Today in History: Woolworth Opens First Store

Image from the City of WATERTOWN New York website

June 21, 1879, F.W. Woolworth opened his first store. Although it failed almost immediately, he didn’t give up, and  eventually, Woolworth became a household name. Here is a collection of items mentioning Woolworth’s, from company business, to jokes, a movie and chewing tobacco; together they show the influence of the Woolworth “brand.”

FIVE AND TEN CENT STORES IN BIG TRUST

NEW YORK, Nov. 3. — A $65,000,000 corporation to merge the greatest string of 5 and 10 cent stores in America is announced today by F.W. Woolworth. Six hundred concerns will enter the new corporation, which will be known as F.W. Woolworth and Co.

The new corporation will take over the business of F.W. Woolworth of New York; S.H. Knox & Co. of Buffalo; F.M. Kirby & Co. of Wilkes-barre, Pa.; the E.P. Charleston & Co. of Fall River, Mass.; C.S. Woolworth of Scranton, Pa.; W.H. Moore of Watertown, N.Y., and W.H. Moors & Son of Schenectady, N.Y.
The corporation also will assume a controlling interest in the English business of F.W. Woolworth & Co. limited.

All the concerns involved in the merger own a chain of 5 and 10 cent stores, 600 in number, in all sections of the United States, Canada and England.

It is understood the new corporation will have 7 per cent preferred stock to the value of $15,000,000 and common stock to the value of %50,000,000. It is said that Goldman, Sachs and Co. and Lehman Bros. of New York and Kleinwortsen & Co. of Cleveland will acquire an interest in the new company.

Woolworth one of the founders of the scheme, was one of the originators of the 5 and 10 cent store business and has piled up  millions of dollars on his chain of establishments in which 10 cents will buy anything in the store. His fortune is so great that practically unaided he financed the building of the great building in course of construction in lower Broadway, which will tour 50 stories about the street.

The life of F.W. Woolworth head of the big merger announced today, is the romance of an idea. It is the story of how a tremendous store was built up from nickels and dimes.

Woolworth is the head himself of 286 stores besides supplementary warehouses in Lewistown, Maine, and Denver, Colorado. He has twenty stores in England.

A recent census showed that 1,500,000 persons entered his stores in a day.

The man who mastered such a business is less than 50 years of age. He started without wages as a farmer’s boy in a dry goods store in Watertown, N.Y., set up his first store in 1879 and has been in business for 30 years. He was born in Jefferson county, New York.

When he worked in a store as a boy he evolved the idea that brought him great wealth. Woolworth fixed a uniform price — five and ten cents. He opened his first store in Utica, but the proposition did not go. He tried again in Lancaster, Pa., and there laid the foundation for his fortune. Now Lancaster is an important Woolworth center with a new warehouse that is one of the sights of the town.

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Nov 8, 1911

After deliberating nearly 11 hours a Des Moines, Ia., jury last night decided that bay rum sold in a Woolworth five and ten cent store there is “an intoxicating liquor fit for beverage purposes and should be condemned as such.”

Of course the decision applies only to bay rum in the Des Moines store. It will not affect the sale of similar “lotion” in the Edwardsville Woolworth store, or in stores elsewhere in the country.

As a matter of fact it seems that Edwardsville residents who are brave enough to tackle the liquid will be better off than the folks in Des Moines. Testimony in court there was to the effect that a dime would buy three ounces of the liquid.

Image from The California Perfume Company website

Here it was possible this morning to purchase for a dime a bottle of bay rum, which, according to the label, contained four ounces. The label also said that the liquid contains “60 per cent of alcohol, by volume.” There is nothing to indicate the character of the remaining 10 per cent.

The Iowa case resulted from the seizure, some months ago, by state officers of 3,000 bottles of bay rum. The state charged that the liquid was intoxicating and fit for beverage purposes, which view was upheld by the jury. There was no charges against Woolworth officials, the state merely seeking to confiscate the bottles. Counsel for the company objected.

It was announced today that an appeal would be taken.

At the same time prosecuting authorities at Des Moines announced that a drive would be instituted against sale of bay rum anywhere with their jurisdiction.

So far as is known, this is the first time a jury has passed upon the question of whether bay rum is intoxicating and fit for beverage purposes.

Edwardsville, Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Sep 13, 1929

The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) May 10, 1919

HE WAS THIRSTY TOO

I spied a smart dog quench his thirst in Woolworths 10c store yesterday. Watching the people take a drink at the bubbler, he raised up and helped himself also, to the amusement of all who saw it. G.L.C.

Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Apr 14, 1923

Customer to girl pounding a piano in Woolworth’s: “Would you mind playing Some Time?”

Girl: “Wadda ya think I’m doin’ big boy? Sleepin’?”

Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Aug 12, 1926

He — “I’ll take the first two dances.”

She (who worked in Woolworth’s) — “Twenty cents, please.”

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) May 20, 1926

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Oct 18, 1923

STABS AND JABS AND COUNTERS
By JOE WILLIAMS

Yes, we call those tricky little golf holes “Woolworths.” We make ’em in five or ten.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Aug 24, 1927

Bob: “If you stand over a dime what would you resemble?”

Rob: “I don’t know.”

Bob: “Woolworth’s. Nothing over ten cents.”

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Apr 11, 1922

ALICE WHITE LEADS CAST

Pulchritude and New Plot Ideas Mark Liberty Film.

Dialogue as she is spoke. A whiff of fresh plot ideas: Legs, Curves. Pulchritude with a pull. Good music, good singing, clever lines. That describes “The Girl From Woolworth’s,” which heads a good bill at the Liberty for three days beginning today.

But it doesn’t halfway describe the genuine enjoyment you’re going to get from this First National and Vitaphone offering, because we haven’t mentioned Alice White, the dynamic little star of the piece, and the rest of a really great cast.

Charles Delaney, that engaging young Irish ace of the World war and stunt flyer of the movies, who played opposite Miss White in “Broadway Babies,” is again her leading man. Wheeler Oakman, Ben Hall, Gladden James, Bert Moorehouse, Rita Flynn, Patricia Caron, William Orlamond and Milla Davenport appear in support.

These are not all familiar names on a film offering, because some of them are stage celebrities. Every member of the cast does excellent work And it wouldn’t be fair to pass up a mention of that delectable, pulchritudinous and clever night club chorus of 24 girls. They’re the regular First National — Vitaphone chorus, imported from Broadway, New York, and every inch, curve and kick is class. And William Beaudine‘s direction is splendid.

Still it seems that there is something more that should be said about “The Girl From Woolworth’s” as a charming, heart-touching little love story. The five-and-ten atmosphere, the big town background, the sophistication of the night club — and yet it’s human. That’s it. Human and direct and simple, so that it almost seems old-fashioned. Why, you can tell the story in one short sentence: The love of a boy and girl for each other in the wrong sort of Eden proves strong enough to make the Eden the right sort of garden after all.

By all means, take in “The Girl From Woolworth’s.”

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) Dec 29, 1929

*****

NOTE THE BARGAINS:

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Oct 18, 1918

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