Woolworth's - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

There are a number of different indicators people can use to determine if they are getting old. Among them are when the music they grew up listening to is now considered "Oldies," when the fashions they wore in high school are back in style, and when stores or restaurants they used to love going to have been shut down for eighteen years now.  And that is the story of Woolworth's.

The first 'successful' F.W. Woolworth's Five and Dime department store was opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on July 18, 1879 by New York-based brothers Frank Winfield and Charles Sumner Woolworth.  Their approach to merchandising, purchasing, marketing and sales not only revolutionized the concept of the retail store in the nineteenth century, but inspired so many successful imitators that they simply could not sustain themselves against the competition.  Many Woolworth stores also had restaurants in them.  In 1960, a Woolworth's in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina became somewhat notorious for a sit-in when four African-American men demanded to be served at a time when segregation forbade it.  The negative publicity ultimately compelled desegregation and a Civil Rights museum is currently at the site.  

On display in the American Treasure Tour's Toy Box

On display in the American Treasure Tour's Toy Box

In 1979, Woolworth not only celebrated its centennial, while savoring the fact that they had become the largest department store in the world, as designated by the Guinness Book of World Records.  But their very success worked against them, too.  The competition focused on lower prices and diversity while Woolworth began concentrating on sporting goods. Three companies that all started operation in 1962 - Target, Wal-mart, and Kmart - all grew, while Woolworth shrank.  By 1997, the last of the American Woolworth stores shut their doors.  Two years later, the company changed their name to Venator, as they concentrated on sportswear. In 2001, they changed their name once again, after their leading retailer, and became Foot Locker, Inc.  (The Woolworth name can still be found in department stores in Australia, for those who miss it, but these are not run by the same company.)
QUESTION:  What manufactured product did the F.W. Woolworth Company introduce to the world in 1880 that became - and remains - extremely popular?
A)  The Teddy Bear
B)  The Christmas Tree Ornament
C)  Coca-Cola
D)  The Bicycle

CUSSLER'S THE NAME.  The famous novelist Clive Cussler was born today in 1933 in Aurora, Illinois.  Of course, he wasn't famous then.  He started writing in his early twenties.  Living in California with his wife and kids, he found himself awake at night and, rather than watching television, he began writing alternative history novels that speculated on such things as what would Atlantis look like if it were real.  His fascination with the sea manifested in his real life, when he became a shipwreck hunter - he's found over sixty sites in his lifetime so far.  Keep up the hunt, Cussler!

QUOTE:  My friends joked that I raised the Titanic and never left the Rockies! - Clive Cussler

ANSWER:  B)  The Christmas Tree Ornament