We're revisiting the summer fashions of 1925 this week in the Hagley Vault, with a little help from John Wanamaker and a catalog full of "delightful frocks", "prevailing Paris fashions", "smart summer hats", "charming underthings", "bathing togs" and "King Baby's Royal Necessities".
Marketing pioneer John Wanamaker (1838-1922) opened his department store at 13th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in April, 1876, Wanamaker’s department store was one of America’s first modern department stores. His goal was to revolutionize the experience of shopping, turning a mundane activity into a grand event. Wanamaker’s was well-ventilated, decorated with contemporary art, with large rooms that, after 1911, included a 150-foot-high Grand Court featuring attractions like the world’s second largest organ and a great eagle from the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair.
The store was the first department store to feature electric lighting (installed in 1878), the first to adopt the telephone (in 1879), and the first to install a pneumatic tube delivery systems for transporting documents and cash deposits throughout the building (installed in 1880). It also relied on innovations in customer service and marketing, including the substitution of of haggling for prices in favor of a set sales price. This decision was partly due to Wanamaker’s desire to make shopping a more pleasurable, less adversarial experience. But it was also informed by Wanamaker’s devout Presbyterian faith, which led him to decide that “if everyone was equal before God, then everyone should be equal before price”.
Wanamaker’s Summer 1925 catalog is one of many in Hagley Library’s published collections. To view it and others that have been digitized for inclusion in our Digital Archive, just click here.