|1839 Illustration of the corner of State and Washington Streets, looking northeast. The future site of Marshall Field's flagship store.|
Third, race turns up particularly troubling issues, however, simply because Negroes were marginalized or even rendered invisible at Field's and few if any Negroes were likely to shop or be employed there. Before 1900, 90% of Negroes lived in the Southern United States. Because of worsening social and political conditions for Southern Negroes and word of economic opportunities and jobs in the North, a movement to Northern cities called the Great Migration expanded the Negro populations in Northern cities. In addition, employers needed to hire Negroes, as World War I and immigration restrictions disrupted their supply of European immigrant laborers. Though the North offered better conditions and pay than the South, Negroes still faced a groundswell of racist resistance as their presence increased. Very few Negroes ever worked in retail. In fact, only .03% of Negro males and .02% of Negro females in the entire nation had sales jobs, compared to 4.2 White males and 4.1 females. Laws in the South prohibited Negroes from trying on clothes in a department store, let alone allowing them to sell clothing to white customers. Amid these conditions, the democratic gospel of shopping-for-all at Field's fenced out people of color.
|Jacques-Aristide Boucicaut's Le Bon Marché Interior, 1875.|
|Marshall Field had purchased all the lots on the block bordered by Adams, Fifth (now Wells), Quincy, and Franklin, near the location of the Chicago Board of Trade Building by May 1881. Marshall Field's Wholesale Store opened on June 20, 1887.|