Collection of 13 Original Photographs of Depression-Era F.W. Woolworth's Storefronts and Displays, Most in California. MERCHANDISING WOOLWORTH'S.
Collection of 13 Original Photographs of Depression-Era F.W. Woolworth's Storefronts and Displays, Most in California
Collection of 13 Original Photographs of Depression-Era F.W. Woolworth's Storefronts and Displays, Most in California
Collection of 13 Original Photographs of Depression-Era F.W. Woolworth's Storefronts and Displays, Most in California
Collection of 13 Original Photographs of Depression-Era F.W. Woolworth's Storefronts and Displays, Most in California
Collection of 13 Original Photographs of Depression-Era F.W. Woolworth's Storefronts and Displays, Most in California

Collection of 13 Original Photographs of Depression-Era F.W. Woolworth's Storefronts and Displays, Most in California

Thirteen glossy black and white photographs, ranging from 5 x 7 to 8 x 10 inches; 7 with "Santa Paula, Calif." stamped on the verso, 1 with "1029 Market Street, San Francisco, Cal." stamped on the verso, 1 with “Anaheim, Cal.” and “Spears Studio, 222 W. Center Street, Anaheim, Calif.” stamped on the verso and “SPEARS” blindstamped on the recto, 1 with "Frank Palmer, Quincy Mass." stamped in the border on the recto, 1 with "Harding Studio" stamped on the verso, and 2 without identification. Fine.

On September 16, 1922, an advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post related the following anecdote: "In 1879, F.W. Woolworth set forth to do a new thing--to give values for five and ten cents as had never been given before. He knew that values alone will not build a business; the goods must be so displayed that people can see them. After his first little store in Lancaster, Pa., had grown into a great countrywide enterprise, Mr. Woolworth was asked the reasons for the success of the Woolworth Stores. 'Our windows,' was one of the reasons he gave." From the very beginning, the signature Woolworth windows were the company's only form of advertising. They featured standardized lighting (GE's "Edison Mazda Lamps," visible in a number of the photographs here) and sumptuous and enticing displays, the style of which had been codified by the turn of the century by Samuel Knox, an early partner. The photographs in this collection provide many examples: Every window calls out for noses to be pressed up against it, every display beckons the viewer inside, and every counter is piled high, as far as the eye can see. The displays can be elaborate (note the nascent Santa Paula airport models--ca. 1930--in two of the photos, and the Toyland, Christmas, and Easter displays in several others) or whimsical (a window filled with railroad cars and 'aeroplanes'), but even the more mundane (sewing supplies, stationary, dry goods, toiletries) seem voluptuous and welcoming. Despite the wide variety of stock, the merchandising is remarkable for its consistency. Virtually every item is accompanied with its own little price sign, a constant visual reminder that this treasure can be yours, for only a nickel or a dime. That pricing structure held for a full fifty years. Throughout the 1910s and '20s, the familiar "Nothing in this store over 10¢!" banner hung in every Woolworth store. That would change, however, after the crash of 1929. That year, a 15¢ line was added to the lower-priced items, and in 1932 the upper limit was raised again to 20¢. Then, on November 13, 1935, the final blow: as later related by the Saturday Evening Post, “The five-and-ten, as an American institution, came to a quiet end. The occasion was a meeting of the board of directors of the F. W. Woolworth Co. The action they took was designed to engineer the company into merchandising more profitably than the price-restricted field of five-and-ten. On that fateful day, the board voted "that the selling-price limit of twenty cents on merchandise be discontinued.’" Although Woolworth would stay in business for another fifty years, the five-and-dime era truly had come to an end.

Item #19625

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