Nothing comes merely by thinking about it.

— John Wanamaker *

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Here in Philadelphia, the holidays make us think of Wanamaker's Department Store: meeting friends at the Eagle; watching the five-story Light Show; listening to the still-biggest-in-the-world Pipe Organ; or having lunch in the Crystal Tea Room.

Today, the name on the building is Macy’s. Inside though, much that John Wanamaker created for his customers lives on.

But imagine the pushback Wanamaker faced: That show of yours will cost a fortune and distract people from buying! That ridiculous organ takes up space we need for selling.

Surprisingly — generations later — those crazy ideas are what many of us remember, what we take our kids to see, and what we reminisce about.

For John Wanamaker, the beauty and magic he brought to customers was like giving them a gift to take home... a gift to open in their thoughts anytime... and a gift that brought them back.

What do you you think you will be remembered for? Will it be for what you made or sold or received from life? Or will your legacy be what you gave to others.…



Carl Francis


* JOHN VANSANT WANAMAKER (1838-1922) opened his first store at Sixth and Market Streets in Philadelphia in 1861. He prospered.

In 1910, Wanamaker opened his flagship 12-story granite store encompassing an entire block across from Philadelphia's City Hall. That store stands today and houses the Wanamaker Grand Court Light Show and Pipe Organ, and the 2,500-pound bronze Wanamaker Eagle, which became a famous meeting place for Philadelphians. Meet me at the Eagle is a Philadelphia byword.

Wanamaker was an innovator, merchandising genius, and a resolute believer in advertising. Amazingly, he was also modest with an enduring reputation for honesty. Wanamaker stuck to a then-revolutionary principle: One price and goods returnable. He created the price tag, which along with his money-back guarantee became industry standards.

He gave his employees free medical care, education, recreational facilities, pensions and profit-sharing plans before such benefits were common. Wanamaker was the first retailer to buy large newspaper ads and hired the world's first full-time copywriter — during whose tenure Wanamaker's revenues doubled. A popular saying attributed to Wanamaker: Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.

At his death, Wanamaker’s estate was estimated to be $100 million ($1.4 billion today). John Wanamaker was long known for his philanthropy. In 1878, he co-founded Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, which is still in operation 137 years later.