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Department Store History

Noontime on State Street, with Mandel Brothers on right and Marshall Field's granite exterior in the distance.

If you had been a typist working in Chicago's Loop at this time, around 1910, you would have eaten your lunch as quickly as possible and run off to one or more of the department stores that lined State Street. Daily visits to their busy aisles and counters were commonplace, and many suburban women rode the streetcars several times a week to shop in them. There were sales every day, some days every hour. And if you decided you didn't like your purchase, you knew you could return it. The customer was always right, as much as it pained the stores to take back great volumes of merchandise.

Woodward Avenue, Detroit, with Kern's and then Hudson's looming in the distance.

How the mighty have fallen. Hudson's, once the second largest department store in the country in terms of sales, no longer exists, its flagship store imploded into smithereens years ago. To say it was mighty is no exaggeration. In 1947 its 16 selling floors contained Detroit's largest bookstore, largest drugstore, and largest toystore.

Famous-Barr, Clayton branch, opened 1948.

Famous-Barr in St. Louis was one of the flagship stores of the May Company which owned department stores all over the country -- until its recent absorption by Federated Department Stores. The branch store in Clayton was entirely new and modern when this photograph was taken.