Friday, May 31, 2019

1839 Illustration of the Future site of Marshall Field & Company Store, Chicago.

Illustration: "Future site of Marshall Field & Company Store in 1839." Looking northeast from the future corner of State and Washington Streets in Chicago.
A LITTLE MARSHALL FIELD'S BUSINESS BACKGROUND
Potter Palmer, plagued by ailing health, was looking to dispose of his thriving business, so on January 4, 1865, Field and Leiter entered into a partnership with him and his brother Milton Palmer. So the firm of P. Palmer & Company became Field, Palmer, Leiter & Company, with Palmer financing much of their initial capital as well as his own contribution. After Field and Leiter's immediate success enabled them to pay him back, Palmer withdrew two years later from the partnership in 1867 to focus on his own growing real-estate interests on one of the burgeoning city's important thoroughfares, State Street. His brother, Milton Palmer, left at this time as well. The store was renamed Field, Leiter & Company, sometimes referred to as "Field & Leiter."

The buyout, however, did not bring an end to Potter Palmer's association with the firm. In 1868, Palmer convinced Field and Leiter to lease a new, six-story edifice he had just built at the northeast corner of State and Washington Streets. The store was soon referred to as the "Marble Palace" owing to its costly marble stone face.

Two years after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, in October of 1873, Field and Leiter returned to State Street at Washington, opening in a new five-story store at the old location they now leased from the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Palmer having sold the land site to finance his own rebuilding activities. The Field, Leiter & Company Department Store was expanded in 1876, only to be destroyed by fire again on November 14, 1877.

Ever tenacious, Field and Leiter had a new temporary store opened by the end of the month at the Interstate Industrial Exposition Building on Michigan Avenue at Adams Street that they leased temporarily from the city. The Expo building was located where the Art Institute of Chicago is now.
Interstate Industrial Exposition Building on Michigan Avenue at Adams Street looking northeast.
Meanwhile, the Singer company had speculatively built a new, even larger, six-story building on the ruins of their old 1873 store, which, after some contention, was personally bought by Field and Leiter. Field, Leiter & Company now reclaimed their traditional location at the northeast corner of State and Washington for the last time in April of 1879.

In January 1881, Marshall Field, with the support of his junior partners, bought out Levi Z. Leiter, renaming the business "Marshall Field & Company."

Continue Reading: Field, Leiter & Company Department Store Fire of November 14, 1877.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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