In retail history

field_leiter__co-_later_marshall_field_building_by_j-_bullock“The formal opening by Field, Leiter & Co., of Potter Palmer’s new marble palace on the corner of Washington and State streets, last evening, was the grandest affair of the kind whichever transpired, even in Chicago, the city of grand affairs,” reported the Chicago Tribune about the opening of the Field, Leiter & Company’s new store on Chicago’s State Street on October 12th, 1868.

This store was just one of the steps to the future Marshall Field’s store.  Marshall Field’s traces its roots to a small dry goods store on Chicago’s Lake Street started by Potter Palmer. Palmer offered a “no questions asked” guarantee and even allowed people to take product home to inspect before purchasing.  He was the first in Chicago to use large window displays to advertise goods.  During this time, Palmer also became a real estate developer opening the Palmer House Hotel.

In 1865, Palmer was struggling with ill-health and was looking for partners to take over his retail operations.  Seeing a great opportunity, Levi Leiter and Marshall Field left their own retail company to partner with Palmer opening the before mentioned store.  The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the original store.  Rebuilding the store in 1873, the new store was also destroyed by fire.  Not to be deterred, Field and Leiter rebuilt again.  In January, 1881, Marshall Field bought out his partner Levi Leiter and renamed the business Marshall Field & Company.  While going through a number of ownership changes, Marshall Field’s operated until 2006 when the nameplate was retired by Federated Department Stores.

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