Marshall Field & Me

Here in the 1920s, I am thrilled to work at Marshall Field & Company, one of the leading department stores in the country. In my day, company literature said, ""Field's,' as it is intimately called by all Chicagoans and, indeed, by its thousands of friends and customers outside of Chicago, occupies a unique position in the life of the city. It has grown up with Chicago and is universally looked upon as something more than a store--rather a civic institution . . ., shown with pride as one of the chief show places of the city."

Working here makes it a lot easier to sneak over to The Store for Men and spy on . . . oh, wait, never mind that part. Let's just say I was over the moon to be hired, even though they put me in Ladies' Nightwear. I was hoping for Books so I would have something good to read when things got slow. But things seldom slow down at Field's. The motto is "Give the lady what she wants," and you'd better believe they keep us hopping.

People don't always realize the skill that goes into being a sales clerk. During my training it was emphasized that we have to be speedy and accurate at figures, able to talk nicely to perfect strangers and especially the not-so-perfect ones, and we have to hold our temper and use neat handwriting to fill out the order slips. We have to know the merchandise backward and forward and upside-down.We have to stand all day and not complain that our feet hurt. We're not supposed to chew gum or carry on conversations with other clerks while customers are waiting. We're not supposed to say things like, "Did you glimpse the swell dame that was just here? You'd think she owned the whole joint. All she bought was a yard of ribbon." Well, my stars, who would ever say something like that? A lot of this seems like plain common sense to me, but Marshall Field makes double-sure we know it.

To my friends in the British Isles (excuse me--United Kingdom--that term is still new here in the 1920s), did you know that Harry Selfridge of your Selfridge's store spent his early career learning the ropes at Field's? That all happened before my time, but someone in this century made a television series about it. (I'm still trying to make sense out of television. So you keep a moving picture screen right in your house, with sound and color pictures, that is operated by sitting several feet away and pressing buttons on a small rectangular box? Whoever dreamed up such a thing? I must admit, when I start watching a television on a visit to your century, it's hard to pull myself away, though I still prefer getting dressed up in nice clothes and going to the Orpheum, and then out for a soda afterward. At home I prefer listening to stories on the radio and forming the pictures in my head. Can people still do that in your century--form the pictures in their heads?)

The last time I was in Chicago, I tried to visit Marshall Field and see if any of my old coworkers were still working there. Then it occurred to me that all of them would be well over a hundred years old by now. Field's employees are loyal but not that loyal, to still be on the job at age 126. Anyway, the building was still there, but the sign on the door said "Macy's." Surely that's a mistake, because Macy's is in New York City, and even though I'm sure it's a perfectly nice department store, it's no match for Marshall Field.


  1. My mother grew up near Chicago, in Lake Forest, so it will be fun to read these posts. She was born in 1924.

  2. Ooh, Lake Forest is lovely. While the town and its academy and college date back to the 1850s, here in the 1920s it's a boomtown, with lots of new construction going on, including many grand houses. The railroad makes it convenient to live in the country and work in the city. The charming Market Square downtown district was built in 1916, and a Marshall Field branch store opened in May 1928. Sadly I hear it's no longer there. But here in the 1920s, maybe I'll pay it a visit and let you know what I find! Thank you for visiting, Cathy.


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