1861 – 1995
Wanamaker’s department store was the first department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the first department stores in the United States. It was renowned for its honest reputation and for innovating many retailing firsts in America. At its zenith in the early 20th century, there were two major Wanamaker department stores, one in Philadelphia and one in New York, both with extremely large staffs. By the end of the 20th century in the shopping-mall era, there were 16 Wanamaker’s outlets, but the chain was absorbed into Hecht’s (now Macy’s) in 1995 after years of change. The current occupant of the former Wanamaker’s Department Store is Macy’s Center City. John Wanamaker, the founder of the store that bears his name, was unable to join the U.S. Army during the American Civil War because of a persistent cough. Having been rejected from war duty, he instead ventured into business with his brother-in-law, Nathan Brown. In 1861, they founded a men’s clothing store in Philadelphia called Oak Hall. Wanamaker carried on the business alone after Brown’s death in 1868. In 1876, Wanamaker purchased the abandoned Pennsylvania Railroad station for use as a new, larger retail location. The concept was to renovate the terminal into a “Grand Depot” similar to London’s Royal Exchange or Paris’ Les Halles—two central markets, and forerunners of the modern department store, that were well-known in Europe at that time.
1861 – 1995