Marshall Field

Marshall Field

Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 16 Jan 1906 (aged 71)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 334 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Businessman, Entrepreneur. He is remembered as the founder of the Chicago, Illinois-based Marshall Field and Company department stores, and would rise to become the wealthiest and most powerful businessman in Chicago. The son of a farmer, he moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts when he was 17 years old to work in a dry goods store. A year later, he decided to go West to find new opportunities. In 1856 he resided with his brother in Chicago and was employed by Cooley, Wadsworth and Company, a dry goods store and in 1862, he purchased a partnership with the reorganized firm of Farwell, Field & Company. In January 1865 he and a partner, Levi Leiter, accepted an offer to become senior partners at the dry goods establishment of Potter Palmer, and it became known as Field, Palmer, Leiter & Company. Two years later, Palmer withdrew from the firm after he and Leiter could afford to buy him out, and it was renamed "Field, Leiter & Company." The company recovered quickly from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and survived the Panic of 1873 because of their relatively low levels of debt. By 1881 he forced Leiter to sell his share of the business, and changed the store's name to Marshall Field and Company. An innovator in the dry good business, he developed policies of unconditional refunds, consistent pricing and international imports that would become standards in quality retailing. Additionally, his employees were instructed not to push products on uninterested customers as was common practice in stores of the period. The quotes "Give the lady what she wants" and "The customer is always right" are attributed to him, though the latter may also be an invention of Harry Gordon Selfridge while in his employment. However, he was highly suspicious of organized labor throughout his career, and prohibited unionization among his employees. He avoided political and social intrigue, was known to spy on his employees, had few close friends, and focused on his work and on supporting his family and his favorite philanthropies. In 1890 the University of Chicago was founded by him and New York's John D. Rockefeller, to rival nearby Evanston's Northwestern University. The Field Museum of Natural History was named after him in 1894 after he gave it an endowment of $1 million dollars. He died of pneumonia at the age of 71. A bust of Marshall Field stands aside other early 20th century Chicago industry magnates on the north riverbank on the Chicago River facing the Merchandise Mart.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

Family Members




How famous was Marshall Field?

Current rating:

84 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 334
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Marshall Field (18 Aug 1834–16 Jan 1906), Find a Grave Memorial no. 334, citing Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .