DENVER'S MERCHANT PRINCES: THE EVOLUTION OF DENVER DEPARTMENT STORES by Phyllis J. Doner B.S., University of Colorado, 1978. A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History 1987
This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Phyllis J. Doner has been approved for the Department of History by Thomas J. Noel Ernest A. Andrade, r. Date June 16, 1987
Doner, Phyllis J. (M.A., History) Denver's Merchant Princes: The Evolution of Denver Department Stores Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel iii The purpose of this thesis is to trace the beginnings of Denver's department stores. Denver's major department stores and their founders, the early "merchant princes," will be explored and examined. Each store's rise to prominence, their expansion or closure will be examined and explained. In conclusion, the department stores' future, their present competition and their economic position in today's urban society will be outlined. In essence, this is a tracing of the beginnings, growth, development and decline of today's modern department store.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The author wishes to give recognition to Frank J. Johns and Frances Trott Robinson for their enormous help in granting me interviews and in supplying much needed background material for this work. Particular appreciation also must be expressed to Thomas J. Noel, my thesis advisor, for his encouragement and guidance on this project. iv
CONTENTS INTRODUCTION CHAPTER I. MERCHANT PIONEERS II. DENVER'S GILDED AGE HEY-DAY OF "MERCHANT PRINCES11 III. COMPETITION/CHANGE/FAILURE IV. PROGRESSIVE ERA IN RETAILING IN DENVER V. CONSOLIDATION/EXPANSIONS/ FAILURES/BUY OUTS EPILOGUE BIBLIOGRAPHY v 1 8 24 38 59 69 86 95
INTRODUCTION Following the Civil War and Reconstruction period, Ameri-cans, increasingly caught up in an industrial and business oriented society, turned away from their rural "self-reliant" values to the values of an urban consumerism. Thus began an over-whelming need to display their successful rise in this new business oriented society . The development of the large department store, where consumer goods were on display, was an answer to this need. In The Americans,The Democratic Experience, Daniel J. Boorstin noted that: "Between the Civil War and the beginning of the new century there appeared grand and impressive edifices--Palaces of Consumption--in the principle cities of the nation and in the upstart cities of the nation that hoped to become great metropolises."1 The department store derived its name from the fact that different kinds of merchandise were displayed for sale in separate areas or departments under one roof. In 1880, the Bureau of Census defined a department store as one that employs twenty-five or more people and sells general lines of merchandise. In his book City People, Gunther Barth noted that the department store became a new social institution, arising 1Daniel J. Boorstin, The The Democratic Experience V-II (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 101.
2 simultaneously with shopping as a new social art. Barth takes the position that the buying stage of shopping was one of the first visible signs of female emancipation in the urban areas.3 Women felt more free to walk the streets of the new cities amid the workingmen and draymen because they had the destination and safety of the imposing department store as their goal. 2 In a paper presented to the Philosophical Society of Denver. on 22 March 1900, William Cooke Daniels, a former President of the Daniels & Fisher Department Store and son of its founder, defined a department store as: In its essence, then, a Department Store is an institution which, so far as local conditions permit, aims to supply all the material wants of all its possible customers. The general store of the village is exactly described by this definition and was, or if you choose is, the direct ancestor, the historical prototype, of the Department Store of today.4 Daniels said that he knew of no general store that went on to become a large metropolitan store. True, the small town general store was not soon replaced, especially in the rural areas of the South and Mid-West, where an agriculture economy still existed. But, in the growing industrialized eastern urban areas, the depart-ment store would soon rise to dominate the retail scene. Further-more, department store owners became very important in determining 2Gunther Barth, City People,The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1980), 136. 3Ibid., 137. 4william Cooke Daniels, paper presented to Philosophical Society of Denver, 22 March 1900.
the economic climate of their respective In Merchant Princes, Leon Harris noted that these men could affect real estate values just by choosing a certain location for their stores. He said that they were among the largest bank depositors, often sat on bank boards, and influenced the employment ratio by the number 5 of people they either hired or fired. This rise of the department store and its eventual nation-wide corporate structure can be compared to the rise of other small business that rose to prominence during this period. The oldest American chain organization, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, had its beginnings as a small tea store started in 1859 by George F. Gilman and George Huntington Hartford in New York City. Gustavus Franklin Swift's giant meat packing house industry, "Swift and Company," was formed in Chicago in 1875. And, within a few years Swift had built an industry that would supply the needs of a new booming urban economy. Aaron Montgomery Ward would build his catalog corporate empire, Montgomery Ward and Company, beginning in 1872 from a loft over a livery stable in Chicago. At first, mailing out a single price sheet listing merchandise that could be ordered, Montgomery Ward would reach out to the rural customers who did not 3 have ready access to the new "Palaces of Consumption" in the cities. 51eon Harris, Merchant Princes (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1979), Introduction, XIV.
These "Palaces of Consumption" gave rise to the new phenomenon of "shopping." Boorstin describes this process, "In the latter part of the eighteenth century 'shop' became a verb: then people began to 'go shopping'--that is go to the shops to see what they might buy." He observed that the department store gave the common citizen the chance to wander freely among departmental displays of merchandise even though unable to buy.6 4 The men who created these "Palaces of Consumption" were products of the new pioneering entrepreneural business spirit--with "Go-Getter"7 attitudes that pervaded American society in the second half of the nineteenth century. Many of these men wererecent immigrants seeking their fortune in a new land. And, many were men who recognized that a country on the move and a materialistic society was ready and waiting for their new merchandising innovations. The first retailing entrepreneur to realize the potential of creating a large establishment for the departmentalizing of merchandise was Alexander T. Stewart. He began this merchandising approach in New York City in 1846 by putting under one room a wide range of merchandise that previously had been sold only in small 6Boorstin, 107. 7Ibid., 3.
shops. His department store concept was soon followed by other h 8 mere ant p1oneers. Stewart may be given credit for the department store approach, but he was not the first to open a retail store in New York City. In 1926 an immigrant from England, 23-year-old Samuel Lord, with no previous retailing experience, opened a store, with $1,000 in borrowed money in the lower end of the Bowery. His wife's cousin, George Washington Taylor, became a partner at the end of the first year, thus completing the prestigious name of 9 Lord and Taylor. The City of Paris, one of the first "Palaces of Consump-tion," was estabished in San Francisco in 1850 as a result of the gold rush that brought rapid population growth to the area. Two young Frenchmen, Felix Verdier and his brother Emile, were founders of this oldest department store in California. The Verdier brothers were not immigrants, but foreign investors in American commercial opportunity. They maintained a tie with their homeland by continuing to operate a store in Paris. The Paris store replenished their San Francisco store when new stock was needed. However, the son and grandson of Felix Verdier established 8Keith L. Bryant, Jr. and Henry C. Dethloff, A History of American Business (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: PrenticeHall, Inc., 1983), 318-19. 9Philip J. Reilly, Old Masters of Retailing (New York: Fairchild Publications, Inc., 1966), 135. 5
California roots and continued in the management of the store, h"l h . F h lO w 1 e at t e same t1me, promot1ng rene 1mports. One who personified the "Go-Getting" immigrant was William Filene. Born in Posen (then in Germany) in 1830, he dropped his law studies in Berlin to .immigrate to America at the age of twenty-one. Filene opened a store in Boston that was to become the famous department store, Filene's of Boston.11 John Wanamaker, born in Philadelphia in 1838 and considered one of the six greatest merchants in United States retailing history,12 opened a men's and boy's clothing store in his native city in 1861. And, by 1876, the year of Philadelphia's Centennial Exhibition, Wanamakers was the largest men's and boy's clothing store in the country. In that same year women's and girls' shoes and coats were added. The following year Wanamaker added other women's fashions, as well as merchandise for the home. The depart-ment store mix was completed with hosiery,china, Paris lingerie and corsets being sold by 1892, when the store covered sixteen 13 acres of floor space. Another retailing pioneer was Marshall Field, born in Conway, Massachusetts in 1834. Field quit school at age seventeen, 10rbid., Sl-52. 11rbid 0' 66 0 12 The other five: Alexander Turney Stewart, Roland Hussey Macy, Marshall Field, Aaron Montgomery Ward, and Richard Sears. 13 Reilly, 193. 6
going to work in a dry goods store at a salary of $10 a week. In 1856, with a savings of $400, he moved to Chicago where he became a junior partner (at age twenty-five) in a dry goods store known as Cooley, Wadsworth Company. The firm name changed several times, with each change of partners, before Field became sole owner in 14 1881 and Marshall Field and Company was born. Four years earlier Field had met another merchandising pioneer, David May, in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The two men were 15 part of a fishing party headed for Twin Lakes, Colorado. David May would later become one of Denver's daring merchandising entrepreneurs, along with William B. Daniels, Michael J. McNamara and Dennis Sheedy. All had come West seeking their fortune and to find a niche for themselves in the materialistic social atmos-phere that followed the Civil War period. Three were innnigrants and, fo:t the most part, had worked in small dry goods stores on their way west. Initially these merchants opened small general stores or dry goods operations and as the community grew, their business grew along with the community. This will be their story--the story of how their "Palaces" developed, their successes, their failures and their lasting impact on the retail business climate that prevails in Denver today. This case study of Denver reflects a national phenomenon, the rise and decline of the department store. 14Ibid., 151-52. 15Forbes Parkhill, The May Story (Newark, New Jersey: Bro-Dart Industries, 1952), p. 5. 7
CHAPTER I MERCHANT PIONEERS As curious frontiersmen watched, an ox-train, loaded with dry goods and miscellaneous stock, came to a halt in front of a one-story frame and awning building on F (later 15th) and Blake Streets. Soon boxes of clothing and household items were being unloaded. A sign, which was nailed to the awning posts, read W. B. Daniels.1 Down the road was Walter Cheesman's drug store and around the corner on F and Market Streets was the new brick building that housed the Kountze Brothers bank. After Luther Kountze was joined by brother Charles, the two men reorganized as the Colorado National Bank, in 1866. William Bradley Daniels and Denver's consumer community would have need of the services offered by the growing big business in banking.2 By the time of his arrival in Denver in October 1864, Daniels was an experienced merchant. Born in Allegheny County, New York on 6 January 1825, he had taught school and worked in a store, supporting his entire family for some years. He was a boyhood friend of Major-General Henry M. Teller (later Senator from Colorado). The two men had attended school together in Friendship, 1 Denver Post, 2 November 1924, n.p. 2 Denver Post, Contemporary, 25 September 1983, 15.
New York, but it is not known if this friendship influenced his 3 move to Denver. Moving to New York City as a young man, Daniels began his career as a clerk in a clothing store. While working in New York, Daniels met Henry Potwin, a rich Chicago merchant, who persuaded W. B. to move West. Daniels moved to Iowa City, Iowa in 1855 and opened a store, all the time maintaining a home in Chicago. Running a very successful business for eighteen years in Iowa City, Daniels branched out, opening other stores, including 9 one in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Apart from his retailing ventures, it is known that Daniels built the first block of brick houses in Kansas City, but never established a home in that city.4 Daniels, an example of the "Go-Getter," was an early pioneer in branching out and expanding his retail business into new "up start" communities.5 Denver consumers soon discovered that, in spite of the merchandise shortages due to the Civil War and the difficulties of shipping merchandise by ox-train and stage coach (often beset by marauding Indians), Daniels brought to Denver the 6 best merchandise the markets of the East Coast could offer. 3 Denver Republican, 25 December 1890, c. 3, 7. 4 Rocky Mountain News, 25 December 1890, v. 32, c. 1, 6. 5Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans,The Democratic Experience, Vol. 2 (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 3-110. 6Daniels & Fisher advertising layout "80 Years Growing Up With Denver," 1944.
10 Customers knew that at Daniels' store, one could buy dress goods that were a yard wide. Shoes had no cardboard concealed in soles or linings. Woolens were wool and colors did not fade in the first h 7 was 1ng. Other more well known merchants had also established this honest approach in dealing with their customers. John Wana-maker, labeled "The Greatest Merchant in the World," clearly marked prices (no bartering in his store) and gave customers a money back guarantee. And, Adam Gimbel,8 a former peddler, set a standard for country store honesty in his store. 9 At times Daniels had his problems with his employees. For instance, an enthusiastic buyer for the company placed an order for hundreds of "great gross" of men's trouser buttons. Daniels threw up his hands in disgust when he saw the shipment arrive. There were more buttons than people in the whole state. But the buyer was resourceful--he went around the corner to a gambling hall. In a few minutes, he had sold them to the manager for keno counters. Other problems could not be settled so easily. Sometimes when a customer was unhappy with his purchase, he would return with a gun 10 to ensure customer satisfaction. That was certainly a time when 8Adam Gimbel founded Gimbel's Department Store in Vincennes, Indiana in 1842. 9Robert Hendrickson, The Grand Emporiums (New York: Stein and Day, 1979), 19. 10 Rocky Mountain News, 23 April 1939, n.p.
11 John Wanamaker's "money back guarantee" would need to be put into practice. Before long J. M. Eckart, who had worked for Daniels in the Daniels, Millington and Company firm in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, came to Denver and he became the "& Co." of Daniels and Company. The two men soon moved the business to 15th and Larimer Streets and business increased with customers from a 300 mile radius of Denver. With the constant influx of newcomers to the area and lack of sufficient competition, Daniels' business could only go one way--up. In 1868 Daniels and Eckart opened a second store at 390 Larimer Street, with the name Daniels and Eckart above the door. The new store carried dry goods and carpets, with the first store dealing in ready-to-wear. Daniels was not ready and no doubt did not have the capital to acquire a store large enough to house both operations at this time. Eckart left thebusiness in 1872 11 and Daniels took in a new partner, William Garret Fisher, who worked in the store and, prior to his coming to Denver, had worked in Iowa City, Iowa. Fisher was given a one-third interest in the business and a contract 11There is no record as to why Daniels and Eckart dissolved their partnership, but it would appear that Daniels found Fisher to be a much more compatible partner. There is no record of Eckart remaining on the Denver scene other than Frances Trott Robinson's report that at one time the Daniels and Fisher Wholesale Department specialized in carpets and a Mr. Eckart was the manager.
12 calling for one-half of the profits.12 This was a customary business practice during those years used to bring in and bind young business talent to a given firm. Like Daniels, Fisher was a native New Yorker, born on 11 July 1844. He had planned to attend Williams College, but the Civil War came along and he enlisted in the Union Army. During the war years, he learned merchandising expertise--after bribing a Confederate traded apples for tobacco across the 1 13 1nes. The firm name, Daniels & Fisher, which was placed over their three-story building in 1872, became a part of the Denver scene. And, W. B. Daniels, following the example of east coast merchants John Wanamaker and Alexander T. Stewart, began putting under one roof a wide range of merchandise. The new firm was soon the scene of frenzied shopping as the town's fashionable ladies purchased their silks, laces and satins in preparation for the social event of 1872. Grand Duke Alexis, the son of the Tsar of Russia, was arriving for a hunting trip with Buffalo Bill. Because of this visit, Denver society insisted on staging a grand ducal ball in the young Duke's honor. 12Forbes Parkhill, Donna Madixxa Goes West,the Biography of a Witch (Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Press, 1968), 21. 13Elliot Wager and Richard Woellhof, Burton Scrapbook, Vol. 1 (Enterprises Unlimited #18, 1948).
13 The ball was held in the American House and to many a local belle's dismay the six-foot and over Duke proved to be a most awkward dancer. Many a gown was wrecked as a result of his clumsy footwork. According to Fannie Chaffee, one of Denver's belles, daughter of Senator Chaffee, who later married the son of President Grant, "the ball was a crush."14 The following year (1873) was equally exciting for Daniels & Fisher and Denver society. President Ulysses Grant visited Colorado and W. B. Daniels was a member of the President's reception committee. A grand ball was given in his honor at the Guard Hall and the President was accompanied to the ball by Mrs. Grant and 15 his daughter Nellie. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Grant did not enter into the terpsichorian festivities, but stood quietly by. "During this visit Grant won a reputation for his handshaking 16 prowess, achieving 44 handshakes a minute." The President's incredible handshaking prowess could have been prompted by the knowledge that he was in "silver country." Grant needed to mend fences in the silver mining areas because of the passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which demonetized 14 Daniels & Fisher advertising layout, 1944 15Any social event in a city brings added profits to any store dealing in merchandise needed by society women who have need of finery for such an event. And, these social events would certainly add to the profits of Daniels & Fisher store. 16 Daniels & Fisher advertising layout, 1944.
silver and made gold the sole monetary standard. This act was passed despite the increase of silver production due to new discoveries in the West.17 No doubt Denver's important social event of 1873 was not because President Grant wanted to be enter-tained by Denver's new society, but because of the administra-tion's problems with the West over passage of the Coinage Act. Daniels' store, along with his stature in the city, continued to grow and in 1875 he purchased a corner site at 16th and Lawrence Streets and put up a two-story building. He soon purchased an adjoining lot on Lawrence Street from M. D. Clifford for $14,000 and, with this purchase, would begin the development of what was to become the Daniels & Fisher department store. Business in the Denver area was booming after recovering from the negative results of the Coinage Act of 1873 and the retail business was part of this boom. Daniels felt that this was a good time to expand and leaving Fisher in charge of the store, went to 14 New York City (1876) to expand into the wholesale clothing business (Daniels, Cohen and Company, 24-26 White Street). But shortly after expanding his business, W. B. Daniels became seriously 18 ill and went to Europe to regain his health. Daniels left for Europe in 1877 and remained for about one year before returning to America. 17 Richard B. Morris, ed., Encyclopedia of American History (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), 251. 18 Rocky Mountain News, 31 January 1877, n.p.
15 On his return to Denver in 1878, Leadville, Colorado's mining boom was reaching epic proportions. Daniels left for Leadville on January 15th, traveling by the narrow gauge railroad (D.S.P.E.P.) to Webster and then by stage coach. He opened a Leadville store stocked with merchandise from his Denver store. Merchandise in the Leadville store included red flannel sold by the bolt--for it was the mark of the heretic in 1878 to be found in winter without red flannels. In the Denver Daniels & Fisher store, red flannels were not as popular as silks, feathers and plums. A Daniels & Fisher store advertisement might list: a two-piece red flannel underwear; one "Old Ironsides" corset; and three muslim undershirts, the last shirt a short one (reaching about six or eight inches below the knees) and well lined with horse hair to give it proper flair.19 In opening his first branch in Leadville, W. B. Daniels would face stiff competition from David May who had arrived earlier. It was in Leadville, Colorado, that May would begin what was to become the giant corporate, May Company, with numerous stores nationwide. The Civil War was nearing its end (1863) when David May immigrated to the United States. May was born 10 June 1848 in Kaiserslauter, Bavaria, Germany, where his father was proprietor of a modest store. His parents decided, when David was fifteen 19 Rocky Mountain News, 3 March 1929, n.p.
16 years of age, that he should move to the United States. He had an uncle in Cincinnati, Ohio, and young David went there. His first job (at $5.00 a week) was in a clothing factory. In 1868 May accepted an offer from a Mr. Kirshbaum to go to work as a clothing salesman in his small store in Hartford, Indiana. The job paid $25 a month, plus room, board and washing. The hours were from 6:00 A.M. until the store was swept out after closing time, which was sometime as late as 11:00 P.M. Adhering to this strenuous work-ethic May had increased for the store annual sales from $20,000 to $100,000. For this effort, he received one-fourth 20 interest in the store. In the early spring of 1877, a fire broke out down the block and May carried his stock to safety. He saved the stock but contacted pneumonia, and a doctor advised him to move to a dry climate in order to avoid tuberculosis. He sold his interest in the store for $25,000 and went to Manitou Springs, Colorado to spend the summer. At Manitou, as mentioned earlier, he was invited to join a fishing party which included the Chicago merchant Marshall Field. The group headed for Twin Lakes, but changed plans upon hearing of a rich carbonate strike at nearby Leadville, and went there. Field soon returned to Chicago, but May stayed on and formed a mining partnership with Jake Holcomb, an Illin.ois lumber dealer. 2Forbes Parkhill, The May Story (New Jersey: Bra-Dart Industries, 1952), 5.
17 May and Holcomb's mining venture was a failure and May decided to stick with what he knew best, retailing. The two men _bought the small stock of a clothing and implement merchant and opened for business in a frame-and-muslin shack on Harrison Avenue in Leadville. Knowing nothing of the implement business, May disposed of this stock to concentrate on selling "Levi's and longies" to Leadville's miners. The partnership of May and Holcomb was soon dissolved because they could not agree on erecting a permanent building for their store. May could foresee a long term commitment to the Leadville mining settlement, Holcomb could not. On 1 January 1878, May opened The Great Western Auction House 21 and Clothing Store. Holcomb entered his employ and remained with him, as bookkeeper and accountant, until shortly before his death 22 in 1925 at the age of ninety. Moses Shoenberg, a son of an immigrant family from Bavaria near May's birthplace, became a partner with David May and thereafter the store was known as May & Shoenberg, dealing in "clothing & gents furnishings goods, boots & 23 shoes." May soon began expanding his operation in keeping with the growing economic climate of Leadville in 1879. That year witnessed 21 1878 was the year that W. B. Daniels entered Leadville's retailing scene to give David May competition. 22Ibid., 8. 23Ibid.
18 thirty sawmills running day and night in an effort to keep up with the demand for building materials. And two years after May's arrival in Leadville, the town supported 58 saloons and 118 gambling houses. In Leadville, May Shoenberg's store was located at 318 Harrison Avenue and by 1883 they were operating a second store at 405 Harrison. Although the bulk of the store's merchandise was long red underwear and copper-riveted overalls, the demand was increasing for clothing to wear while attending the town's social events. The May & Shoenberg stores began selling "hard-boiled"24 shirts ($1.00 each), hard hats and high button shoes. Soon there was a demand for women's apparel, with prosper-ing mine operators bringing their families to Leadville. Leadville's respected ladies, as well as "ladies-of-the-evening" had need for much finery as the prosperous town citizens were determined to bring cultural events and refinement to their community. On a buying trip to Chicago, David May discovered a store that was overloaded with a huge stock of expensive velvet and brocaded dresses. May bought the entire stock and, upon returning to Leadville, listed the dresses at $200 to $400 each. The entire h di ld h" k 25 mere an se was so out a wee 24The term "hard-boiled" used to denote a man's dress shirt that was so stiffened in front that it would fly out if not held in place. 25Parkhill, The May Store, 8.
19 Horace A. W. Tabor, after striking it rich when he grub-staked prospectors August Rische and George Hook in the Little Pittsburgh mine, spent part of his earnings on building the Tabor Grand Opera House at 302-12 Harrison Avenue, two doors from May and Shoenberg's store. Tabor asked David May, when he left on a trip to Denver, to book the famous Jack Langrishe theatrical troupe for the opening performance of the Grand Opera House. May knew what he was doing when he bought that huge stock of expensive dresses. May was active in Leadville in civic affairs and helped organize Leadville's Hebrew Benevolent Association in 1879. He did, however. find time for romance and courtship. In the summer of 1880 he married Rosa Shoenberg, sister of Moses Shoenberg. The couple started a "bridal tour" with their first stop at Denver's new Windsor Hotel. Under the heading "Leadville Items," the Rocky Mountain News reported on 3 October 1880, "Mr. and Mrs. David May have returned from their bridal tour and have settled down to the staid comforts of home."26 Soon after his marriage, May would begin developing what were early branch stores. On 23 November 1880, the Rocky Mountain News carried the news of May's Pueblo, Colorado branch store. The notice read: "Pubelo--Among the latest Leadville parties to change 27 their business houses to this city are May and Shoenberg." The 26Rocky Mountain News, Leadville Items Column, 3 October 1880. 27 Rocky Mountain News, 23 November 1880, n.p.
20 article was incorrect in stating that the opening was a change of location for the mairt store and not a branch store. May continued to expand his retail operation, openlng stores 28 in Irwin, Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Colorado. At the same time he continued his Leadville civic activities. The Leadville Herald-Democrat, 1 January 1888, reported: Leadville has not a more prominent and patriotic citizen than the Honorable David May. His mammoth store at 320 Harrison Avenue is one of the largest in western Colorado, handling men's wear from the finest dress suit to a miner's homely duck. Mr. May has even taken an active part in mining and owns many valuable interests.29 In the meantime, two other entrepreneurs had entered the Denver retailing scene--Michael J. McNamara and J. Jay Joslin. Both were destined to make their impact on Denver's business community. One would survive the competitive corporate scene and one would not. J. Jay Joslin was forty-four years old when he came to Denver in 1872 and he had already established himself as a success-ful merchant in his horne state of Vermont, having operated the 1 h 30 largest genera store in t e state. Joslin had come west on a vacation, liked what he saw and decided to relocate his business. 28First branch store that May opened under his own name was in Irwin, Colorado formerly called Ruby Camp. The boom collapsed and May closed his store and Irwin became a ghost camp. 29Leadville Herald-Tribune, 1 January 1888, n.p. 30 Rocky Mountain News, 8 January 1926, p. 1.
21 The Joslin Dry Goods Company was founded in Denver in 1873, with J. Jay Joslin as President and his son, Frank Andrus Joslin, Secretary. On 1 April 1873 Joslin purchased the New York Dry Goods Store, located on the corner of Larimer and 15th Streets and continued in that location until 1879.31 Michael J. McNamara, preceded Joslin to Denver by two years, but did not immediately open his own store, working instead as a clerk fortheBrooks, Giddings and Company Dry Goods House. This was a fairly successful store operating at this time and McNamara apparently needed time to gather capital resources in order to begin his odyssey in Denver's retailing history. McNamara, like David May, was an immigrant born 29 May 1843 at Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland. He came to America in 1849 when he was six years old. And, it was in Philadelphia that he began his career in the dry goods business in 1855.32 At the age of twelve he went to work for a linen-importing house, where he remained for six years before moving west. In 1861, he traveled to St. Louis, Missouri and obtained work with the well-known firm, 31 James Cash Penney, founder of J. C. Penney Company, served briefly as a clerk at Joslin Dry Goods Store in 1873. He told Frank J. Johns, in a conversation in 1946 that.his reason for leaving was that the store sold inferior men's socks. (Interview with Frank J. Johns, President, The Denver Dry Goods Company, 1946-1970 on 2 March 1982.) 32Jerome C. Smiley, ed., History of the City of Denver (Denver: The Times-Sun Publishing Co., 1901).
Ubsdell, Pierson & Company, which later became William Barr & 33 Company. In 1867 McNamara opened his own store in St. Louis, but in about two years the urge to move on (or was it failure) caused him to relocate in Liberty, Missouri. He remained in Liberty until 1871 when he moved to the 13-year-old boom town of Denver, which then had a population of about 5,000.34 After working some years as a clerk, in 1877 McNamara 35 formed a partnership with Edgar H. Drew and opened a store in a brick building on the southwest corner of 15th Street and Larimer. This was the site where earlier a log cabin had been built by General Larimer and his son. The brick building had been con-structed by the Clayton brothers, who were later to tear it down 22 and build the granite and marble stone building forM. J. McNamara 36 & Company. By the year 1877 the major retailers, who would play an important role in Colorado and Denver's department store story, had established themselves. William Bradley Daniels was continuing 33william Barr & Company was later to become Famous-Barr the headquarter store for May Company chain. 34"story of Larimer Square and the News," Rocky Mountain News, 22 April 1984, Colorado's News Pioneer Edition .. 35 Drew had also worked as a clerk for Brooks, Giddings and Company Dry Goods House. 36 Thomas J. Noel, Denver's Larimer Street (Denver: Historic Denver, Inc., 1981).
to expand his business in his store at 16th and Lawrence streets. J. Jay Joslin and his son were in business in a building. at the corner of Larimer and 15th Streets. And, David May would begin his retailing legacy by opening his store (1878) in Leadville, Colorado. Of the seven Dry Goods stores listed in Denver's 1873 37 City Directory, only one (Daniels & Fisher) would survive and go on to become a new retailing phenomenon, the department store. 37Dry Goods Stores listed in Denver's 1873 City Directory: Ballin, Charles & Co., 352 Larimer, bet.E. & F.; Caspar, C., 356 Larimer, bet. E. & F.; Caspar, F., 341 Larimer bet. E. & F.; Daniels, Fisher & Co., 390 Larimer, be.t. F. & C.; Doolittle, J. K., 350 Larimer, bet. E. & F.; Dunk'le, G. W., 366 Larimer, bet. F. & G. Sts.; Hill, F. W., & Co., ws. F. bet. Larimer & Lawrence; Lincoln, D. & Co., Larimer se. cor. F.: Martin & Nuckolls, 339 Larimer, bet. E. & F.; Nathan, S., 354 Larimer, bet. E. & F.; Peabody, D. G., 161 & 163 F. bet. Blake & Holladay; Weil Bros., ns. Larimer, bet. F. & G.; and Williams, P.S., 349 Larimer, bet. E. & F. Sts. 23
CHAPTER II DENVER'S GILDED AGE HEY-DAY OF "MERCHANT PRINCES" The national panic of 1873 had slowed Denver's economic growth, but Denver and Colorado were not as affected by the down-1 turn as other parts of the country. Denver's economy had bene-fited from efforts by Governor Edward McCook with a program to attract settlers to Denver. He was aided in this effort by William N. Byers, Editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Roger W. Woodbury, Editor of the Denver Tribune. The two men published editorials in their newspapers promoting Denver and Colorado. In the 1870s Denver's newspapermen, entrepreneurs and politicians were eager to promote the area, not only for their own interests, but for their adopted community as well. In addition to other efforts, Governor McCook asked the Colorado legislature to create a Board of Immigration to be headed by Byers and Fred Z. Salomon. 2 The two men published pamphlets which extolled Colorado's advantages for settlement and sent agents out carrying this literature to the eastern and southern states and 1 Robert G. Athearn, The Coloradoans (Albuquerque: Univer-sity of New Mexico Press, 1976), 189. 2Fred Z. Salomon, who arrived in Denver in 1859-1860, first managed a general store, but soon went into the brewery and saloon businesses.
25 Europe as well. Through these efforts, as well as efforts by other 3 community boosters, Denver's population grew from 4,759 in 1870 to 35,629 in 1880. 4 Through the dedicated work of boosters, such as William N. Byers and Territorial Governor John Evans, Denver was linked to the Union Pacific Railroad by way of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The two 5 men organized a Denver Board of Trade for the purpose of establish-ing the Denver Pacific Railroad & Telegraph Company, 18 November 1867. Their purpose was to raise money to build rails north to connect Denver with the Union Pacific Railroad. The first loco-motive from Cheyenne rolled into Denver in June 1870 followed two months later by the first train from Kansas. Kansas Pacific rail-road representatives had raised more than six million dollars from a German investor which allowed the company to build rails into 7 Denver. Denver's future was now secure--serviced by two railroads. 3rn his book, The Americans,The Democratic Experience, Daniel J. Boorstin describes booster: "The booster was a community builder, loyal for the time to his place--who cast his lot in advance with those whom he could persuade to join him." 4other notable boosters during this period: Lawyers Bela Hughes and Amos Steck and bankers Luther and Charles Kountze. 5Michael J. McNamara became a member of that Board of Trade. 6 Lyle W. Dorsett, T.he Queen City: A History of Denver (Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1977), 21-23. 7Ibid.
26 The large number of dry goods stores operating in the city in 1873 confirmed the widespread optimism in the business community that railroad service to Denver would insure the economic growth of the city. These early merchants, by way of the railroads, were able to bring in merchandise more rapidly than before in order to satisfy their customers' needs and wants There was risk of failure in those early years, however, and all too often inexperienced merchants were unable to compete and survive in the rough and tumble climate of frontier merchandising. In Denver's 1873 City Directory, there were thirteen dry goods stores listed but by 1876 there were only five.8 Michael J. McNamara's first store (Drew and McNamara) was not listed in Denver's City Directory until 1878, even though the partners began business in 1877. This first store was in a brick building located on the southwest corner of Larimer and 15th Streets. This was the site where earlier a log cabin had been built by 9 General William Larimer, Jr. and his son, William H. H. Larimer. 8 Dry Goods Stores, 1873 Denver City Directory: Ballin, Charles & Co., 325 Larimer, bet. E. & F.; Caspar C., 356 Larimer, bet. E. & F.; Caspar F., 341 Larimer bet. E. & F.; Daniels, Fisher & Co., 390 Larimer, bet. F. & C.; Doolittle, J. K., 350 Larimer, bet. E. & F.; Dunkle, G. W., 366 Larimer, bet. F. & G. sts.; Hill, F. W. & Co., ws. F. bet. Larimer & Lawrence; Lincoln, D. & Co., Larimer, se. cor. F.; Martin & Nuckolls, 339 Larimer, bet. Blake & Holladay; Weil Bros., ns. Larimer, bet. F. & G.; Williams, P. S., 349 Larimer, bet. E. & F. sts. Dry Goods Stores, 1876 Denver City Directory: Brooks, Giddings & Co., 353 Larimer; Daniles & Fisher & Co., Lawrence, se. cor. 16th; Doolittle, James K., 341 & 343 Larimer; Joslin, J. Jay, 364 Larimer; Weil Bross., 377 Larimer. Dallas,Gold and Gothic (Denver: Smith-Brooks Print ing Co., 1967); and Thomas J. Noel, Denver's Larimer Street (Denver: Historic Denver, Inc., 1981).
27 McNamara's partnership with Drew 10 soon ended. In 1880 McNamara bought out Drew and continued alone until the following year (1881), when Leonard H. Flanders joined him. Flanders and McNamara had met when both were clerks for the Brooks, Giddings & Company dry goods store. Brooks, Giddings & Company had been established in 1875 at 349 Larimer and continued at 353 Larimer for several years. McNamara was now ready to take the gamble and open a store with merchandise for the whole family and "under one roof." In Denver's highly competitive environment, aggressive merchants made special efforts to insure their own survival and success. When shoppers arrived atM. J. McNamara & Company, they were often given unique and special treatment. Proprietor Michael J. McNamara, renowned as a wit and a dandy, personally greeted important customers, waving aside the doorman to open the carriage door himself. Dressed in his broadcloth Prince Albert, with wing collar and opulent Prince de Joinville tie, lilac colored waist-coat, grey striped trousers and needlepoint and patent leather shoes, McNamara epitomized the grandeur of his new establishment.11 The four-story building, on the southwest corner of Larimer and 15th Streets, was constructed of granite and rubble stone and with plate glass windows on the two front sides of the building. 10 Denver City Directory, 1879, listed Edgar H. Drew (Drew & McNamara). 11 Denver Post, 15 April 1953, Randal Gould, 21.
28 The structure, with its heavy grey granite piers of Georgetown granite, was built for Hr. HcNamara by brothers G. W. and Wm. H. Clayton, from the plans and under the supervision of John W. Roberts. The building, still standing today, was featured on the front page of the Tuesday morning Denver Republican of 3 July 1883. H. J. HcNamara & Company is shown over the front door, and the names G. W. & Wm. Clayton are etched in the granite at the top of the 12 building. "Tomorrow will witness the opening of one of the most extensive and beautiful dry goods houses in the West, and one that adds in no small degree to the business interests of Denver."13 The HcNamara Dry Goods Company was incorporated 9 October 1886 with a capital stock of $200,000. M. J. McNamara was President and board members included George W. Clayton and Leonard H. 14 Flanders. An article in the booklet Denver: Pencil Sketches and Graver Strokes, A Reflex of Its Importance stated: The new company starts out under very favorable auspices, as they have the largest exclusive retail dry goods business in the West, and in retaining the name McNamara has a perfect tower of strength in itself, in-as-much as Mr. M. J. McNamara, more than any other man in this part of the country, has secured a reputation among all, from ':he most humble artisan to the millionaire, for keen business tact, prudent management, 12Denver: Pencil Sketches and Graver Strokes, A Reflex of Its Importance (Enterprise Publishing Company, 1886), 49. 13 Denver Republican, 3 July 1883, 1. 14Mtchael J. McNamara Incorporation (copy), Sec'y of State, 9 October 1886 (Library Historical Society).
indefatigable energy, untiring industry, of all which his patrons gain the benefit, and for an honorable, upright and impartial treatment of the public.l5 McNamara's retail business in 1886 produced about $500,000 (gross). He employed about 200, with 125 engaged in the dress-making business. Before the advent of ready-to-wear which was produced en masse by clothing manufacturers, women would purchase their fabrics at a store and have garments made up by seamstresses 16 employed by that same store. Strong competition for this McNamara Dry Goods customer came from the Daniels & Fisher store. W. B. Daniels had earlier established his store's reputation as the "carriage trade" store by selling fine quality merchandise, often imported, and by pro-viding excellent customer service. 29 Baby Doe Tabor would drive up in her coach to the carriage entrance of the Daniels & Fisher store and send in her coachman to summon a clerk. Usually two clerks went out, their arms loaded with great bolts of brocades, satin, Henrietta cloth and British d 17,18 twee The Daniels & Fisher store, located on the corner of 16th and Lawrence Streets in a four-story building, offered fine 15 Denver: Pencil Sketches and Graver Strokes, 49. 16Ibid. 17 Daniels & Fisher advertising layout copy, 1944. 18 Charles W. Houtz, retired Daniels & Fisher buyer (in 1944) who was a youth in the silk department in the eighties, remebers how Baby Doe enjoyed "curb service."
30 merchandise for the entire family, separated in departments in selling space roughly 800 feet by 1,200 feet.19 This was quite a large and imposing department store for Denver at that time. W. B. Daniels and his store was appreciated and admired by Denver's citizens as the 1880s began. Mr. Daniels returned from Chicago, where he had just buried his second wife, Elizabeth, in time to take part in laying the cornerstone for the new City Hall on Fourteenth Street. Dignitaries placed pictures of W. B. Daniels, his partner W. G. Fisher and his young son, Willie Cooke Daniels in the cornerstone, along with a poem that was very flowery and complimentary to the three men. Enclosed in the cornerstone, along with the pictures and poem, was information on the store. Included in this information was the Daniels & Fisher annual sales 20 volume for the year 1881--$1,000,000 (gross). When compared to the annual volume recorded for the McNamara Dry Goods of $500,000 (gross) for the year 1886, it is apparent that Daniels & Fisher Dry Goods was.the more successful of the two store operations. The Daniels & Fisher store's "carriage trade" had good reason to shop for finery at their favorite store in 1881. That ;> was the year of the opening of the Tabor Opera House built by 21 bonanza king, H. A. W. Tabor. For the opening night event, 19nenver: Pencil Sketchers and Graver Strokes, 35. 2Katherine Robinson Wilson, "Eighty-Three Years Growing Up With Denver" (paper for Monday Literary Club, 6 October 1947). 21Forbes Parkhill, Donna Madixxa Goes West: The Biography of a Witch (Boulder, Colorado: The Pruett Press, Inc., 1968), 12.
31 Emma Abbot, appearing with the English Opera Company in "Maritana," all of Denver society would find it imperative to be seen in their finest gowns purchased at the Daniels & Fisher store. If Denver was talking about the grand opera house, they perhaps were talking as well of the beautiful young widow, Baby Doe, Tabor. Tabor was squiring around town when still married to Agusta 22 Denver's "consumption community" was reflecting the "Gilded Age" with their pleasure for gossip about the rich and powerful. Their admiration of their "Merchant Princes" and their need to publicize their newly acquired wealth through display of extravagant attire and extravagant homes, was a reflection of the mood of the period as well. A young lady who was to bring disgrace to "Merchant Prince," William Bradley Daniels, and give eager Denverites further morsels for gossip carne to Denver in the late summer of 1881. An announce-ment in the Rocky Mountain News read: "Mrs. Lilian B. Abbott, a graduate of the Boston University School of Oratory, will hold elocution classes at her residence, No. 4 DeForrest Place."23 When Mrs. Abbott began attending openings at the Tabor Opera House, often accompanied by a young Englishman known as Lord 22 In his book, The Americans: The Democratic Experience, Daniel J. Boorstin defines consumption communities: "Department stores drew together thousands within the city in their consumers' palaces, other new enterprises reached out from city to city creating nationwide consumption communities," 109. 23Parkhill, Donna Madixxa Goes West, 22.
Roquefort, she attracted the attention of Denver society and William Bradley Daniels. Denverites were delighted to read about the romance of newly widowed Daniels and Mrs. Abbott, whom the Denver press had labeled "the Donna." Supposedly Mrs. Abbott had been introduced to Mr. Daniels by her sister, Christine, during a visit to the Daniels & Fisher store. Both Mrs. Abbott's sister and brother-in-law worked in the Daniels & Fisher store.24 32 Interest in this romance by the Denver consumer was a sure "traffic builder" for the store, along with the appearance in the city of Oscar Wilde. In June of 1882 Wilde, the English poetplaywright noted for wearing velvet knee breeches and silk stockings, with a single white lily as his only stage prop, visited Denver. H. A. W. Tabor sponsored Wilde's two lectures, "Interior and Exterior Home Decoration," which he delivered at the Tabor 25 Opera House. All Denver was wearing a sunflower in its buttonhole and newspaper advertising by Denver stores featured Oscar Wilde designs in Majolica and Limoges china. Daniels & Fisher advertised that Wilde would attend their "Fifteen Dollar suit sale," and it was reported that he purchased a suit.26 This Oscar Wilde-Daniels & Fisher store promotion was an early day "Special Event" that was guaranteed to build store 24Ibid., 8. 25Daniels & Fisher advertising layout copy, 1944. 26Ibid.
33 "traffic." In today's modern department store Special Events departments, employing promotion minded people, would consider themselves fortunate tohave generated such an event as the Oscar Wilde appearance for Daniels & Fisher. This type of event would guarantee that more than the usual number of customers would come into the store. Shortly after the flamboyant visit of Oscar Wilde, Denver-ites read of the marriage of W. B. Daniels and Mrs. Abbott. A July 15th edition of a local paper reported: Marriage In High Life--Mr. William B. Daniels of Denver was married on the 8th inst. to Mrs. Lilian B. Abbott. The ceremony took place at Pierrepont House, Lyme, Connecticut, whither Mr. Daniels had gone to place his only son in school. We wish to congratulate Denver Society upon this auspicious event. Mr. Daniels possesses an elegant home, luxuriously furnished, and with his lovely and accomplished wife, we can easily imagine what special attractions their genial hospitality will have for their large circle of friends.27 On 17 March 1886, after chronicling the marital woes of the couple for some time, the Denver News carried the headline, "Mr. Daniels Gets A Divorce." The newspaper account said that \11. B. Daniels were granted a divorce from Lilian B. Daniels on grounds 28 of adultery. Despite or perhaps because of the scandal, Daniels & Fisher 29 continued as the "carriage trade" store with such well-known 27Parkhill, Donna Madixxa Goes West, 36. 28rbid., 111. 29 "Carriage Trade" is a term defining type of customer--one who was wealthy and could afford to ride in a carriage.
34 customers as former Governor John Evans and his family, the Tellers, Ashleys, Claytons and Hughes. W. B. Daniels, recognized by Denver's citizens as a "merchant prince" was a very active community booster. He was Director of Denver's National Mining and Industrial Exposi-tion, a member of the committee to select a location for the State capital, an incorporator of the Denver, Utah and Pacific Railway, and a vestryman of St. John's Cathedral. He was an ardent Republi-can and had actively supported H. A. W. Tabor's run for lieutenant-governor of Colorado. The store's sales volume more than doubled in the seven 30 years after 1882. The Colorado Exchange Journal, October 1889, reported that in 1888 Daniels & Fisher carried a stock valued at between $1,500,000 and $2,000,000. Their retail sales in 1888 were $1,000,000 with wholesale sales an additional $1,500,000. The firm employed 350 persons (up 200 from 1881), with a weekly payroll of $5,000. The fourth and fifth floors were devoted to the whole-sale and manufacturing departments, with salesmen traveling out Colorado and the surrounding states of Wyoming, Arizona and New 31 Mexico. Their regional customers were the proprietors of country general stores who would benefit from having refreshed merchandise without the added freight cost on merchandise shipped from the east coast. 30 The Colorado Exchange Journal article, October 1889 noted that "Daniels & Fisher are to Denver what Marshall Field & Company are to Chicago." 31 Colorado Exchange Journal, October 1889, n.p.
35 This increase in sales for Daniels & Fisher came about not only from good management but was also due to the tremendous increase in Denver's population. From 1880 to 1890 Denver's popu-lation increased from 35,629 to 106,713, adding thousands to the ranks of Denver's "consumption community." Just when the store's financial success was assured, tragedy visited W. B. Daniels once again. He suffered serious injuries in 1889 after being thrown from his carriage when his famed team of black stallions ran away. He suffered an apoplectic stroke which 32 left him partially paralyzed for several months. In November of 1890. Mr. Daniels suffered another stroke. This second stroke left him bedridden and he died on 23 December following another severe 33 attack. Mr. Daniels' death was reported in the Denver Republican, 25 December 1890. "He was a man of most vigorous temperament and in business affairs was considered the peer of any man in the West." The writer of the article continued, "He left a son, William Cooke Daniels, about 20 years of age, who was traveling in Yokohama, Japan and a sister, Mrs. S. M. Kenyon, of Omaha, Nebraska." Daniels' estate was variously estimated at from $1,500,000 to $2.000,000 which would include the store in Denver.34 32 Parkhill, Donna Madixxa Goes West, 113. 33 Denver Republican, 25 December 1890, 7, c. 3. 34Ibid.
36 The funeral service was held at the residence, 342 Curtis Street, after which W. G. Fisher and Judge Benedict accompanied the remains east. Mr. Daniels had left instructions that his body was 35 to be cremated and placed beside his second wife, Elizabeth, in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago,36 With the death of William B. Daniels, Denver lost one of its first "merchant princes"--the one who had established in Denver the new retailing phenomenon, the department store. He had the Denver consumer with merchandise of the highest quality and had maintained an establishment that dazzled the community. What did it matter that his last years were marred by scandal? That scandal only caused Deriver's citizens to be more intrigued with the store and its image. W. G. Fisher, Daniels' partner in the store, had demon-strated through the years that he was an astute merchant and he would carry" on the business as before. Fisher was in charge when Daniels made his many buying trips to New York and Europe, and he was well liked by his employees. Because Fisher had close relations with the employees, they could joke about his trips to visit.the Daniels & Fisher store in Leadville. The story is that when 35w. B. Daniels had been married before his marriage to Elizabeth, but there is no record of his first wife's name or how the marriage ended. 36w. G. Fisher to Rev. J. R. Fisher, 13 January 1891 (Frances Trott Robinson papers).
he made the trip he only took with him a bottle and a tooth-37 brush. Mr. Fisher was still in charge of Daniels & Fisher when the Panic of 1893 caused chaos in the Denver community. He would be the one to deal with the competition of the newly arrived retailer, David May. And he would have to deal with the astute financier retailer, Dennis Sheedy. 37Frances Trott Robinson,interview, 17 November 1982. 37
CHAPTER III COMPETITION/CHANGE/FAILURE David May visited Denver in 1888, two years before W. B. Daniels' death and two years after Michael J. McNamara's grand opening of theM. J. McNamara & Company. May came to Denver from Leadville to assess the possibilities for expansion. He found that the stock in a bankrupt clothing store at 15th and Larimer was for 1 sale. Submitting a cash bid of $31,000 he soon became a Denver retail merchant. He hired a brass band which paraded the streets and then played on a wooden platform over the entrance to the store. When the entire stock was quickly disposed of, May decided that the Denver retailing scene would be more profitable than Leadville and moved his business. In 1889 May opened his May Shoe and Clothing Company at 1614-20 Larimer Street. An article from the Daily News, 29 August 1889, had this heading: "Opened With Eclat." The writer of the article goes on to say, May Shoe and Clothing Company opened on Larimer Street. For the new store at 1614-1618 Larimer over $30,000 has been expended in preparing rooms for occupance. Music for the opening was furnished by Koenigsberg-Lewis orchestra and valuable souvenirs were presented to visitors.2 1 No record of store name. 2 Daily News, 29 August 1889, n.p.
39 When May's store opened, the horse-drawn street cars on Larimer were about to be replaced by cable cars and 16th and Larimer provided a choice location for a retail store. Along with this change in public transportation, Denverites also witnessed a change in retail advertising methods. May brought a new rough and tumble carnival barker approach to what had previously been a sedate advertising policy used by Denver retailers with the possible exception of Leopold Guldrnan, who, like May, was going after the bargain hunting Denver consumer. Leopold Henry Guldman operated a cost-cutting retail outlet called the Golden Eagle Dry Goods & Suit House located at 1553-1559 Lawrence Street. Guldrnan had gone to Leadville in 1877 and carne to Denver in 1879 to open a small store at 16th and Lawrence Streets. The small store was expanded into The Golden Eagle 3 Discount store. A typical Guldrnan ad, run in the Rocky Mountain News, 31 August 1884, stated: Remember The Golden Eagle Go To The Golden To Get Golden Bargains in the Silver State Over $100,000 worth of goods purchased from Panic-stricken eastern merchants and offered at Panic Prices.4 May met this type of advertising with his own flamboyant, extravagant style. Typical of this style was copy which read: 3First Discount Department Store in Denver. Listed in 1888 Denver City Directory as Golden Eagle Dry Goods & Suit House, L. H. Guldman, Proprieter, 1553 to 1559 Lawrence. 4 Rocky Mountain News, 31 August 1884, 8, c. 6.
40 "Competitors Overwhelmed With Defeat"--"Prices Split to Splinters" and "We've Ground Prices to Powder." After three years in Denver, May proclaimed victory in the "Larimer Street clothiers war" in a double-page advertisement in the Rocky Mountain News. The headline ran, "Why We Rejoice." The article stated that in the past three years they (the store) had met their competitors, "Merciless Clothing Gladiators," methods of gouging the public--high prices for worthless goods--with breaking the ice of high prices and had earned themselves the title, "Clothing Monarchs of the West."5 May hired Colonel Joseph M. Grady of Washington, D.C. who, at that time, was considered one of the country's advertising 6 geniuses. Grady, a colorful figure in his long frock coat and top hat, would wax into poetry for many of the ads. He published a poem, "Idyl of the Rockies," the theme about a young girl telling of her brother's buying a new suit and of her purch-ase of "My Seal Plush Sacque." I went there for my Seal Plus Sacque That's so very much admired; Now all the girls are furious And say I make them tired.7 When little boys came in to buy new suits at the May Company, the store gave away a baseball and bat with each purchase--5Forbes Parkhill, The May Story (New Jersey: Bra-Dart Industries, 1952), 18. 6This opinion expressed by Parkhill in his book, The May Story. 7Parkhill, The May Story, 19.
41 8 a promotional ploy that continued for many years. One store advertisement pictured naked little boys going into the May Store, 9 then corning out wearing a suit and carrying a baseball bat. May's flamboyant advertising style continued into the 1890s with such gems as: Where on God's Green Earth outside of our House will you find men morally brave enough to place on sale, on the very threshold of the busy season, our Sixteen Hundred tailor-made figured, seasonable and stylish $18, $16.50, $15 and $13.50 suits at TEN DOLLARS FOR THE CHOICE?lO May's more prestigious competition, Daniels & Fisher and M. J. McNamara & Company were very proper in their advertising approach. A Daniels & Fisher ad, which ran in the Denver Times, 11 14 July 1899, simply stated bicycle boots for sale: The Best Leathers and the Best Prices Ladies Boots, that will stand the hard knocks of bicycling, look well and retain their shape, are the sort that are sold in this Shoe Store. There is nothing better in quality or price sold anywhere than there. Ladies tan and black $2.40 Ladies Kid Chrome tan Kid $5.ool2 8Ibid. 9 Ibid., 20. 10Ibid. 21. 11In his book, The Coloradoans, Robert G. Athearn wrote of the bicycling craze that spread over America during the 1890s (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1976). It was apparent that Daniels & Fisher management was aware of this trend and stocked merchandise to satisfy their sports enthusiasts customers. 12 Denver Times, 14 July 1899.
An ad for the Denver Dry Goods Store (formerly M. J. McNamara & Company) which appeared in the 13 October 1901 issue of the Denver Times simply said: The Denver Great Corset Sales entire week 13 14 at $2.48 to $7.00 Michael J. McNamara and his store served a city that had reached a population of 106,713 in 1890. Construction had begun on the State Capitol and the Denver Union Stockyards had been established. Thousands of new homes were built during the 1880s boom and irrigation ditches carried water for gardens and lawns 15 and trees. A vegetable garden, at the corner of 16th and California, became the site for McNamara's move to what was then the suburbs of Denver. In the early 1880s Louis F. Bartels, a Denver real estate had sold the vegetable garden land adjoining his home 13 Denver Times, 13 October 1901. 14According to Daniel J. Boorstin, in his book, The Americans, The Democratic Experience, VII (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 142-43, the new department stores soon became the mainstay of big city newspapers with their advertising. In 1879 John Wanamakers Department Store of Philadelphia placed "what is said to be the first full-page American daily newspaper advertisement for a retail store." Boorstin continues, "by the 1880's, full-page newspaper advertising, with liberated type, including display, was common practice for department stores." 42 15Rocky Mountain News, Colorado Pioneered., 22 April 1984, 49, c. 3.
43 to John J. Riethmann, President of the German National Bank (now First Interstate Bank) Riethmann hoped to capitalize on the roller skating craze that was sweeping America and he built a large roller rink on his new property. When this skating craze ended, Riethmann persuaded McNamara that his property would soon be centered in the heart of the city and promised to build him the finest dry goods store west of the Mississippi. McNamara agreed and moved his business to the outskirts of the retail district in 1889 to the four-story brick building that Riethmann built, with tpe plans and under the super-16 vision of the noted architect of the time, Frank E. Edbrooke. McNamara purchased beautiful solid mahogany fixtures, with smooth rounded corners, for merchandise display. Frank J. Johns, 17 a former store President, remembers seeing these fixtures when he came to the store in 1936. Johns said these fixtures were almost identical to what Marshall Field in Chicago had and were used mainly 18 on the first floor. When the silver panic hit in 1893, McNamara was caught in the financial debacle. He was heavily in debt, not only for store fixtures, but for merchandise purchased for the Christmas selling 16 Rocky Mountain News, Pasquale Marrenzino, 15 May 1959. 17 Frank J. Johns, President, The Denver Dry Goods Comapny, from 1946 to 1970. 18 Frank J. Johns, former President, The Denver Dry Goods Co., interviews, 2 March 1982 and 29 October 1984.
44 season. But there were few customers for that Christmas merchandise. 19 20 The out-of-work populace was leaving the city in droves. McNamara had taken out large loans at both the City National Bank and Colorado National Bank. When the two banks called in these loans, McNamara was unable to comply. Banks were ruthless in those days, according to Frank Johns. There was no extension of 21 loans and borrowers could not re-negotiate those loans. Dennis Sheedy, Vice President of Colorado National Bank from 1883 to 1923, remembered how he and Charles Kountze, President of the Colorado National Bank, became involved with the McNamara Dry Goods Company. Sheedy recalled that Denver was one of the areas worst hit by the Panic of 1893, with business in chaos. Failures were daily in mercantile establishments, and many banks 22 and industries collapsed. Sheedy's version of the December 1893 19 Athearn, The Coloradoans, 190. In the panic of 1893 thousands left for the East, with freight trains taken over by men desperate to leave the area. See Richard R. Brettell, Historic Denver (Denver: Historic Denver Inc., 1979). For eighteen months, from July 1893, Denver's populace experienced extreme poverty. Denverites had begun withdrawing money from banks in anticipation of the Sherman Act. Denver's thriving economic complexion changed almost overnight. Thousands migrated back east. Many of the cities' wealthiest men were permanently ruined. (Epilogue, 197). 20 Athearn, The Coloradoans, 190. 21 Frank J. Johns, interview, 2 March 1982. 22 Dennis Sheedy, The Autobiography of Dennis Sheedy (Denver, Colorado: Western History Department, Denver Public Library, 1922), unpublished typed manuscript, Chapter VII, 55.
takeover of the McNamara Dry Goods Company, as he related in his autobiography, was: He had attended a night meeting, was exhausted and had gone to bed when Mrs. Sheedy awakened him saying that there was some one at the front door. He found Mr. Kountze and other officers and the Colorado National Bank attorney with McNamara. He was told that McNamara was on the verge of collapse and the bank officers must be on hand early ih the morning as attaching creditors to save the bank's money. They were driven in carriages to the store. And, after an all night conference at the store, the final decision was that Kountze and Sheedy would buy the store themselves and pay off the indebtedness to the City National and the Colorado National.23 The store operated under the name of Sheedy and Kountze Dry Goods Company for eight months under the management of Michael J. McNamara, the former owner. But, according to Sheedy, the store was not progressing as it should and it was decided to 24 completely reorganize and change management. The first meeting of the Board of Directors of the Denver Dry Goods Company was held 22 May 1894 with Dennis Sheedy elected President and Charles B. Kountze appointed to serve on the board. In the minutes of that first meeting of the board it was recorded that Dennis Sheedy and Charles Kountze sold their company, which 45 included building, fixtures, merchandise and horse delivery wagons for 2,497 shares of the capital stock of the new company. These 23Ibid. 24Ibid., 56.
46 shares represented the value of $249,700 for the Sheedy and Kountze 25 Dry Goods Company. The Denver Dry Goods Company prospered and expanded under Sheedy's guidance and the stockholders were undoubtedly pleased with Sheedy's management and tight fiscal policies. At a stock-holder's meeting, 25 May 1897, a note of thanks "was rendered" to Dennis Sheedy, President, Gustave C. Bartels, Vice President, 26 Charles T. Austin, Secretary-Treasurer, and W. R. Owens, store 27 manager for "their able and efficient management of the business." The Denver Times, Friday, 8 July 1898, carried a Denver Dry Goods ad which read: Tomorrow--Saturday We Close at 10 o'clock This leaves but days yet remaining in which patrons can avail themselves of the remarkable purchasing opportunities afforded by our Great Re-Building Sale.28 Prior to this time Sheedy, as evidenced by the store's board minutes, had been buying additional lots adjacent to the store. He also had assumed the mortgage on the Denver Dry Goods property previously held by John J. Riethmann, who had built the store for Michael J. McNamara. 25 Minutes of Denver Dry Goods Co. Board Meeting, No. 1, 22 May 1894. 26w. R. Owens was the only former Michael J. McNamara executive to be retained by the new corporation. 27Minutes of Denver Dry Goods Co. Stockholders' Meeting, No. I, 25 May 1897. 28Denver Times, 8 July 1898, n.p.
47 At a 26 May 1896 stockholders meeting, it was announced that The Denver had purchased from David B. Graham, assignee of John J. Riethmann, the store property. They paid $230,000 for lots (27), (28), (29), and (30), (31), and (32) in block #139 of 29 east Denver. "Today,11 Frank J. Johns said (in 1984), "the land is valued at million." 30 Riethmann had mortgaged the property with the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and the Denver Dry Goods Company agreed to pay Northwestern $127,333.33 and assignee $102,666.67 in cash, provided assignee pay 1895 taxes and the first half of the 1896 taxes. The store then assumed a Northwestern mortgage of $125,000 paying 6 percent interest from 1 March 1896. After acquiring the additional lots Sheedy built a four-story structure that extended toward 15th s'treet. which enlarged the original building by half. An ad appeared in the Denver Times, Wednesday, 5 October 1898, which announced that the Denver Dry Goods Company: Welcomes You To The City and to The City's greatest retail establishment $750,000 worth of up to date merchandise ready for your inspection Our floor space doubled Our fall purchases has been doubled Our elegant new reception rooms are for your comfort and convenience. 29 Lots were adjacent to existing store building. 30 Frank J. Johns, interview, 4 April 1984.
Writipg desks and free materials are at your disposal You are invited to make yourself thoroughly at home.31 In 1902, Sheedy bought the additional land around the store. At a Board meeting, 29 January of that year, it was agreed upon to purchase lots (21), (22) and (23) in block 1!139 from the Bartels estate for $81,000. They were to pay $71,000 cash and assume a mortgage of $10,000.32 The Board decided at a meeting on 2 June 1903 to ask 48 Northwestern Mutual" Life Insurance Company for an extension of time on their loan (principal sum of $125,000 remaining unpaid). Riethrnann had obtained this loan 23 December 1890 with a 6 percent interest and a two-year expiration date. Later, Sheedy had obtained a reduction: in the interest rate from 6 percent to 33 5 percent per annum. Dennis Sheedy's horizons were as wide and open as the West of his time, but he had a strict and narrow policy when it carne to finances. In later years, he related an incident that he claimed established his monetary policies. As a youngster in Iowa, he had so admired a sled of a young friend that he was determined to have oneof his own. He therefore purchased a sled from the local store and charged it to his father's account. At the end of the 31 Denver Times, 5 October 1898, n.p. 32 Minutes of Denver Dry Goods Co. Board Meeting, 29 January 1902. 33Minutes of Denver Dry Goods Co. Board/Stockholders Meeting, 2 June 1903.
month, when his father saw the bill, he called to young Dennis and asked him to go out and cut two willow switches. His father had used only one before his mother intervened, but the incident left a lasting impression. In later life, Sheedy wrote in his auto-biography about the incident and said: I never charged anything to anybody, nor have I contracted a debt that I did not know I could pay when due. Continuing, he wrote: It was a wonderful lesson too, and one that I learned so thoroughly that I have followed it every day of my life.34 49 Dennis Sheedy's story begins in Ireland, where he was born, 26 September 1846, the youngest of twelve children, eight of whom survived. His family emigrated to America when he was only one year of age. His father, a gentleman farmer, had suffered crop failures 35 and lost much of his property. The family first settled in the vicinity of Boston near Rockport in Essex County, Massachusetts. In 1858, when Sheedy was twelve years old, the family moved to Lyons, Iowa. Sheedy's older brother, William, had proceeded them, opening a general mer-chandise store there. It was in this store that Sheedy first encountered the mercantile business as a clerk, errand boy and porter. He worked in the summer and attended school in the winter. Sheedy wrote in 34 Sheedy, Autobiography, 10. 35 Ibid., 7.
so his autobiography .that it was in his brother's store that he became familiar with all lines of merchandise that were especially in demand in the West.36 The family suffered tragic loss, as was common with early western pioneers. Sheedy's brother and sister died eight months after the family's arrival. Eight months later, when Sheedy was fourteen years old, his father died, leaving Sheedy with the full responsibility for his mother and sister Ellen. Sheedy's older brothers and sisters had left home earlier to establish their own homes and businesses. The young boy obtained a clerkship in a store with a salary of $8 a month, working eight months of the year and attending school the remaining four.37 But Sheedy got caught up in the westward movement and at sixteen years of age, in May 1863, Sheedy left Lyons, Iowa by steamboat, going down the Mississippi River to Hannibal, Missouri. He proceeded by train over the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad to St. Joseph, Missouri. And, since there was no railroad at that time west of the Missouri River, he became part of a wagon train west. In reaching Omaha, Nebraska he joined a group headed for Denver. That trip from Omaha to Denver took six weeks.38 36 Ibid., 11. 37Ibid., 12. 38 Ibid., 15.
In Denver, Sheedy continued in the mercantile trade When he was given work, at $100 per month, in the Daniels & Brown general merchandise store on Blake Street. Alvin B. Daniels,39 one of the partners in the store, befriended him and he slept in the store along with the junior partner, J. Sidney Brown. Sheedy arrived in Denver in 1863, five years after Denver 51 had been established as a townsite, the year that the first telegraph line was completed to Denver and one year after the Colorado National Bank had been founded. This was the institution in which an older Sheedy would later become an influential officer.40 In Sheedy's autobiography he wrote that at that time all the business district of Denver was below Larimer, with Blake Street, between 41 Cherry Creek and 17th Street, the principal thoroughfare. In February 1864 this 6'2", 160 pound seventeen-year-old aggressive youth ventured still further west and into the freighting business. But before leaving Denver, he deposited with his bene-factor, A. B. Daniels, a sum of money. The purpose, as Sheedy related in his autobiography, "in case fortune did not smile on him. n42 39No relation to William Bradley Daniels of Daniels & Fisher store. 40Denver: Pencil Sketches and Graver Strokes, A Reflex of Its Importance (Enterprise Publishing Company, 1886); and The Trail, October 1923, 14. 41 Sheedy, Autobiography, 16. 42 Ibid., 17.
52 Before returning to Denver in 1882 to_ settle permanently, Sheedy, during a sixteen-year odyssey, had made a fortune engaging not only in freighting, but ranching, mining and, occasionally, h "1 b 43 t e mercant1 e us1ness. Sheedy wrote of those years in his autobiography. He told of first going to the Montana territory where he obtained a job, paying $6 a day, for pick and shovel work in placer mining. A month later, in partnership with a man named Chapman, he bought a placer mine and soon bought out Chapman's interest for $800. Sheedy and his crew of twelve men hit "pay dirt" that yielded about $300 to $500 a day. But the mine soon 44 gave out and Sheedy went back to the mercantile trade. 45 After obtaining permission from the Mormon bishop, he opened a store, in partnership with a Henry Dabney, in Wellsville, Utah. These early entrepreneurs exchanged their merchandise with the farmers for wheat, butter, egss, etc. Then they sold these products to freighters who were either on their way to or returning from the Montana mines. In six months,Sheedy reported, they had done more than $70,000 in business.46 After running freight, mercantile stores and selling working cattle, nineteen-year-old Sheedy decided that success in 43nenver Post, Empire Magazine sec., "Denver Mansions," Edith Eudora Kuhl, 6 June 1948. 44 Sheedy, Autobiography, 21. 45 At that time it was necessary in Mormon settlements to obtain permission to open a business. 46 Sheedy, Autobiography, 23.
his trade was not enough. He felt handicapped by a lack of educa-tion. With $30,000 in cash, he went to Chicago, enrolled in East-man's Commercial College and deposited his money in a bank. He lived off the interest from this investment while in school. Completing his commercial course in the spring of 1866, Sheedy withdrew his moneyfrom the bank and invested in his next venture. Purchasing 250 cooking stoves, twenty wagons and work cattle, he headed west. In Plattsmouth, Nebraska he bought groceries which he then loaded into his wagons along with the 47 stoves. Upon arrival at Fort Kearney, he was approached by a group from a wagon train headed west. They asked if he would lead their 48 train and elected him their captain. In his autobiography, 53 Sheedy noted that, at that time, he was the youngest man to receive 49 this commission and he was very proud of this honor. Sheedy guided his group through Indian country without mishap and upon reaching Salt Lake City, he disposed of his stoves. He had paid $25 to $30 for each and sold them for $125 to $175 each, realizing a considerable profit. But he took flour instead of 47 Ibid., 27. 48 The U.S. Government, at that time, gave the commission of military captain to anyone elected captain of a trans-plains train. 49 Sheedy, Autobiography, 28; and William N. Byers, Encyclopedia Biography of Colorado, Vol. I (Chicago: Century Publishing & Engraving Co., 1901).
54 money for the stoves ending up with 50 wagonloads of flour which he f h d v. . c . 1 i 50 re1g te 1nto 1rg1n1a 1ty 1n two arge tra ns. Remaining in the freighting business until 1868, Sheedy then engaged in the cattle business for the next fourteen years. Buying, selling and driving herds to market, he established ranches in Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming. He retained his Nebraska and Wyoming ranches until 1884. At that time he had 51 32,000 head of cattle and four hundred head of horses. In 1882, after his marriage on 15 February of that year to Katherine Vincentia Ryan of Leavenworth, Kansas, Sheedy moved 52 permanently to Denver. Intent on broadening his business interests, Sheedy purchased stock in the Colorado National Bank, was elected a director and a year later elected Vice President. These positions he held until his death and it was through these positions that he began his long business relationship with Charles B. Kountze, President of Colorado National Bank. From this banking base, Sheedy enlarged his business interests which included the refining and smeltering business. In the winter of 1886-87, the Holden Smelting Company was having financial difficulties. They had borrowed heavily from the Colorado National Bank and were on the verge of bankruptcy. Bank President, Kountze, asked Sheedy to check out the company to see 50 Sheedy, Autobiography, 29. 51Ibid., 43. 52Ibid., 58.
if there was anything that could be done to prevent its collapse and loss of the bank's loan. After Sheedy spent some time at the smelter operation, he recommended that the bank take over the company in order to save their loans.53 The company was reorgan-ized, 16 January 1889, as the Globe Smelting and Refining Company 54 and Sheedy then became company president and general manager. In 1898 production for the Globe Smelting Company boasted assets of $14,000,000. There were only 150 men employed in the Holden Smelter, but by the time Sheedy resigned from the Globe Smelter (in 1910), the employees numbered more than 1,000.55 An 55 article in the Denver Times, Saturday, 1 October 1898 described the Globe Smelting operation as occupying 225 acres of land in Globe-ville, a suburb of Denver, and noted that Charles B. Kountze was 56 now a Vice President of the company. In his book, The City and the Saloon, Denver 1858-1916, Thomas J. Noel writes that Sheedy built his mansion at 1115 Grant Street with the profits he made by underpaying and underhousing smelter workers. "Typical of company housing was Sheedy Row, an alley of homes between Washington Street and the Globe Smelter. 5\bid., 49. 54 Jerome C. Smiley, .ed., History of the City of Denver (Denver: The Times-Sun Publishing Co., 1901), 562-64; Sheedy, Autobiography, 50. 55 Denver Post, 15 April 1953, 25. 56 Denver Times, 1 October 1898, 3, col. 2. Sheedy, Autobiography, 51.
The row of shacks was named for Dennis Sheedy." Noel also made note of the low pay of the smelter workers. "At the turn of the century Globe paid common laborers $1.75 for a 10-hour day and skilled smelter workers between $2.50 and $3.50 for a 12-hour 57 day." Dennis Sheedy's years on the frontier provided him with a background of experience that enabled him to cope with Denver's retailing wars precipitated by David May's entrance into the arena. For one who had faced devastating Indian raids and white man's treachery on wagon trains, the retailing wars presented no 56 58 threat. Sheedy maintained firm control over the Denver Dry Goods Company for over twenty-nine years and ran the store as he would have bossed a wagon train, drove a herd of cattle or issued orders to workers at the Globe Smelter--with an iron grip. The minutes of the store's Board meetings show that all of Sheedy's motions were passed unanimously and when &heedy was not present, Board 59 meetings were cancelled. 57 Thomas J. Noel, The City and the Saloon Denver 1858-1916 (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), 63. 58oennis Sheedy's early years on the frontier are chronicled because he was the only one of the five department store merchants known to have written an autobiography. And, this account helps to identify the character of that early retailing frontiersman. 59Minutes of Denver Dry Goods Co. Board/Stockholders' Meeting, 1901.
57 David May did not have the colorful or adventurous back-ground as did Dennis Sheedy. But, his years in Leadville, estab-lishing a successful retail operation in a mining community known for its lawlessness and disorder, gave him the foundation with which to become an aggressive retailer in the Denver retailing arena. Sheedy and May, along with William Bradley Daniels, J. Jay Joslin and Michael J. McNamara were not the urbane cosmopolitan retailers such as a John Wanamaker of Philadelphia. They were men comfortable with and well suited to cope with the rough and tumble atmosphere of an early frontier community where, "Miners in big boots stamped over the wooden side-walks from dance hall to dance hall. Gambling was the great amusement, and fortunes changed 60 hands every night over poker table and faro board." These men were typical of the character of the western man. They were individualists who sought adventure and challenge, they dreamed of attaining wealth and did not hesitate to take the risks to achieve that wealth. David May was the "carnival barker" who enjoyed the rough and tumble arena of the retailing price wars. William Bradley Daniels was the canny merchandiser who sensed the Denver consumer's need to-buy and wear fine imported luxuries and his store supplied that need. Michael J. McNamara was the nattily attired gambling entrepreneur who placed his bet when the cards 60 Rocky Mountain News, 3 December 1955, Interview J. Jay Joslin, 1916.
58 were stacked against him. Dennis Sheedy was the "straight-laced" taskmaster, who well understood how to achieve and control financial endeavors. And, J. Jay Joslin was a music loving storekeeper who proclaimed, "Work is the keynote to success, happiness and health." 61 61 Rocky Mountain News, 8 January 1926, 1.
CHAPTER IV PROGRESSIVE ERA IN RETAILING IN DENVER David May weathered the 1893 panic and by 1895 was expand-ing again, buying stock of the Skinner Bros. & Wright Dry Goods Store and occupying the first two floors of its building at 16th and Lawrence Streets. The Skinner Bros. & Wright Dry Goods Store began as a wholesale and retail clothing business in 1880 in a four-story building at the corner of 16th and Lawrence Streets.1 At one time they had employed thirty tailors and manufactured all styles and grades of shirts, but this store, like others, did not survive the 1893 panic.2 David May capitalized on the misfortune of this retailer and incorporated the May Shoe & Clothing Company 3 on 8 February 1896, with capital stock of $250,000. With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, David May and William Cooke Daniels took two different approaches to the hostilities. David May and an old-time Leadville friend, 1 Denver: Pencil Sketches and Graver Strokes, A Reflex of Its Importance (Enterprise Publishing Company, 1886), 35. 2 1892 Denver City Directory listed 45 Dry Goods Stores; 1893 Denver City Directory listed 56 Dry Goods Stores; 1894 Denver City Directory listed 44 Dry Goods Stores; 1895 Denver City Directory listed 44 Dry Goods Stores; 1896 Denver City Directory listed 35 Dry Goods Stores. 3Forbes Parkhill, The May Store (New Jersey: Bra-Dart Industries, 1952), 15.
60 George W. Cook, Vice-Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and later a Congressman from Colorado, obtained a government order for the manufacture of thousands of army uniforms.4 William Cooke Daniels, on the other hand, asked for active service and was made a lieutenant colonel by brevet. He served until 1899 and returned to a hero's welcome after recovering from a three-month siege of typhoid fever.S Major Daniels, as he was to be called thereafter, took over control of the Daniels & Fisher store after the death in 1897 of William Garret Fisher. Fisher was the astute merchant who had very capably run the store, surviving the 1893 panic, following the death of W. B. Daniels in 1890. Back in Denver, Major Daniels began establishing many social programs for Daniels & Fisher store employees. These programs, innovative for Denver, were a result of the Progressive Movement developing in the country. This movement, that centered on the new bureaucratic middle class, was evident in social reforms for many large retailing establishments around the country. In 1898 Edward A. Filene, of Filenes of Boston, created the Filene Cooperative Association for the stores' 500 employees. The Association sponsored numerous employee welfare projects-medical service, employee's dining room and insurance fund. In 4 Ibid., 23. 5Denver Times, 19 January 1899, n.p.
1908 Filenes funded and supported the Credit Union National Exten-sion Bureau which would help legalize credit units throughout 6 America. Major Daniels' social programs, for Daniels & Fisher employees, were equally progressive. He established a schoolroom for the young cash boys and messenger girls. He then hired a secretary to look after the needs of the young girls. Next, he 7 organized the Cadet Corps which was comprised of the cash boys. They were given uniforms and received regular military training. Many stores had no compassion or programs for cash children. Others, however, took a benevolent or paternalistic attitude and 61 set up programs. John Wanamaker, Philadelphia, enlisted cash boys into a paramilitary cadet corps that supervised their education at a store school on the premises and helped train them in merchan-dising as well. 8 Daniels installed a library, well stocked with books, a Fire Department and Mutual Aid Society. The Mutual Aid Society was set up to allow employees, for a small fee, to insure themselves against illness and accident. Still another beneficial social program Daniels initiated was the establishment of a fund, 6 Leon Harris, Merchant Princes (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1979), 10-13. 7cash boys were employed to run cash for salespeople who needed to make change for customers. 8 The Denver Dry Goods Company opened a library for store employees at a later date.
62 providing aid to employees suffering long illnesses, when their own insurance policies failed to provide. Major Daniels also introduced the annual two weeks vacation with full salary. All employees who had been more than a year in the service of the firm were entitled to their two week vacation. He also instituted a campaign against late hours, hitherto the rule, and introduced the Saturday half holiday to Denver.9 For the older employees, the new hours must have seemed miraculous. In William Bradley Daniels' day the store opened at 6:30A.M. and closed at 9:00 P.M. daily. Christmas Day was only 25 December for store employees, for the store kept open to 10 accommodate late shoppers. Major Daniels' interest in the welfare of store employees was evident. His other interests, however, were wide and varied. Along with his zeal for travel, he was an avid photographer (one of the first to take pictures underwater) and a sportsman con-sidered an authority on angling. He was the inventor of several d 1 d fl. f d h f h 11 wi e y use 1es or trout an ot er game 1s Taking into account his early years devoted to travel and multiple interests and the inherited wealth with which to maintain those interests, 9Frances Trott Robinson papers, "From Prairie Days to 1907 Being a History of the Daniels and Fisher Store." 10 Rocky Mountain News, Colin S. Hershey, 1929, n.p. 11Denver Republican, 12 March 1900, n.p.
63 it is not surprising that Daniels' interest in the daily business routine of the store soon waned. In 1900, after reorganizing the store, writing several papers on the conduct of the dry goods business and putting his Denver friend, Charles MacAllister Willcox in charge as general manager, Daniels turned his attention to new projects and adven-tures. Willcox would direct the store's operations for the next twenty-nine years, serving first as general manager and, after Major Daniels' death in 1918, as store president. Willcox took control of the Daniels & Fisher store when he was thirty. This was a young age for one in such a responsible position at that time. Born in San Francisco 10 March 1870, Willcox's father was General 0. B. Willcox who had distinguished himself in the Mexican and Civil Wars. When Willcox first came to Denver he worked for both the Denver Times and Rocky Mountain News until 1895. He became assistant adjutant general in the Colorado National Guard, with the rank of Colonel. While with the Guard, he helped organize the First Colorado Volunteers for service in the Spanish-American War. He left the Guard in 1898 when he was hired by William Cooke Daniels to work at Daniels & Fisher.12 The friendship of Major Daniels and Willcox produced lasting benefits for the latter with a long and profitable associ-ation with the Daniels & Fisher Department Store. The basis for 12Edgar Carlisle McMechan, The Moffat Tunnel of Colorado, Vol, 2 (Denver: Wahlgreen Publishing Co., 1927).
their friendship was evident in that they were of the same age and they shared similar interests. The two had been enthusiastic and patriotic supporters of the Spanish-American War and both had been newspaper reporters. Major Daniels had worked for a time as a reporter for the New York Times. The two men, representative of the patriotic imperialistic era of that time, would guide the progress of the Daniels & Fisher store successfully for the next eighteen years--Daniels pursuing his adventurous trips like exploring the wilds of New Guinea and Willcox maintaining the store's operation. 64 It was while Daniels was still exploring the wilds of New Guinea that the Daniels & Fisher store gained national publicity with their display of a giant American flag. There was an article with pictures in the local papers, as well as a notice appearing in the New York Sun with the dateline Denver, Colorado, 25 June (1905). The lead read: "The Biggest American Flag--Every Star Two Feet High--It Will Weigh 450 Pounds." The article stated that Denver could claim the distinction of owning the biggest American flag in the world.13 Sarah Patricia Kelleher App, :l.n an interview 12 November 1982, recalled the huge flag and of her husband's work in displaying it. F. Howard App went to work in display at $9 a week at the Daniels & Fisher store in 1902 and continued working for the firm for fifty-six years. He was the oldest employee in years 13 Sun New York, 25 June 1905, n.p.
of-service, holding the position of Display Manager for many of 14 those years. Understandably Charles MacAllister Willcox, with his military background, and William Cooke Daniels, with his flare for the dramatics, would have mounted a promotional effort such as the flag display. The special event was staged during a time of 65 patriotic fervor (Teddy Roosevelt's administration) and it provided a source of pride for the Denver consumer. Naturally most Denver-ites would come to the store to view the flag and naturally they would take the time, while there, to go into the store to shop. William Cooke Daniels rarely visited Denver after his initial reorganization, but directed the store's affairs from Europe, living primarily at a rented Chateau in France. It was from Europe and Italy's famed campanile of St. Mark's in Venice that Major Daniels gained the inspiration for the landmark Daniels & Fisher tower. For a long time Major Daniels had dreamed of build-ing a landmark that all of Denver could be proud of and he decided that the tower would be that landmark. In 1909 Daniels & Fisher had purchased a building on Arapahoe Street which was occupied by the Merchants Publishing Company, and secured a ninety-nine year lease on the adjoining Alkire block at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe Streets. These two buildings were to be torn down to make way for a new structure. Patricia Kelleher App, former employee of Daniels & Fisher and widow of F. App, former Display Manager of Daniels & Fisher, intervie'-1, 12 November 1982.
66 A. B. Trott, store superintendent at that time, came back from Europe and conferences with Major Daniels to find work in progress on the new building and tower. He spent the next two years as superintendent of the construction of thetower "having nightmares" in his concern over the intricate mechanical details involved. However, he had confidence in the ability of Karl Burghardt, well-known Denver contracting engineer and builder who 15 was in charge of constructing the tower. Major Daniels gave Mr. Trott a Stoddart-Dayton car as thanks for his work in the building 16 of the tower. The 375 foot tower was completed in 1912 and dedicated with a great display of fireworks. The magnificent new tower was put to political use in the Republican Presidential primary of 1912. The Denver Republican notified its readers to "watch the tower"--and the moment the newspaper learned the outcome, they would flash a light "one" for Taft--"two" for Teddy Roosevelt. One clear light showed the papers' readers that Taft would oppose Wilson in the November election. Teddy Roosevelt would bolt the Republican party to head the Progressive Party or "Bull Moose" ticket. The tower soon became a major attraction and often during the summer tourist season 1,500 persons would visit the tower each day just to obtain a view from the balcony of the two hundred 15 Frances Trott Robinson, interview, 17 November 1982. 16 Frances Trott Robinson, interview (by correspondence), 21 March 1982.
67 mile Rocky Mountain range. Denver's citizens took great pride in their tower and took advantage of its use whenever possible. The tower bell was tolled for Denver's 4 July 1911 Independence Day parade and the Denver Chamber of Commerce used a picture of the Daniels & Fisher store with its tower on a postcard advertisement 17 that was mailed out all over the United States publicizing Denver. The tower also served as a hiding place for Santa Claus, according to a "Santa's Scrap Book" published in 1934 for Daniels & Fisher. One Christmas Eve as Santa was approaching Denver, he ,. saw the tall Tower looming out against the sunset and the thought struck him, "Here's the place for me to park." Thereafter, Denver's children knew that Santa was watching over them all year from the Tower, making sure that they ate their spinach and drank their milk.18 The public relation benefits generated by the Daniels & Fisher tower were immeasurable, cementing the store image in the mind of Denver's citizens as "The Store." The Daniels & Fisher store was the forerunner for progres-sive retailing in Denver and met little competition from other stores with programs geared to employee's welfare. The stores, however, were cognizant of the need to provide amenities for their customers. The Denver Dry Goods Company provided a nursery and 17c. H. Johnson, Jr., The Daniels & Fisher Tower (Denver: Tower Press, 1977), 42, 45. 18 Daniels & Fisher Santa Claus Scrapbook, 1934.
68 shoppers were invited to leave their children in the nursery while shopping. The store also featured a "retiring room" in the Infant's D f h h i f 19 epartment or young mot ers w1t t1ny n ants. This service was not unlike the two nurseries that Richs Department Store of Atlanta provided for their customers, where a registered nurse and staff cared for all customers' children from six months to six years of age in soundproof playrooms. John Wanarnakers provided a free "sick room" for shoppers, where a doctor was in attendance. Incidentally, Wanamakers was the first department store to provide a restaurant for customers in 1876.20 David May and J. Jay Joslin were not as concerned with social progress for employees as was Daniels & Fisher. Joslin believed that all employees should enjoy work as he did--progress disregards the needs of people and Joslin believed in progress. The May Company did have an annual picnic for employees. In 1891 all salesmen whooped it up at Elitch's (there were no salesladies back in the 90s at May Company).21 19"A Pilgrimage Thru the Denver," pamphlet, The Denver Dry Goods Co., Denver, Colorado, compiled sometime after 1923. 20Robert Hendrickson, The Grand Emporiums (New York: Stein and Day/Publishers/Scarborough House, 1979), 46, 99. 21 Denver Post, 18 November 1940, n.p.
CHAPTER V CONSOLIDATION/EXPANSIONS/FAILURES/BUY OUTS Early in 1892, David May began building his department store empire by purchasing The Famous Department store in St. Louis for $150,000 cash. Later The Famous absorbed the William Barr Dry Goods I' Company--becoming The Famous Bar Company and The May Company's headquarter store for the future chain of stores. Six years later May bought the Hull and Dutton store in Cleveland, Ohio for $300,000 cash. Then, in 1903, May left Denver, moving to St. Louis to direct 1 his swiftly growing empire. After acquiring additional stores from coast to coast, the parent May Company Stores, was incorporated in New York in 1910 with David May as president.2 Now in St. Louis, David May directed that his store in Denver be rebuilt and enlarged to meet the competition from The Denver Dry Goods and Daniels & Fisher. In 1906 he built a fourstory million-dollar building on eleven lots at 16th and Champa. In Denver's early years, Mrs. Margaret Catlin had purchased the eleven lots for $600 and thirty years later sold those lots to David May for $60,000. 1 Forbes Parkhill, The May Story (New Jersey: Bro-Dart Industries, 1952), 24. 2 Ibid., 26.
70 The May Store was now a complete department store, con-taining 91,250 square feet and, like The Denver Dry Goods Company, boasted an escalator or "moving stairway." The Denver Dry Goods had completed their six-story structure, extending all the way to 15th Street in 1907, and the store claimed to have the Rocky Mountain region's first escalator and a wide 400-foot first floor aisle. This main floor aisle extended all the way from 16th to 15th Street, and was considered one of the longest retailing aisles in Am 3 The'May Store had moved into a new field appealing primarily to the middle income customer. According to Frank J. Johns, former President, The Denver Dry Goods Company had built a reputation on dependability and had the middle to lower class customer and one-4 fourth of the upper class. An ad in the Denver City Directory of 1918 shows a picture of The Denver Dry Goods, with the caption: "Absolutely Reliable." The Daniels & Fisher Store had the "carriage trade," which dated back to the days when Baby Doe Tabor enjoyed "curb service" whenever she went shopping there, as did many of the "soiled doves" of Market Street. The store management had built a fine reputation with Denver's social elite and power brokers such as former Governor 3 Denver Post, 15 April 1953. Also, "History of Denver Dry Goods," 11 May 1957, Part I, 1 (Archives Downtown Store). 4Frank J. Johns, interview, 2 March 1982.
71 John Evans and family, the Tellers (Henry M.), the Kasslers (George), and the Powers (John) The Denver Dry Goods Company had good quality merchandise, but had not achieved the pretigious image to equal the Daniels & Fisher image. Dennis Sheedy had run the store as he would a bank or a smelting company, to show a good healthy profit for the company's stockholders, and to offer the store's customers good quality merchandise at fair prices. The store's advertising motto, "Absolutely Reliable," tended to back up Sheedy's management policy. Joslin Dry Goods Company, on the other hand, met the customer needs of the laborer and smelter worker. J. Jay Joslin's retailing aim was ahmys to appeal to the bargain minded cost conscious customer. And, although the store prospered Joslin had run into financial difficulties in 1915-16. Then in 1919 Joslin sold his store to the growing Mercantile Stores, Inc. in New York City and the Joslin stores remain in that group at the present time,5 but retain the name Joslins. The era of the family and/or locally owned department store was coming to an end, perhaps without Denver's customers completely aware of the far-reaching changes to be made in the retailing department store structure. Major Daniels had continued living abroad. During the hostilities of World War I, he had underwritten the costs of 5 Denver Post, Contemporary sec., "Joslins Reminisces Back to 1873," 22 April 1973.
72 running a recuperation hospital for wounded Allied soldiers in a chalet on Lac du Thoune, near Gunten, Switzerland. His second wife, an English girl, Cicely Banner, and family friend, Florence Martin, were running the hospital. Major Daniels had returned to the United States to volun-teer his services, but there is no record that Daniels served his government in any capacity. The last personal letter that A. B. Trott, Daniels & Fisher store executive, had from Major Daniels was from Havana, Cuba, dated 3 May 1916. The Major wanted to thank Trott for the panama hat he had given him sometime before and to tell him what a hit it was with the Cubans. In a hilarious account, Daniels told Trott of the young Cuban girls who thought the use of the powder-puff instead of bath water was just the most wonderful 6 way to handle their hygiene habits. Daniels' trip to Cuba and on to Argentina rather than Denver, would indicate that he had complete confidence in Charles MacAllister Willcox and A. B. Trott and their ability to run a successful operation at the store. On 18 March 1918, Charles MacAllister Willcox received a cable from Argentina notifying him that Major Daniels had died of intermittent fever, at the age of 47, in Buerios Aires at the home of Frederick Watts. His dying instructions were that his body be cremated and sent back to Denver. 6Major William Cooke Daniels to A. B. Trott, 3 May 1916 (Frances Trott Robinson Papers).
Cicely Daniels, Major Daniels wife, died in the fall of 1918. The influenza epidemic was sweeping Europe and, even though she and Miss Martin were quite ill, they made a trip to England 73 for supplies for the hospital. They checked into London's Claridge Hotel, a physician was summoned, but Mrs. Daniels died a short time later. She was 34. Following the war Miss Martin returned to Denver, and accompanied by Mr. Trott, took part of Major Daniels' ashes to England and buried them next to Cicely's grave outside of London. The other half remained in Denver in an urn that was kept in a safe on the fourth floor of the tower of the Daniels & Fisher store. When business was bad (Frances Trott Robinson, Trott's daughter remembers) A. B. Trott would take the urn of ashes to the window, 7 blow on them and business would pick up. For a number of years after Major and Cicely Daniels' deaths, there was litigation over their estates, but eventually the matter was settled with Charles MacAllister Willcox receiving onefourth of stock in Daniels & Fisher and Florence Martin receiving store stock from Cicely Daniels' estate. Willcox became President and remained in that position until 1929 when A. B. Trott and a group of Denver businessmen purchased control of the store and Willcox retired. Trott became President and Walter Beans became Vice-President and Treasurer. That was the year of the stock market 7Frances Trott Robinson, interview, 17 November 1982.
crash and Mr. Trott probably took Major Daniels' ashes to the window many times during the ensuing Depression years. In 1929, Daniels & Fisher had more than eight hundred employees (as compared to five in the store on Larimer Street in 1873). The store's floor space covered more than eight acres and it had buying offices in New York and important European fashion centers like London and Paris. When Mr. Trott would return from buying trips abroad, he would call a meeting of the buyers and department heads, present the merchandise and ask their opinion as to retail price they should place on it. Daniels & Fisher store "held its own" during the Depres-sian years. A Daniels & Fisher annual report, 31 December 1933, stated total assets at $2,906,102.67. Frances Trott Robinson (A. B. Trott's daughter) writing about those years said: Good management and bold and imaginative merchandising were the key to the store's success during these depression days and afterward. My Dad took some of the buyers to Europe with him, and trained them in those markets. And he knew his customers well too. Many times he bought special things for customers that they asked him to "pick up" for them. The store was one big family, also; and if anyone had troubles, they knew they would get sympathy and help from Dad. Then too, the customer was always right; and all employees, including my Dad, knew they were to go out of their way to please. They were strengthened in this belief by being on commission! My father was very well paid, but he aTso was working toward a bonus each year.8 74 The Denver Dry Goods Company also weathered the Depression years in the capable hands of Charles A. Shinn as General Manager. 8Frances Trott Robinson, interview (by correspondence), 21 March 1982.
Shinn, a native of Illinois, began his retailing career at The Denver as a salesman in the silk or yard goods department in 1906. He was first elected to the Board of Directors at a stock-holders' meeting, 28 February 1920, with Dennis Sheedy appointing him store superintendent in June 1923.9 75 Dennis Sheedy had been suffering from a heavy cold for about ten days when he contacted pneumonia and died 9 October 1923. He had been absent from the store only a few days before his death.10 At a Board of Directors meeting on 27 October 1923 George B. Berger, the President of Colorado National Bank, was nominated President to fill Sheedy's unexpired term and a memorial was written as follows: From organization of Company up to the time of his death, covering a span of almost thirty years, Mr. Sheedy was its only President. Thrown upon his own resources as a mere boy, educating himself, never faltering, always overcoming obstacles, and forging ahead, he had already reached the pinnacle of achievement in other large enterprises and the phenomenal success of our own Company is a lasting monument to his executive ability, wise business judgement, knowledge of men and wide practical experience. With him there was no such word as fail.ll In December of that same year, the Board was involved in negotiations with Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney, Inc., a prestigious 9Minutes Denver Dry Goods Co. Stockholders' Meeting, 28 February 1920. Also, Denver Post, 30 November 1944. 10 Rocky Mountain News, 9 October 1923, col. 10. 11Minutes Denver Dry Goods Co. Board Meeting, 27 October 1923, 10:00 A.M.
76 department store in St. Louis, Missouri, toward buyjng the stock of The Denver Dry Goods Company. Sheedy had been a good friend of Melvin L. Wilkinson, President of Scruggs and Mrs. Sheedy had asked 12 Wilkinson if he would buy The Denver. A resolution was passed, at a special Board meeting 21 March 1924, to sell the store to Scruggs for $1,722,000. Upon completion of the sale, Frank M. Mayfield, son-in-law of Mr. Wilkinson, was elected 1st Vice President, as well as a director, with Wilkinson to serve asPresident until the next stockholders' meeting.13 In Harch of 1925, Mr. Wilkinson died, as the result of a toboggan accident on the Ulysses S. Grant farm in Missouri and Frank M. Mayfield became President of The Denver, with Hugh L. MacWhirter Vice President and General Manager. Paul Felix, a former advertising and sales promotion execu-tive with The Denver Dry Goods Company, describes Mayfield as, "a nice man and a real gentleman. He was elegant and calm and hand-14 some and everybody was in awe of Mayfield." In discussing Mayfield, Frank Johns praised him as a gentleman in all transactions and said that he was trained as a 12 Minutes Denver Dry Goods Co. Board Meeting, 27 December 1923. Frank J. Johns, interview, 2 March 1982. 13 Minutes Denver Dry Goods Co. Special Board Meeting, 21 March 1924. 14Paul Felix, former Vice President Sales Promotion, The Denver Dry Goods Co., interview (telephone), 29 October 1984.
77 banker and remained that all his life.15 There were six men in the store who were making $10,000 a year when Mayfield became President and he said that was too many making that kind of money and some 16 would have to go. According to Paul Felix, "the store was on its last legs and they gave it to Mr. Shinn to run." Shinn guided the store through the Depression and he did it, according to Felix, "Because he was tight fisted and he wouldn't spend a dime if he didn't have to. He was not a flamboyant man at all, he was the superintendent 17 type." According to Frank J. Johns, Shinn's successor, "Mayfield never treated Mr. Shinn fairly." Johns continued, He [Shinn] left me with a sound business, everything solid. I inherited a solid package and I kept it very solid. Mr. Shinn contributed greatly to the stability of The Denver Dry Goods Company. He was a very positive taskmaster and demanded performance. He brought The Denver to a very high level of profitability and growth, which go hand in hand.l8 A Denver Post article, 15 April 1953, saluting Shinn's forty-seven years service to the store, said of him: "Shinn was a great believer in promoting from the ranks. He had hanging on his office wall this verse": 15 Frank J. Johns, interview, 18 September 1984. 16Paul B. Cornwall, former Controller (April 1931 to 1966), The Denver Dry Goods Co., interview (telephone), 29 October 1984. 17Paul Felix, interview (telephone), 29 October 1984. 18 Frank J. Johns, interviews, 4 April 1984 and 18 September 1984.
To those who talk and talk This proverb should appeal; The steam.which blows the whistle Will never turn the wheel.l9 Frank J. Johns, Shinn's successor, came to The Denver Dry Goods Company from Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney, Inc., the St. Louis department store which owned The Denver. And, although Johns did not become President of the store until 1948, he was actually running the store as General Merchandise Manager from 1946 on, due to the illness of Mr. Shinn. During Johns' years as a General Merchandise Manager, inflation started (1942) but, "expenses did not go up as fast as inflation and the store was making huge profits."20 At the time that Johns assumed the Presidency, the store was threatened with a strike by its employees. In November 1947, 78 employees at The Denver voted in a U.S. government conducted elec-tion to be represented by the Retail Clerks Union Local 454, American Federation of Labor. The local 454 put out flyers informing customers that the local had tried to negotiate with the store for nearly seven months. One flyer stated: Please Don't Buy Here $30 Per Week Is Not A Living Wage21 19 Denver Post, 15 April 1953, n.p. 2Frank J. Johns, interview, 4 April 1984. 21Retail Clerks Union Local 454, American Federation of Labor Strikers' Flyer.
Strikers, at the store's entrance, would ask customers to sign a card notifying The Denver that they would not buy anything until the company agreed to arbitration. The strikers maintained that The Denver had: 1. Refused to grant any genuine wage increases. 2. Refused back pay for seven months delay. 3. Refused to agree to peaceable arbitration of differences by an impartial arbiter. The union accused the store management of following The M C li f i k "k 22 ay ompany po cy o try ng to provo e a str1 e. Frank Johns remembers that the Union threatened a strike just before he became store President. "They already had a union at May Company," he remembers, but later the May broke the union and refused to have anything more to do with them. However, with The Denver, the commission ordered an election and the clerks won the election and they had to negotiate with the union. Later  there was a decertification of the union because the union no longer represented a majority of the employees.23,24 Frank Johns, who as a member of the Chamber of Commerce 79 (he served as its President during 1951-52), was aware of Denver's growth pattern and felt it was time to expand the growth of the store. So, in 1953 The Denver opened its first suburban store in 25 the newly developing Cherry Creek Shopping Center. From the 22 Strikers' Flyer. 23Frank J. Johns, interview, 18 September 1984. 24 Department store clerks were never unionized after 1948 and today (1987) are not unionized. 25The Denver Dry Goods Company Cherry Creek branch store was the first suburban store in the city.
beginning the Cherry Creek store was a tremendously successful operation. "This was the first suburban s.tore in Denver except for Montgomery Ward, which was on South Broadway," Johns noted. "This Cherry Creek store prompted traffic changes in retailing in Denver." Johns continued, ... like the first punt in a championship football game. At the time, Sears Roebuck and Company was located where the United Bank of Denver is today. Sears immediately decided that they should close down and move out across the street from The Denver. They opened in 1954-55. The May Company then built their University Hills store, which was their first suburban venture and The Denver followed with a second branch at Lakeside Shopping Mall, which opened 26 in August 1956. Meanwhile the Daniels & Fisher Store was losing its position as the number one in Denver. Poor management 80 and poor merchandising were the chief reasons for the decline. Mr. Trott died on 15 December 1944, and Walter Beans became President. Then Edward C. Yourell took over the presidency when Mr. Beans retired in 1946. Mr. Trott had been unhappy with Mr. Yourell's performance as merchandise manager, but he was unable to find anyone to replace him. The accountants who were officers of the store were very loyal and did their best, but did not have the 27 necessary merchandising expertise. 26 Frank J. Johns, interview, 18 September 1984. 27Frances Trott Robinson, interview, 21 March 1982.
81 William Zeckendorf, a New York real estate financier and developer who had no merchandising experience, purchased controlling interest in Daniels & Fisher in 1953 for $1.6 million in cash, which he raised in New York. He intended to relocate the store in the Court House Plaza area of Denver which he was in the process of developing. Zeckendorf had been involved in Denver real estate since 1945 and had completed Mile High Center in 1956, the same 28 year that serious digging began on Court House Square. When Zeckendorf ran into financial difficulties, he sold his Daniels & Fisher stock to two national department store chains--Jerome M. Ney and Associates of Fort Smith, Arkansas and Younker Brothers of Des Moines, Iowa. The new owners pledged that they would move Daniels and Fisher to Zeckendorf's Court House Square site when completed. However, retailing maneuvers were taking place between The May Company and Younker Brothers. May Company was making incursions into Iowa and, at the same time, worried about the lumps they would take in Denver with Daniels & Fisher controlled by Younker Brothers and Ney Associates. After a series of negotiations the May-Younkers confrontation was eased, when the May Company, raising the white flag in Iowa, gave up its store there to Younkers. Younkers, in turn, allowed the May_ Company to take over the Daniels and Fisher store in Denver. As part of the deal, the May Company, once it merged with Daniels and Fisher; would move into Court House Square. Webb and Knapp would take 28william Zeckendorf and Edward The Autobiography of William Zeckendorf (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970), 122.
over both the old Daniels and Fisher and the vacated May Company properties in the same way auto dealers take in second-hand cars as trade-ins.29 According to Frank Johns, Zeckendorf had also approached The Denver about vacating their building and moving down to his new developing area. Mr. Johns said, "they were tempted, but decided against the move."30 Mr. Johns said they were concerned when May Company bought the stock and Daniels & Fisher store name and moved into Zecken-dorf's new building. They wondered what they should do to offset 82 the impact of this move. Johns hired Bernice Gibbons, a well known advertising woman from New York, to come to Denver and present an advertising format that would offset the competition of the May D&F image. They opened with a series of ads that would help draw attention to The Denver, with the theme: There Is A New Girl in Town, She's beautiful, She's going to turn many people's heads, She has a good reputation. But we don't want you people to forget That there is an old reliable too. Gibbons prepared a half dozen ads that were to offset the -competition and these ads created national attention.31 "The store had excellent direction under Johns' control," according to Paul Felix, "He raised the level of the merchandise 29 Ibid. 124-25. 30 Frank J. Johns, interview, 2 March 1982. Zeckendorf, Autobiography, 124-25. 31Frank J. Johns, interview, 18 September 1984.
and was a hard boss, very difficult." Felix continued, "He had a fine sense of what's good taste and was right. He was a perfectionist," Felix concluded.32 With this sound healthy condition of the store, there was no problem in finding a buyer when Frank Mayfield's failing health dictated that he must sell The Denver. A Denver Post, 21 April 1964 announced a 10 million stock 83 transaction between two major corporations--Marshall-Wells Company of Norwich, Connecticut, a subsidiary of the even larger Larchfield Corporation--purchased the stock of Scruggs-VandervoortBarney, Inc. of St. Louis, which owned The Denver Dry Goods Company. Some 640,000 stock shares were involved in a transaction with a price of $16.35 per share.33 This was followed by an article in the Rocky Mountain News, 14 December 1964 with the story of the sale of The Denver Dry Goods Company to Associated Dry Goods Corporation of New York City.34 Mr. Johns knew Lewis P. Seiler, President of Associated Dry Goods Company (a corporation of department stores located throughout the country) because they used, at that time, the same New York buying office, Frederick Atkins. He approached Seiler with an offer to sell. The purchase was completed in March 1965 32Paul Felix, interview (telephone), 29 October 1984. 33Denver Post, 21 April 1964, 3. 34 Rocky Mountain News, 14 December 1964, 5.
84 with Mr. Johns remaining as store President until his retirement in 1970.35 The growth and development of Denver's department stores should be compared to other large businesses of their era. They started small, grew, expanded and either succeeded and acquired additional properties or were, in their turn, liquidated or absorbed into other larger companies. The first Denver department store to be taken over was Joslins, acquired by Mercantile Stores, Inc. in 1919. The Denver Dry Goods Company followed in 1923 when purchased by ScruggsVandervoort-Barney, Inc. The Daniels & Fisher store suffered perhaps the most tragic fate of all the stores. That store ceased to exist after 20 August 1957. Perhaps the course of events would have been different for The Denver had Dennis Sheedy left a son or grandson who could have followed their father or grandfather into the store. The Daniels & Fisher store's fate may have been different also had not William Cooke Daniels died at such an early age or left a male heir. David May alone was the retailing pioneer who had sons and grandsons who followed him in the May Corporate empire. After his death on 22 July 1927, May's son, Morton J. May, succeeded him as President of the growing corporation. Morton J. May served as President and Chief Executive Officer until his death in 1968. 35Frank J. Johns, interview, 4 April 1984.
Morton D. May, David May's grandson, followed his father as President and CEO, serving on the May Corporation Board until his 36 death, 13 April 1983. Morton J. May, when a student at the University of Colorado, spent his vacations learning the clothing business by unloading freight in the alley behind the Larimer Street store, and distributing balls, bats and pencil boxes to juvenile customers.37 With the advent of David May's grandson in control of May Corporation, all personal ties to the company's early beginnings 85 in Colorado were in the past. The grandson began his retail career working at store headquarters in St. Louis (Famous-Barr Company). From there he moved on to the corporate-owned May Store in Cleveland, Ohio, going back to St. Louis to round out his career. He never came to Denver to work in the May D&F store operation; this store operation by then was just another outlet in the 38 corporation chain. 36D "1 a1 y News Record, 14 April 1983, Obituaries sec., 37 Parkhill, The Mar 24. 38Daill News Record, 14 April 1983, Obituaries sec., 6. 6.
EPILOGUE The department store had become a major institution in every major city by the turn of the century. And Denver's depart-ment stores were solid institutions that had contributed not only to the economy, but society as well. Store management gave employment to many Denver citizens and their owners contributed to many endeavors. David May had donated large amounts to the National Jewish Hospital and Dennis Sheedy had always been very generous to the Catholic Church. And William Cooke Daniels gave to Denver its proud landmark, The Daniels & Fisher Tower. It is hoped that the legacy of The Tower and its struc-ture will survive for years to come. But what of the David May legacy? As recorded, May left Denver in 1903; moving to St. Louis, Missouri to begin laying the foundation for his corporate network of coast to coast stores. May Company, Los Angeles and Kaufmann's, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were two major entities of 1 that network. But May's lasting impact on the Denver economy is yet to be felt. After weeks of negotiating by the two corporations and industry speculation, it was announced that May Department Stores 1Forbes Parkhill, The May Story (New Jersey: Bra-Dart Industries, 1952), 31.
87 Company and Associated Dry Goods Corporation had agreed to a merger. May Company would take over Associated in a $2.53 billion dollar deal. This merger has created the second largest department store group in the country, with a 1985 sales volume of $9,413,000,000. This would be slightly behind Federated Stores' (largest department store group in the country) 1985 sales volume 2 of $9,978,000,000. With the merger, May Department Stores Company will control the largest department store retailing operation in Colorado. May D&F had ten stores, with 2,300 employees, while The Denver Dry Goods Company had twelve stores that employed 2,500. In total, Hay 3 Department Stores would have 4,800 on their Colorado payroll. Add to that the enormous power May Company will hold over the Denver newspapers. Both local newspapers vie for the department store advertising dollars and now former competitors would be one and the same when it comes to dealing with newspaper advertising. To fully comprehend the amount of advertising dollars both former department store rivals have contributed to the newspapers, one need only look at the daily advertising rates. The daily full page advertising rate for an advertisement in the Denver Post for The Denver Dry Goods Company was $3,621.32 and $3,270.96 for May lwomen's Wear Daily, 17 July 1986, 3, "May Co. and ADG Agree to a Merger"; Denver Post, 17 July 1986, Business sec. E, 1; and Rocky Mountain News, 17 July 1986, Business sec., 6. 3 Rocky Mountain News, 19 July 1986, Business sec., 82.
D&F. At the Rocky Mountain News daily rates are $2,573.35 for 4 May D&F and $2,219.70 for the Denver Dry Goods Company. From these figures and making note of the tremendous amount of adver-tising that is done by both store groups, it could be said, "When May Department Stores speak, Denver's newspaper publishers will listen." With this victory by David May's corporate legacy, it is only appropriate that his gleeful double-page ad, which ran (June 1892) in the Rocky Mountain News be repeated: Entitled, WHY WE REJOICE! it reads: It is with a feeling of triumph that we today recall the scenes in the Clothing Arena of Denver of but three years ago, previous to our arrival, when the merciless Clothing Gladiators were feasting at the expense of the masses, asking wartime prices for worthless plunder, compare them with the conditions of today. As we look down from our lofty position of Prosperity, Prominence and Popularity into the sunny valley of three short and successful business years, and view with much pride the grand and honorable basis upon which we have placed the clothing business in Denver, how we have broken the ice of high prices on unreliable apparel, unmasked competition and put them to flight, and opened a new era in the clothing field for the poorest as well as the richest, we rejoice in our title as the CLOTHING MONARCHS OF THE WEST. As Sheridan, dashing into Winchester, brought victory for his soldiers, so did THE MAY dash into the competitors' camp with victory for the toilers of the Silver State and open the flood gates of Eastern prices and Metropolitan styles to Western consumers. Our followers' greedy careers must soon draw to a close; they are in a perplexing predicament; they groan in agonizing tones and their whole frames shake like the tender branches of a leafless elm, as they see themselves through the mirror of chagrin. 4vendor Advertising Rates (May D&F and Denver Dry Goods Advertising Departments). 88
89 With The Famous of St. Louis, which we now own, we are one of the largest consumers of Clothing, Furnishings, Hats and Shoes in the country, with double capacity to work with, with ability and capital to properly handle it, with hydraulic pressure behind it, we shall forever stand head and shoulders above all competition. We feel ourselves gaining weight on the scales of the public's confidence; we have won it, and now only ask you to map our matchless methods on your memory, and with our assurance that the grand reward for our past deeds will help strengthen our determination to merit your continued patronage, we now proudly unfurl our banner, upon which is written: Cash, Pluck and Enterprise, the life-blood which flows freely into the heart of our grand business. Let us shake hands by proxy, and believe us, &s ever Yours for Values THE MAYS David May's conquest of Colorado retailing and the final chapter for The Denver Dry Goods Company was written on 30 January 1987. On that date The Denver's 2,500 store employees were noti-fied that May Corporate was closing all stores of The Denver. Four stores were to be re-opened as May D&F stores and the remain-ing eight were to be sold or closed. The corporate purpose behind this move (buy out and closing) was simply explained by former May D&F president, David Touff in a 1982 interview. When asked why May Company bought out Daniels & Fisher, he answered, "eliminate your competition."6 May Corporate, recognized in the retailing industry as a company unconcerned about prestige, but very much concerned about net profits, would take a "bottom line" approach to The Denver's 5 Parkhill, The Story, 16-17. 6 David Touff,interview, 11 March 1982.
90 profit structure. Joslins department stores reported sales of more than $200 million for 1986, May D&F reported sales of $172 million and The Denver reported sales of $152 million. It was only a matter of time before May Corporate would decide that The Denver's stores were expendable. Their closing would generate a better profit picture for May Corporate stockholders and place May D&F as the number one department store retailer in Colorado. May D&F and Joslins have felt the impact of loss of customer loyalty and that customer's changing shopping patterns. They have attempted to meet this threat with more cost efficient operations and constant merchandise sale campaigns. The stores run twelve hour sales, coupon off sales and anniversary sales in an effort to entice. a straying customer back to their store. The department stores are being robbed of customers from three areas. The discount stores such as Target or K-Mart take customers away from the department stores because they offer similar merchandise at a lower price point. These discounters can sell for less because of large sales volume and not offering customer service. Next, the consumer trend of entertainment shopping at the small specialty stores is cutting into department store volume. These specialty shops, such as Barbara & Company, Auer's, Perkins 7 Shearer, Talbots and Ann Taylor, take customers away from 7Talbots and Ann Taylor also have a catalog operation that services many Denver customers. They both opened stores in the Denver market after establishing a customer base.
department stores because they offer excellent customer service, provide an exciting place in which to shop and offer one-of-a-kind or unusual merchandise. 91 The revival of catalog shopping has also cut into department store sales. Catalog companies such as L. L. Bean, Orvis, Carroll Reed and The Tog Shop offer consumers merchandise that is not often found in department stores, plus the advantage of shopping from the comforts of their own home. The catalog operations work in the same manner as the original mail order companies, such as Sears Roebuck & Company, but they offer select specialty store type merchandise, much in the same manner as the specialty and boutique shops in Denver. The small specialty shops and catalog operations were able to establish their operations primarily because of the major trend in charge card services. With the advent of the charge card, small specialty stores and small catalog operations could compete for the customer, who previously had only the department stores offering charge account service. Department stores also aided their competition, the small specialty store, when they began anchoring large suburban shopping malls. These shopping malls must have the large department store as an anchor in order to establish a customer base. But, along with the department store, there is need for the small specialty type store. And, with the consumer's ever growing desire for novelty and diversion they find the smaller store inviting. These
92 smaller stores, that specialize in the unique and unusual, draw away customers from the unimaginative merchandise approach of the modern department store. Ironically, the modern department store, that put the door-to-door peddlers out of business in the nineteenth century, now faces competition from today's modern peddlers, such as the "Avon Lady." In his book, Merchant Princes, Leon Harris says that customers' disgust with lack of service from indifferent sales-people in chain-owned department stores has brought back the peddler. The "Avon Lady" with her gift and solicitous service is the old-8 time peddler. The retailing scene for Denver, and the country as well, has evolved from the peddler to the small country general store, to the small specialty shops and to the large department stores--the grand "Consumer Palaces." With the locally owned department store takeover by the national chains, the scenario changes. In the beginning American merchants were an important part of a community. They belonged to that community and were a community booster. Today, the head of May D&F or Marshall Fields. knows that if he shows a good volume of profit for his store, he may remain in a given community for perhaps five years and then be transferred to a better position with a larger store in another locality. He will not become a community booster such as the early day community 8 Leon Harris, Merchant Princes (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1979), 349-50.
93 booster because his loyalties lie with the corporate or parent company and not with his community. In 1930 Hugo L. Black of Alabama (later Supreme Court Justice) warned, "the local man and merchant is passing and his community loses his contribution to local affairs as an independent thinker and executive."9 The independent thinker has no place in the corporate world of the large department store chains. The head of a locally run department store group receives his direc-tions from corporate and dare not deviate. He merely serves as a figurehead at the discretion of corporate. Much has been lost with the sweeping changes in department store structure. And, those changes have eliminated the possibilities for any revival of the early day department store. In a speech to New York's Fashion Group, at the Pierre Hotel, 15 January 1987, Joel Horowitz, President of Murjani International, Ltd., a women's specialty store chain, said, "Retailings' future rests on small, spec.ialty shops, like ours, 10 featuring innovative designs, merchandising and environments." Today's customer finds excitement and novelty in the many innovative shops at Tabor Center, in Larimer Square and in the International Collection on South Broadway Street in Denver. Perhaps David May and his flamboyant merchandising approach for 9 Ibid., 351. 10Joel Horowitz, President of Murjani International, Ltd., speech, 15 January 1987.
94 the department store will be replaced by equally daring and innovative merchandising techniques by small shop owners who give the special attention and service to their customers that David May once gave to the Leadville miner who gathered around his store's pot-bellied stove. David May pointed the direction for future department store retailing through his acquisitions and store expansions. He left a legacy but will it match the legacy left by William Cooke Daniels for imaginative entertaining shopping? William Cooke Daniels left for the Denver consumer the Daniels & Fisher Tower, which today stands as the focal point for a new shopping experience--exploring and enjoying the specialty shops at the Tabor Center and Larimer Square. * * Once distinctive department stores owned by leading local "merchant princes" reflected the personalities and tastes of their owners. Within a century, between the 1880s and the 1980s, America experienced the rise, the glory days and the decline of a major urban institution.
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