John Wanamaker

(1838–1922)

Joseph Wanamaker

Anecdote...

The late John Wanamaker was the king of retail. One day while walking through his store in Philadelphia, he noticed a customer waiting for assistance. No one was paying the least bit of attention to her. Looking around, he saw his salespeople huddled together laughing and talking among themselves. Without a word, he quietly slipped behind the counter and waited on the customer himself. Then he quietly handed the purchase to the salespeople to be wrapped as he went on his way. Later, Wanamaker was quoted as saying, “I learned thirty years ago that it is foolish to scold. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over the fact that God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of intelligence.”

Biographical Note: 

John Wanamaker was an American merchant. In the men’s clothing business in Philadelphia after 1861, he formed John Wanamaker and Co. (1869). His dry goods and clothing store became (1875) one of the first and best-known department stores, and he expanded into New York City in 1896. As U.S. postmaster general (1889–93), Wanamaker greatly improved the efficiency of the service.