major employers paid women workers as low as $2.75."

Even in 1913, that was not a living wage.

During the hearing, Marshall Field's revealed that it could double the women's salaries but refused to do so. Furthermore, women faced more mistreatment within the company such as sex segregation, which limited their mobility within the company.

First branch stores and the Frango brandEdit

James Simpson was appointed president following Shedd's retirement.

Though considered to have favored the declining wholesale division, he did expand its retail operations, first buying A. M. Rothschild & Co. at State Street and Jackson Boulevard in December 1923, which Field's operated as a discount store called "The Davis Store."

In 1924, the 1893–1914 buildings that the store occupied were acquired from the Marshall Field Trust.

The first branch of Marshall Field's itself opened at Market Square in Lake Forest, Illinois in May 1928. In September 1928, its first branch in Evanston, Illinois followed, later relocating to a French Renaissance-style building at Sherman Avenue and Church Street in November 1929.

The Oak Park, Illinois store opened in September 1929 in a building similar to the Evanston store.

Frederick & Nelson, a Seattle, Washington-based department store founded in 1890, was also acquired in 1929, with its own 1914 downtown Seattle building at Pine Street and Fifth Avenue.

Frederick & Nelson retained its name, though their logo was soon rewritten in Field's iconic script, but more importantly for Field's history, Frederick & Nelson created Frango mints, a Seattle tradition then and now, that later became identified with Marshall Field's and the city of Chicago. The candy kitchen at the State Street flagship store soon began producing the confections.

Marshall Field & Company became a public company in 1930, early in the "Great Depression". The retailer needed capital due to the expense of opening the massive new Merchandise Mart to house its flagging wholesale division.

Ground was broken in 1927 during the boom years of the "Roaring 20s"; when the Mart opened in 1930, it was the largest building in the world.

The 1887 Wholesale Store designed by Richardson at Franklin between Quincy and Adams Streets was closed and unfortunately demolished at this time, but the new building (faced with a change in retail distribution and wholesale patterns in addition to the deepening "Great Depression") could not save Field's wholesale division.

Simpson left the Company, and James O. McKinsey, a University of Chicago professor and founder of the McKinsey and Company consulting firm, was brought in to clean up the Company. The wholesale division, once the core of the Company, was liquidated by 1936. The Davis Store was closed in 1936 as well, and its building was sold to Goldblatts.

In 1939, the land underlying the main State Street store was acquired from the Marshall Field Trust. Meanwhile, McKinsey also reorganized the Company's vertically integrated operations, notably by merging the Company's varied textile operations under the Fieldcrest name.

Suburban ExpansionEdit

Following World War II, the Merchandise Mart building was sold in 1945 to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., (1888–1969), (father of 35th President John F. Kennedy, (1917–1963, served 1961-1963), significantly improving the Field Company's finances and enabling the store to cope with the post-war suburban residential and commercial boom.

Marshall Field's presciently followed its customers to their new homes in what was becoming known as "Chicagoland"; with a store in partnership with pioneering suburban developer Philip M. Klutznick, (1907–1999, also famous Jewish leader and later U.S. Secretary of Commerce under 39th President Jimmy Carter) at his new Park Forest Plaza opened in 1950, with revolutionary new concepts in land use and architecture.

In 1956, Klutznick and Field's jointly opened Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, Illinois, a center Klutznick developed on land that Field's already owned; the development included a new Field's store.

This was followed by the 1959 opening of a Field's store in the Mayfair Mall in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the northwest, and stores at later Klutznick-led shopping centers opened at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Illinois in 1962 and River Oaks Center in Calumet City, Illinois in 1966.

Marshall Field's even expanded further in the Pacific Northwest, acquiring The Crescent department store in Spokane, Washington in 1962 and in 1970, moved east with the purchase of Halle Brothers Co., a leading department store in Cleveland, Ohio. Field's also continued to expand its hometown base in Illinois, opening a store at Woodfield Center in Schaumburg in 1971.

CherryVale Mall in Rockford and Hawthorn Center in Vernon Hills followed in 1973, and stores at Water Tower Place in Chicago and Fox Valley Center in Aurora opened in 1975.

The suburban expansion throughout "Chicagoland" continued in 1976 with a location at Orland Square in Orland Park, followed by the Louis Joliet Mall store in Joliet in 1978. In 1979, Marshall Field's expanded south into Texas with a store at The Galleria in Houston.

The year 1980 saw the rapid acquisition of J.B. Ivey Co., a department store chain with roots in Charlotte, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida; The Union Co. in Columbus, Ohio; the Lipman's stores in Portland, Oregon; and several Liberty House stores in Washington state.

Field's existing Frederick & Nelson unit in Seattle absorbed the Lipman's and Liberty House stores under its name, but after initially merging The Union of Columbus, Ohio with its earlier Halle's stores from Cleveland, Field's decided to sell the combined chain in November 1981; the new owners quickly liquidated it.

The early 1980s saw slower expansion with just two store locations in Illinois added: one in October 1980 at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee, and one in 1981 at Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale. Another Texas store opened at the Dallas Galleria, in Dallas, Texas in 1982.


In 1982, Marshall Field & Co. ceased to be a public company, being acquired by B.A.T. British-American Tobacco.

As part of BATUS Retail Group, the American retailing arm of B.A.T., Field's and its Frederick & Nelson, Ivey's and The Crescent department stores and the John Brueners home furnishings stores joined retailers Gimbels, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kohl's. Field's continued to expand under BATUS, adding stores at Houston's Town & Country Mall in 1983 and at the North Star Mall in San Antonio in 1986.

Only four years after buying Marshall Field's, however, BATUS scaled back its retail operations in 1986, selling Field's former subsidiaries Frederick & Nelson and The Crescent to a local investor group.

Frederick & Nelson quickly deteriorated and became defunct in 1992. Its 1914 building, the one acquired by Field's in 1929, was eventually bought by Nordstrom; the structure was renovated and reopened in 1998 as a replacement for Nordstrom's own Seattle parent store.

BATUS closed its Gimbels division in 1986 and transferred five former Gimbels locations in Wisconsin to its Marshall Field's division: downtown Milwaukee, Northridge Mall and Southridge Mall in suburban Milwaukee, Hilldale Shopping Center in Madison and in downtown Appleton.

The former Gimbels Northridge and Southridge locations were retained by Field's for only three years; due to poor performance, they were sold in 1989 to H.C. Prange Co. of Sheboygan.

The Evanston and Oak Park stores were closed in 1986, their 1929 buildings deemed out of date and too costly to operate. A major restoration and renovation of the State Street flagship store led by Director of Construction and Maintenance Bill Allen commenced in 1987.

BATUS initially kept Saks Fifth Avenue, Marshall Field's, and Ivey's; however, it sold all its remaining U.S. retail assets in 1990 with Saks going to Bahrain-based Investcorp, Ivey's sold to Dillard's and Marshall Field's sold to then Dayton-Hudson Corporation (now Target Corporation).

Dayton-Hudson, Target and MayEdit

Dayton-Hudson Corporation renamed itself Target Corporation in 2000 and renamed its Dayton's and Hudson's department stores Marshall Field's in 2001.

These stores were outside of Field's existing markets. Some saw this as the beginning of a downward slide for Marshall Field's as Target Corporation focused more on its rapidly growing discount stores and introduced some of the brands carried there to the Marshall Field's stores, displacing some of Field's more expensive merchandise.

In 2004 Target Corporation sold the Marshall Field's chain to May Co., thereby exiting the department store business entirely.

It was hoped that aligning with the May Company instead of the discounter Target would "let Field's be Field's" and allow it to recapture its former cachet and upper-class customer base. However, Federated Department Stores, Inc. acquired the May Company in 2005.

Federated acquisition, Renaming and ProtestEdit

After the Federated purchase, Marshall Field's stores were assigned to the new Macy's North Division.

During 2006, all Marshall Field's stores, most Filene's and all the stores of nine other May-owned chains were renamed Macy's, the conversion officially opening on September 9, 2006.

Hundreds of protesters gathered under Marshall Field's famous clock that day and returned on the one-year anniversary on September 9, 2007.

Dozens attended "Field's Fans" rallies each anniversary from 2008 to 2012.

In December 2006, Macy's reported slower sales in former Marshall Field's stores; the focus shifted to promoting the State Street location in 2007.


The Marshall Field and Company Building at State and Washington Streets in Chicago was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is part of the Loop Retail National Historic District.

The building was designated a Chicago Landmark on November 1, 2005.[23] With approximately two million square feet of available floor space, the building is the second-largest department store in the United States.

In 1987, while under BATUS ownership, Field's State Street store underwent significant restoration. In 2004, while Field's was still owned by Dayton Hudson/Target, another extensive restoration of the landmark State Street store, costing $115 million, was begun; the last of the renovation was completed after the May acquisition.

The 2004 renovations included the installation of new lower-level shops, removal of steel grates from the upper portions of the store's historic light wells and the addition of an eleven-story atrium in what had been an alley and mid-store light shaft.

In 2004, Field's also introduced significant upgrades to merchandise and the introduction of luxury vendor relationships, in which 10% of the floor space was leased to outside vendors in a manner similar to Selfridge's in London (Selfridge's was founded by former Field's executive Harry Selfridge, who based his business model on Marshall Field's; likewise, the Selfridge's building in London was based on the architecture of the Marshall Field's store).