Give the Lady What She Wants


This is the story of two legends.  Marshall Field and Potter Palmer both now resting in Chicago’s Graceland cemetery.

palmer facepalmer tomb

Potter Palmer’s monument is a bit more upscale , Marshall Field’s not so much.220px-Marshall_Field_circa_1915_(cropped) mei

Both were two of the wealthiest men in Chicago,  mastering the world of retail. More important, they both totally understood the women who would shop at their stores.

.Potter Palmer was born May 20, 1826 in Albany County, New York, the fourth son of a Quaker family,  Benjamin and Rebecca (Potter) Palmer. In 1852, Potter Palmer founded, Potter Palmer and Company, a dry goods store on the then fashionable Lake Street in Chicago.  He focused on women and encouraged their patronage. Palmer practiced a “no questions asked” returns policy and was the first owner to advertise with large window displays.  In 1865 because of ill health, he brought in partners Marshall Field and Levi Leiter. The trio joined forces and renamed the firm Field, Palmer, Leiter and Company. After the devastating Chicago Fire,  the store’s name eventually was changed by 1881 to “Marshall Field and Company”.

Marshall Field practiced the maxim that the customer was always right, He pioneered free, same-day delivery service to customers’ homes via a horse and wagon. He like Palmer, offered unconditional refunds, In 1885, he began selling in the basement dubbed the “Budget Floor” with incredible sales numbers. These were just a few of his many groundbreaking innovations designed to please his guests.


28shopcoronetThe story is told that he once found a retail manager speaking heatedly with a woman customer. “What are you doing here?” asked Field. “I am settling a complaint,” he replied. “No, you’re not,” snapped Field. “Give the lady what she wants”! He was one of the first to concentrate on the retail needs of women, a new concept for the time.

Marshall Field was born on a farm in Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts, the son of John Field and  Fidelia Nash.

At the age of 17, he first worked in a dry goods store in Massachusetts before coming to live with his brother in Chicago, Illinois at age 26. Field married twice. First in 1863, he married Nannie Douglas Scott of Ironton, Ohio.  They had two sons and a daughter,  one son, Louis, died in 1866 as an infant. The surviving children were Marshall Field Jr. and Ethel Field. After the death of his first wife Nannie in 1896, Field married Delia Spencer Caton. They had no children together.

Potter Palmer was born Albany County, New York, the fourth son of Benjamin and Rebecca (Potter) Palmer.  He married Bertha Honoré In 1871., she gave birth to a son in 1874, Honoré, and in 1875, she gave birth to another son, Potter Palmer II.

 extralarge Marshall Field pioneered quality retailing, but we all will remember the famous clock at State and Washington and the enchanting and elaborate Christmas windows,  where visiting them at Christmas was a wonderful family traditionftgghyywindow

clockIn later years, Marshall Field and Company was known for the Walnut Room, Frango Mints, Uncle Mistletoe, and over 100 departments. There was the enchanting toy department, magical before Christmas. There was a stamp and coin department, a book department where he pioneered book signings.untitledfrangoGoddard-image-5-600x475

marshall-fields-company-building-interior-macy-s-state-street-field-state-street-chicago-illinois-36128327And behind the scenes:fghyh


The magical toy department


rugIn the 1920’s, the Marshall Field company pioneered machine-made oriental design rugs of high quality at realistic prices. under the Karastan name from his own mills in North Carolina. They wowed tens of thousands of visitors at two World’s Fairs. Consumers quickly learned that the Karastan name means quality, beauty, and durability. an exciting and innovative product . The company built the massive Merchandise Mart for $35 million between 1928-1930 for their wholesale operation, but the depression did not treat it kindly. It was sold to Joseph Kennedy for $12 million in 1945. Fields owned around 30 mills, most producing or converting textiles. which marketed sheets, towels, bedspreads, and blankets under the Fieldcrest label.

Still later,  as the company grew, there were to be over 60 stores, mostly in the Midwest. In the Chicago area, There was Oak Park and Evanston, but other stores were built as shopping malls became popular like Old Orchard, Oakrook, and Park Forest.

1905 s prarieBoth Palmer and Field were very wealthy and lived well during those early years. Marshall Field had a mansion at 1905 Prairie Avenue, a street of wealthy and prominent Chicagoans.



300px-Palmer-8174-1Potter Palmer built his opulent mansion at 1350 N Lake Shore Drive. He also built a luxurious hotel, the Palmer House, as a wedding present for his wife.

.Potter Palmer died in his home of a heart attack on May 4, 1902. The Palmer house is still a Chicago landmark.

imagesVN9CNEW5Marshall Field died in New York City, New York, on January 16, 1906 at age 71 from pneumonia contracted after playing golf with Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son Robert Todd. The Field Museum of Natural History was named after him in 1894 . The University of Chicago was founded in part by Marshall Field.

Fields was sold to Dayton-Hudson in 1990 which later changed their name to the Target Corporation. Target then sold Fields to Macy’s. And there went the golden age of retailing.

Next time you are in downtown Chicago, meet me under the clock.

Airplanes and Cemeteries don’t mix!

They just don’t play well together.  On two separate occasions both an airplane and a helicopter  crashed into Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park .  Another airplane went down into St. Casimir’s cemetery.

Over the years, there have been numerous airplane vs. cemetery crashes in other areas as well.

Hillside Cemetery, Alberta Canada
Hillside Cemetery, Alberta Canada

In 1927 in Lincoln Nebraska, two died in a cemetery crash.  In 1928, an airplane crashed into a cemetery between Burbank and North Hollywood California. Another in 1950 in Mt. Olive Il.  In 1955 a plane crashed into Forest Cemetery near Circleville Ohio. Two died in a cemetery near St. Louis in 1968. Eastlawn Cemetery near Bloomington Illinois had a plane crash into a graveyard in 1972. In 1999 a plane crashed into Mt. Ararat Cemetery in Farmingdale New York. 2006 Hillside Cemetery, Alberta Canada, Holy Cross Cemetery in Butte Montana, a jet plane in 2009. And many more.

schoppe Long before O’Hare Airport, the Orchard Place was the site of three cemeteries, which later were simply deemed “in the way” for airplanes. Only one still remains on airport property. The other two were removed in the name of progress.

With early aviation in Chicago, we had landing fields, airdromes,  flying fields,  aerodromes, Airmail stations, and aviation fields. The pilots were a daring bunch of daredevils with airplane races,  some even known to have been rum running between Detroit and Chicago. Many pilots, however, died in crashes, some into cemeteries. Continue reading “Airplanes and Cemeteries don’t mix!”

Famous: Then Died and Buried Alone!

Thomas Hamilton McCrayOn this day October 19, in 1891, among the poor and forgotten in Cook County Cemetery at Dunning, a famous American inventor, a businessman and most notably a Confederate States Army officer during the American Civil War was buried.

How did he end up in the cemetery among paupers?

Thomas McCray (1828 – Oct. 19, 1891 was born near Jonesborough, Tennessee, to Henry and Martha (Moore) McCray. He farmed in Tennessee and moved to Arkansas, where he operated a mill. Around 1856 he moved to Texas and operated a mill near Tellico. Just before the Civil War, he returned to Arkansas, settling in Wittsburg, Cross County.

In June 1861 he joined the 5th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. He was commissioned a lieutenant and adjutant of that unit. In late 1861 he was detached from his regiment and returned to Arkansas to raise troops. He was elected major, then colonel, of the newly raised 31st Arkansas Infantry. He led a brigade of Texas and Arkansas infantry in the 1862 Kentucky Campaign. As part of Churchill’s division, his brigade distinguishing itself at the August 30, 1862 Battle of Richmond, Kentucky. General Thomas J. Churchill singled out McCray for his “gallantry and coolness” in that action.

Continue reading “Famous: Then Died and Buried Alone!”

Halloween and cemetery images

I have good friend who calls me ‘Grimmy” or “Grim” for short, partly for my passion for all things cemetery and dead like.

 clark-dexterIn honor of the Halloween season Grim offers you a few creepy photos. The first is the famous statue in Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N Clark Street. It has been featured on many websites over the years, but seems very appropriate for this annual Halloween post. It is entitled “Eternal Silence”, well oxidized,  ten feet tall, somewhat creepy even eerie, somber, and standing on black granite.

 It was designed by American sculptor Lorado Taft in 1909 and was one of the artist’s most important works.  The statue was cast in bronze by American Art Bronze Foundry and the proprietor Jules Bercham. He is also credited with casting the two massive lions sitting in front of the Art Institute.

 Taft designed many, one of which was the “Fountain of Time” which has a figure called “Father Time”  similar in design to Eternal Silence. Both have a resemblance to the Grim Reaper.

 Dexter Graves was born about 1789 tor 1793, the oldest son of  Charles Graves and Lucy Brown of Conway Massachucetts. He was a seventh generation descendant of Thomas Graves who settled in Hartford, CT in 1645.  Dexter  was one of the earliest settlers in Chicago arriving July 15 1831 on the schooner Telegraph. He built a hotel downtown Chicago, “The Mansion House”. He died April 29 1844 and was first buried in City Cemetery, now Lincoln Park. He and other members of his family were later moved to Graceland.

rose1.jpg And now my final departing message this Halloween, I invite you to have a nightmare tonight,  thinking about Georges Rodenbach 1855-1898  climbing out of the grave and handing you a rose. The tombstone is in Cimetière du Père Lachaise , 8 boulevard de Ménilmontant  Paris, France. I credit and thank Tim Baldy for this picture.

rose2 Georges Rodenbach was a Belgian novelist and poet, born on 16 July 1855. He belonged to the artistic symbolist movement. Besides writing poetry, Georges worked as a lawyer and a journalist. He spent most of his life in Belgium and moved to Paris 10 years before his death in 1898. His most famous piece is the novel Bruges-la-Morte.

 The book was published in 1892 and it tells the story of a widower who could not get over the death of his wife and lives in the past. He rarely leaves the house and spends his time among his wife’s possessions: her clothes, shoes, letters, even a piece of her hair. Bruges-la-Morte was an inspiration to many poets and composers, as it was so tragic and romantic.


Happy Halloween and may you have a pleasant nightmare..