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Ladies' Furnishings: 1951

Ladies' Furnishings: 1951

May 17, 1951. "John Wanamaker, Great Neck, Long Island. Staircase I." Two departments of this New York department store; we wonder if Alice and Trixie ever ventured out this far. 4x5 negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Hot Copper Bottoms

Looking down the stairs, to the right, is a sales gondola of RevereWare copper bottom saucepans with lids. I wish we could read the pricing panel at the top of the gondola. My grandmother prized her RevereWare and the copper was always bright and polished. I still use much of her collection, over 60 years old.

Childhood memories.

My mother used to shop at this store. Those elevators were manned by uniformed operators ready to transport you to any of the three floors. After Wanamaker left it became Gertz for many years until the seventies.

Mini mannequin

I have a very dim memory of such mannequins being used to display miniature foundation garments in the 1950s, presumably in the interests of modesty.

The day after the store opened

And less than four years before it closed. Story here.

Before self-service

This was a very elegant, plush and classy environment in which to shop without the frantic pace and chaos of lining up at checkout counters, when a salesperson would leisurely show you what was available, find your size, attend to your needs and check with the stockroom to see if they had exactly what you wanted. Sometimes there was a live piano player on the main floor and the carpeting kept the noise level soft, peaceful and quiet. I am curious about the item that looks like a miniature female mannequin in a hooded raincoat on the extreme left counter of this picture near the hats and accessories. I bet that little novelty would be a collectible today and I think it would have been a pleasure to shop here.

[That's a nice evocation of the old-school department store. There were of course plenty of self-service retail establishments going back to the early years of the 20th century, and I suspect Wanamaker's, with its racks of suiting and shelves of shirts, had the about same degree of self-service as its modern analogues. What it isn't is a high-volume discount chain like Walmart or Target. - Dave]

Yes Dave, you are correct. One store that is old and probably out of business stands out in my mind as basically just racks and racks of clothing in huge warehouse-like buildings and that would be the old Robert Hall stores, but they did have bargains in apparel. I don't think they sold much other than suits, coats, jackets and things of that ilk. It really was "off the rack" merchandise in every sense of the word.

Re: Hoity toity

Having grown up nearby, even if Alice & Trixie had had the means, they probably wouldn't have made it across the parking lot before being caught by the locals -- no doubt by a group of "ladies who lunch" that could spot someone from the city and cut them dead at 100 yards...

In regards to the stairway treatment; the panels on the railing closely resemble some sheers we had in our living room -- "flameproof" Fiberglas fabric. Lasted forever, but don't EVER put them in the wash -- worse than itching powder.

Where is the night watchman?

Comfy looking man cave, football-watching furniture, pre-opening day for the store given the paper wrapping on the handrails and void of human activity, or maybe it's just "shorply" after 6 AM.


Why is the handrail wrapped in cloth?

[To keep it from getting dinged or scratched. The store is brand-new. -Dave]


Somehow I think John Wanamaker would have been out of Ralph Kramden's price range, and Ed Norton's, too.

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