Innovative department-store owner Marshall Field (1834-1906) was born on this day in Conway, Massachusetts, the son of a farmer who worked as a clerk as a teenager.
"I was determined not to remain poor," he said.
The ambitious Field moved west to Chicago, Illinois in 1856. The city was newly-connected by rail and boomed with opportunity. Working as a clerk for the Cooley-Wadsworth dry-goods company, Fields progressed from stock boy to salesman to manager.
"Goodwill is the only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy,” Field said.
With mentor Potter Palmer and partner Levi Zeigler Leiter, Field worked hard, refined his retail acumen, and built his empire.
He bought out Leiter in 1881 and by 1893, Marshall Field's six-story store was the "World's Largest Department Store," the first to install electric lights. The smart Mr. Field made sure the streetcar stopped in front of his store.
At the heart of his retailing success was the passion for customer service. He once said: "Right or wrong, the customer is always right."
Cleverly catering to the shopping experience of women, Field's motto was "Give the lady what she wants." He offered liberal credit, home delivery, and accepted merchandise returns without question.
He once instructed one of his store managers to remember, "The value of time; the pleasure of working; the obligation of duty; the power of kindness; the wisdom of economy; and the virtue of patience."
Marshall Field survived the 1871 Great Fire and the 1930s Great Depression but not the coporate takeovers of the 21st Century. This Chicago retail giant name was retired in 2006 after the stores were purchased by Macy's.
Strive for success!