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Have you often wondered which department store in the US was the first with electric lights?

Ok, you may not have thought about it, but you’ve certaintly taken it for granted.

Walk into Wal-Mart or Target or Macy’s or well, there’s not much else, and imagine that it was lit by gas or oil lamps or candles.

You’d never be able to find anything.

But, there was a time when everyone shopped that way.

At least until John Wanamaker put electric lights in his Philidephia, PA store.

The lights came on December 26…


Wanamakers' Logo

John Wanamaker was known for his honesty and innovation.

He based his business practices on honesty and Biblical principles.

He was the first retailer to copyright his advertisements, refused to advertise on Sundays (no department stores were open on Sundays, sorry Mr. Cathy) , and put his guarantee in PRINT!

Prior to opening his new store, The Grand Depot for business, he allowed Evangelist Dwight L. Moody to hold services there,  and provided 200 store employees as ushers.  And he paid them.  The place even had an organ. 

A Grand Organ…

Wanamakers' Grand Court and Pipe Organ

He also allowed his customers to return merchandise for a CASH REFUND.

And he was the first department store to have a full service restaurant inside the store.

He refused to allow his employees to be “scolded in public” by management, gave them access to the John Wanamaker Commercial Institute, FREE medical care, profit sharing, recreational facilities, and pensions long before anyone else did so.  In fact, the next one to do it was RJ Reynolds, of Oh My Cow! the tobacco industry.

Eventually the Mall Era, Federated Stores and Allied Stores would do Wanamakers in.

Wanamakers was absorbed by Hecht’s which was absorbed by Macy’s.

John Wanamaker

Wanamker died in 1922 during the store’s Gilded Age.  Fortunately, he didn’t have to see what would eventually be accepted by the American public as “retail” and “customer service”.

Can you tell my shopping experiences this year weren’t all that great…


…is any one at Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, and Macy’s reading my blog?

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