After watching the first few episodes of Mr. Selfridge, the new series on Masterpiece Classic, I ran to the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to see what I could find in our Periodicals collection about Harry Gordon Selfridge and his department store.
I was delighted to discover a series of articles in the Saturday Evening Post from 1935, written by Selfridge himself, describing his amazing career. In this series, Selfridge describes his start in the retail trade with Marshall Fields and his reasons for leaving Marshall Fields, saying:
“I had no quarrel with Mr. Field. He was a great man and a great American . . . He was straight as a plummet line. He had confidence in me and I respected him. But while he displayed many evidences of his affection for me, he was austere in manner and very conservative. He had little finesse in the handling of men, brilliant as he was in running his business . . . It was ambition that brought about my rupture with Mr. Field.”
Selfridge goes on to describe the path that eventually led him to bring an American department store to London – Selfridge claims that he had once tried to persuade Mr. Field to establish Marshall Fields stores in London and other European cities, but Mr. Field “peremptorily ordered me never to waste his time in discussing such a crack-brained notion.”
Throughout these articles, Selfridge offers a fascinating look at his analysis of the existing stores and shopping environment in London, the obstacles he overcame in building his store, his theories of publicity and advertising, and his revolutionary practices in merchandising and sales that made his department store so successful. You can read this series of articles in the Saturday Evening Post in the Periodicals section of the Main library (3rd floor) to find out more about:
- The idea for the Selfridge’s Lift Girls
- The introduction of the Bargain Basement
- Selfridge’s unique publicity “stunts” – the 25 shilling fur coat, the display of the Bleriot airplane
- Sefridge’s personal and business philosophies
Selfridge’s store opened on March 15, 1909 at 9 a.m. to the notes of a bugler and made about 3,000 pounds on opening day – Selfridge remarks that sales were slow because of how crowded the store was, with about 150,000 visitors on a cold and blustery day.
To read about Mr. Selfridge or to learn more about the history of shopping or the department store, check out these books from our collection: