If you’ve done just about any shopping in the continental United States, you’ve almost assuredly seen or visited a Macy’s! If not, you’re missing out—but you have, of course, heard of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who hasn’t? But have you ever wondered about the history of Macy’s? Well, it’s long and storied, and a wonderful example of the American dream! So sit back and let us tell you all about the history of Macy’s!
Macy’s—one of two department store chains owned by Macy’s, Inc., the other being the wildly successful Bloomingdale’s—is, as of 2015, the largest U.S. department store by volume of sales. It has an illustrious history dating back to 1858, founded as R. H. Macy & Co. by Rowland Hussey Macy. Macy began his retail career with a string of dry goods stores, each of which would fail before he’d found his flagship outlet in New York City on Sixth Avenue, between 13th and 14th Streets.
On their first day, Macy’s sales totaled $11.08—equivalent to $312.83 in modern money! Their star-based logo was derived from a tattoo Macy received while working aboard a whaling ship.
As their profits expanded, so too did the business itself. Macy’s took over adjoining buildings, growing one department at a time. They utilized publicity work to attract fresh business, like store Santa Clauses near Christmas, themed exhibits and illuminated window displays. They also offered money back guarantees and made-to-measure clothes, which were assembled in an on-site factory owned by Macy.
Macy himself died in 1877, but ownership of Macy’s itself would stay within his family ’til 1895, when brothers Isidor and Nathan Straus—previously sellers of fine china and other goods at Macy’s—acquired the buisness.
Over the next century of business, Macy’s would relocate to Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway and expand their stores significantly. Isidor perished aboard the Titanic with his wife Ida in 1912, while his company—Abraham & Straus—would continue to operate Macy’s throughout the construction of stores in Toledo, Atlanta, Newark, San Francisco, and Kansas City.
In 1924, Macy’s put together their famous Thanksgiving parade, which is tied for the second-oldest Thanksgiving day parade in the US. The three hour event starts at 9 AM EST on Thanksgiving day every year and consists of many beloved parade floats traveling from Manhattan to Macy’s flagship store. Macy’s employees are even given the chance to march in the parade!
In January of 1992, however, Macy’s was forced to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its banks hired on a new management team, who shut down under-performing locations and reduced Macy’s to its east and west divisions. Macy’s East—a New York-focused division of Macy’s Inc.—was the successor to the original R.H. Macy & Co., Inc., and operated department stores in the northeast US and Puerto Rico.
Between ’94 and 2005, Macy’s was merged with its parent company, Federated Department Stores, and its headquarters relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, Macy’s has continued to dominate the department store industry in the United States.
There you have it! A brief history of Macy’s. We hope you found this informative! Now go get some shopping done!