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Strawbridge & Clothier construction progress album

1929-1932
 Collection
Accession: 2022-205

Abstract

Strawbridge & Clothier was the last family-owned major department store chain in the Greater Philadelphia area. The store was founded as a partnership by Justus C. Strawbridge (1838-1911) and Isaac H. Clothier (1837-1921) on July 1, 1868, at 8th and Market streets in Center City, Philadelphia. Success had brought the need for a new building, and it was decided to remain at 8th and Market. Construction on the new store began in July 1928. The thirteen-story, $10 million store was dedicated in October 1932. This small album documents the construction progress of the store on 8th and Market streets from 1929 to 1930 and the store opening in 1932.

Dates

  • 1929-1932

Creator

Extent

1 volume(s)

Physical Description

1 album : gray cloth ; 9 x 11.75 in. (closed) containing 59 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in.

Historical Note

Strawbridge & Clothier was the last family-owned major department store chain in the Greater Philadelphia area. The store was founded as a partnership by Justus C. Strawbridge (1838-1911) and Isaac H. Clothier (1837-1921) on July 1, 1868, at 8th and Market streets in Center City, Philadelphia. Both men were Quakers, and so charged one price for all customers, a rare practice at the time. It opened in the same building used as an office by Thomas Jefferson when he was Secretary of State. A five-story building soon replaced it, and adjacent properties were added. With the growth of the suburbs, Strawbridge & Clothier began publishing its own magazine in the 1880s to reach that customer base and to stimulate mail order business. By 1887, the store had branched out from dry goods to other items and was considered a full-fledged department store.

The company was incorporated on February 14, 1922. That same year, it also started its own radio station, WFI, which operated out of the store for thirteen years. In 1935, the station left the store and merged with WLIT, from competitor Lit Brothers department store, to form WFIL. Success had brought the need for a new building, and it was decided to remain at 8th and Market. Construction on the new store began in July 1928. The thirteen-story, $10 million store was dedicated in October 1932. In the meantime, Strawbridge & Clothier opened its first branch store at Suburban Square in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in 1930 and its second one in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, in 1931. While the Great Depression and Second World War caused some strain on the company, it was in sound financial shape and made it through without any major losses.

With the growth of the suburbs during the post-war era, the company opened its third branch store in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1952. But the period of rapid expansion for the company began in 1961 with the opening of the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, store in the first enclosed shopping mall on the East Coast. More branch stores followed from the 1960s to the 1980s, with a total of thirteen Strawbridge & Clothier department stores in 1993. In 1971, the company created the Clover Division, a chain of discount stores not unlike Target stores. Clover was successful, and in a little over twenty years, twenty-seven stores had opened throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.

Despite all of this growth, the retail industry landscape changed, and Strawbridge & Clothier was sold to the May Company of St. Louis, Missouri, on July 15, 1996, ending 128 years of family ownership and operation. The department stores then conducted business under the name Strawbridge's, although the signage for most of the stores remained Strawbridge & Clothier. The Clover stores were liquidated or sold. Federated Department stores eventually bought the May Company in 2005, and all stores were either closed or converted into Macy's stores.

Scope and Contents

This small album documents the construction progress of the Strawbridge & Clothier store on 8th and Market streets from 1929 to 1930 and the store opening in 1932. Most of the photographs are of the exterior; there are only two images showing the completed interior. On average, there are two or three images from each month of construction.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Strawbridge & Clothier construction progress album
Status:
Author:
Laurie Sather
Date:
2022
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400