Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interesting Clippings #4

Ambler Gazette
August 24, 1916 - Page 8
Snellenburg's, once the largest clothing manufacturer in the world, was a wholesale clothing manufacturer and later, a middle class department store based in Philadelphia. The company was founded in 1869 on South Street until it moved to Market Street, the shopping hub, in 1889 and developed into a true department store. It eventually closed in 1962. I'd never heard of it until I spotted the ad in the Ambler Gazette to the right; having been born in the early 1980s myself, why would I have heard of it? But it saddens me to think the next generations will equally never have heard of Strawbridge's (below), another long running Philadelphia based department store. Founded in the 1860's as a dry goods store, it closed only 6 years ago in 2006. I was personally very disappointed as Strawbridge's was one of my favorite department stores. So let's not forget Snellenburg's either.

The buildings that had been Snellenburg's factory and warehouse in Philly are now on the National Register of Historic Places but the flagship store building had since been torn down. Snellenburg's suburban locations were sold to Lit Brothers, yet another Philly department store which was founded a little later in 1893 and closed in 1977.

Ambler Gazette
May 14, 1896
Page 2
Also noteworthy is Wanamaker's (left), the very first department store in Philadelphia and one of the earliest in the United States. It originally opened as a men's clothing store in 1876 in time for Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition, the first world fair in America. However, in 1877, it was expanded to include additional departments, making it the first true "modern-day" department store in Philadelphia and possibly America, though the term "department store" did not come into use until the mid-1880's. Wanamaker's ambition was to create a "Grand Depot" similar to London's Royal Exchange. It was eventually taken over by Hecht's, now Macy's, in 1995. The building was the former Pennsylvania Railroad Station and is still in use today as Macy's so if you'd like to see a little piece of history, just go for a bit of shopping! 

Department stores fascinate me from a historical point of view, since many of those still in business today were founded in the mid to late 19th century. It's a shame to see such long running businesses close down. 

For more information on the history of department stores, particularly in Philadelphia, check out this excellent and much more detailed article from Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. I mostly just wanted to share these clippings, the second of which is particularly interesting because of how large and detailed it is.

It's interesting to note that the BBC are currently running a historical drama called "The Paradise", which is centered on a fictional early department store in northern England, in an undisclosed fictional town, though it's filmed at Lambton Castle. For those interested in the development of the department store, this is definitely a fun show to watch, though I don't know if it's being aired in the US yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment