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 Samuel Henry Kress

Samuel Henry Kress

Birth
Cherryville, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 22 Sep 1955 (aged 92)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA
Plot Walnut Section, block 108
Memorial ID 590 · View Source
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Businessman and Philanthropist. He was born in Cherryville, Pennsylvania, not far from Allentown. He was the second of seven children born to John Franklin Kress, a retail merchant, and the former Margaret Dodson Conner. His siblings were Mary Conner Kress, Jennie Weston Kress, Palmer John Kress, Claude Washington Kress, and Rush Harrison Kress. Another male sibling died a few days after birth. Early in life, he worked in a stone quarry early, but was highly intelligent, precocious and inquisitive and was a brilliant student. By age 17, he already graduated and earned teaching credentials. His first position was as a teacher for 80 students in a large classroom. He was paid $25 per month and walked 3 miles to the schoolhouse. He taught for 7 years. By age 24 and inspired by his father, he opened a stationery and notions store in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. The business prospered very quickly he wisely used the profits to open newer stores elsewhere. He named his chain "S. H. Kress & Co." These eventually would become popularly known as the "S. H. Kress 5 and 10 Cent" stores. Unlike other businessmen of the time who opened stores in large cities, he wisely built his stores in smaller towns and only in the 29 states he felt had the most potential for growth. These stores became the most prestigious retail outlet in these towns. Not only was the quality and price of the goods attractive, but the buildings themselves were first-rate in architecture and design. Many of the former Kress buildings are historic landmarks today. Most of these small towns only had an ordinary general store until the Kress store was built, so they prospered quickly and he became a self-made millionaire by the turn-of-the-century. He lived in a penthouse at 1020 Fifth Avenue in New York City, across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He visited the museum often and learned a great deal about the fine art over time. He eventually became an avid art collector, and mainly thorough his friend and art dealer Joseph Duveen, grew a large private collection of paintings and sculpture, primarily of the Italian Baroque period. These were thought to be "old fashioned" in the Victorian age, so he wisely purchased important and rare works of art at relatively low prices. He also gave the Italian government a large sum for the restoration of a number of important artworks in Italy in 1929, the year of the stock market crash. By the the mid-1930s he began to donate much of his now-massive art collection to museums across the country, much of it donated to the those smaller cities where he built his stores. In many instances, his donations became the founding basis for those cities to build museums to house their new art treasures. In 1941, Kress and Paul Mellon gave a large gift of art to the people of the United States, which established the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C. President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the gift on behalf of the nation. The Kress Foundation has since dispensed millions of dollars to worthy causes over the years. He lived a long and happy life, never married, and had no children. He finally died of old age in New York City at age 92 in 1955. He was a Freemason.

Bio by: Christian



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 590
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Samuel Henry Kress (23 Jul 1863–22 Sep 1955), Find A Grave Memorial no. 590, citing Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .