When Macy’s renamed Marshall Field’s in 2006, people protested. They picketed and blocked sidewalks. The protesters didn’t get riled up because the New York giant had purchased the beloved chain: the Field family hadn’t owned the department store since the 1960s and in those intervening forty years the brand had gone through multiple owners. No, people protested because Macy’s changed the store’s name.
What kind of department store engenders that level of loyalty? How did Marshall Field & Company become such a part of the Chicago vernacular that a name change drew ire, protests, and boycotts?
The story begins with Marshall Field himself. He was born on August 18, 1834, on a farm near Conway, Massachusetts. When Marshall was seventeen, he struck out for Pittsfield and he and his brother Joseph lived together and worked at separate dry goods stores. It took some time for Marshall to display his retail charms; he was so timid that the store owner, Deacon Davis, declared he’d never be much of a merchant. But, the ladies liked the handsome and courteous young man, and by the time Marshall left Pittsfield five years later, he was such a success Davis offered him a partnership. Marshall declined; in 1856 he, like many of his fellow New Englanders, was lured west by the prospects of a rapidly growing town named Chicago.
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Architects: D. H. Burnham & Company
Address: 111 N. State St.
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Sources for Marshall Field & Company
This is a selection of specific sources used to provide details while researching this landmark. Additional sources, including books and websites, can be found on the Resources page.
- Goddard, Leslie. “For Generations of Chicagoans, Marshall Field’s Meant Business, and Christmas.” Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Dec 2016.
- Goddard, Leslie. Remembering Marshall Field’s. United States, Arcadia Pub, 2011.
- Goodspeed, Thomas Wakefield, 1842-1927. The University of Chicago Biographical Sketches. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1922.
- In Memoriam Marshall Field: Memorial Service Held by His Employes In Chicago, At the Auditorium, Friday, January 19, 1906. [Chicago]: Privately printed, 1906.
- Marden, Orison Swett, 1848-1924. How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men Told by Themselves. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Company, 1901.
- Marshall Field & Company. Marshall Field’s And Chicago. Chicago: Marshall Field & Co., 1940.
- The Marshall Field & Company Collection, Chicago History Museum
- Moore, Charles, 1855-1942. Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921.
- Morison, John Archibald, and Lawrence J. Gutter Collection of Chicagoana (University of Illinois at Chicago). Marshall Field. [Chicago]: s.n., 1906.
- The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography … Volume Iv. New York: James T. White & Co., 1897.
- Twyman, Robert W., 1919-2001. History of Marshall Field & Co., 1852-1906. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1954.