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Christmas Stockings: 1950

Christmas Stockings: 1950

November 11, 1950. New York. "Gimbel Brothers department store. Interior. Raymond Loewy Associates, architect." 4x5 inch acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

A street floor named desire

        Ah for the infinite loveliness of Gimbels. We're the most enticing, most alluring street floor that ever walked the ways of beauty. So captivating are we, you just can't resist us. Our walls are delicately tinted. Our counters are sleek. If we were a bell, we would tinkle. We're all this, and more, because Raymond Loewy, genius at transforming an ugly duckling into a raving beauty, has given us his magic touch. And the best part is, this beauty of ours will be a joy forever. Our loveliness will never pass into nothingness. Why? Because those sweet, sweet bargains and those low, low price tags keep coming and coming and coming ... (NYT ad, Feb. 1951)


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

If you want to read the history

Nice summary on Wikipedia. There's a part about the New York City flagship store that stands out because, as today, people will ruin what was intended to be a benefit, "When this building opened, on September 29, 1910, a major selling point was its many doors leading to the Herald Square New York City Subway station. Due to such easy access, by the time Gimbels closed in 1986, this store had the highest rate of 'shrinkage,' or shoplifting losses, in the world."

Of course, that's not what caused Gimbels to close, but it didn't help.

Out of the Way

In the awkward space underneath the escalator's angle was the Stamp & Coin Department. It not only sold collecting supplies but also had actual old stamps and coins for sale. This was a franchise operation that, at its height in the early 1960s, had 38 locations in department stores nationwide. These hobby nooks are all closed now, but they sure sparked the imagination of young boys (and sometimes girls).

Later that same century

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The Martians have landed

... in small ships on the ceiling.
This seems like a compromise redo (new fixtures and lights, while retaining the basic shell, perhaps befitting their image as the runner-up. Or maybe not: IIRC it didn't look much different 30+ years later when it closed — an unexpectedly elegant looking store.

Light 'em up!

By 9:30 a.m., the floor of Gimbel Brothers Department Store will be covered in cigarette butts. By the early 1960s I'll be visiting my aunt and uncle’s house just outside of Baltimore during Christmas. Elvis will be on the record player and there will be a fake Christmas tree set up, kinda like the ones at Gimbel's, but covered with angel hair and a revolving color wheel on the floor to the right of the tree. Oh yeah, and there'll cigarette smoke hovering in the air.

"Does Macy's tell Gimbels?"

I first heard that now antiquated line on "I Love Lucy". Lucy and Ethel bought identical dresses at the competing stories.

The witticism was so familiar that Gimbels used it in a 1953 ad.

The New York Gimbels opened in 1910, a block south of Macy's in the Herald Square shopping area. It was the company's third flagship after Milwaukee (glimpsed earlier on Shorpy) and Philadelphia.

Lingerie on 6, wife-beaters on 7

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