The Marshall Fields: The Evolution of an American Business Dynasty / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 95%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (34) from $1.99   
  • New (11) from $2.87   
  • Used (23) from $1.99   

Overview

At a time when the average American earned $500 a year, Marshall Field enjoyed a tidy annual income of $40 million. Unlike his robber-baron contemporaries, however, Field was the enlightened prince of the Gilded Age. Always looking toward the future, he built his department store empire on a solid foundation of quality, customer service, and a hard-earned reputation for honesty and good character. His attempts to secure the future of his family and his fortune were less successful.

The Marshall Fields follows this terse and industrious young farm boy’s career as he learns how to make millions by knowing what women want. It reveals the tactics and innovations that enabled Field to keep his business growing while many around him succumbed to the ravages of the Chicago fire, bank panics, and constant, fierce competition. But Field’s phenomenal success came at a high price.

Noted biographer Axel Madsen creates a moving portrait of an aging and lonely tycoon whose estranged wife departed for Europe and may have died a drug addict; whose dissolute son may have committed suicide or been shot by a floozy; and whose iron-clad will was designed to keep his immense fortune intact for at least four generations.

Armed with this enormous wealth, the succeeding Field generations caromed wildly between rebellion and folly, haunted by a palpable sense of alienation and a deep fear of the hereditary insanity that led many family members to suicide or to commitment in mental institutions. You’ll meet the jazz-age playboy who suffered that peculiar kind of public contempt reserved for idealists with money, the diligent businessman who tried to expand the family fortune, and the contentious half-brothers who finally managed to dissolve it.

This multigenerational saga of money, madness, and mystery tells a Jekyll-and-Hyde story of American capitalism–a tale of drive and nerve and moral stumbles. Sometimes shocking, often absurd, and always absorbing reading, The Marshall Fields offers a rare and unforgettably intimate look at the glorious and tragic history of one of America’s most venerable business families.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Unless you knew better, you'd probably think that earning $40 million a year a century ago was a good thing. But you'd be mistaken, at least in the case of Marshall Field, according to Axel Madsen.
In "The Marshall Fields," Mr. Madsen offers up a portrait of a man who made an awful lot of money but who also alienated his wife and family, devoting so much time to building his fortune that he didn't have much left over for anyone else - thereby setting into motion domestic troubles and, by extension, the troubles of his heirs and descendants.
Well, perhaps so. It would not be the first time that a rich man had a less than ideal family life. Still, if money and entrepreneurial zeal can somehow compensate for personal failure, Field had plenty of both. He was one of the country's greatest retailers as well as one of its shrewdest financiers.
Having started out as a dry-goods clerk in Pittsfield, Mass., when he was only 16 years old, Field quickly became a customer favorite. Five years later, in 1855, he moved to Chicago with a glowing recommendation from his boss and nearly $1,000 in savings.
Eventually he would take control of the successful retail and wholesale operation owned by one Potter Palmer. When Mr. Palmer's health failed him, he offered Marshall Field and Levi Z. Leiter, a bookkeeper and colleague of Field's, a chance to buy his business. In time, the company became known as Field, Leiter & Co. and, later, Marshall Field & Co.
It is here that Mr. Madsen is at his best. He explains that Marshall Field catered to his customers-overwhelmingly women-with a style that few merchants ever equaled. In Victorian America, writes Mr. Madsen, unescorted women were often unwelcome in city centers. But at Field's store, women were treated as royalty.
Marshall Field's department store became symbol of elegance-affordable elegance for the prosperous middle classes. It eventually became, as well, the place for the women of Chicago to meet - and to meet in proper comfort. Mr. Madsen says that prior to the installation of toilets in Field's store, women who spent the day shopping had nowhere to turn. The Women's Gazette actually had to campaign in the 1870s for lavatories to be built in "hotels, restaurants, and tea shops. "Marshall Field's department store led the way.
Unfortunately, most of Mr. Madsen's book lacks such vivid and reliable detail. It fails to explain how, by the 1880s, Field had become a significant investor in 30 major companies. And it sometimes trades in rumor.
In his introduction, Mr. Madsen writes that Marshall Field's first wife "died in France, possibly a drug addict," but he has no evidence for this. Later in the book he even quotes John Tebbel, the author of "The Marshall Fields: A Study in Wealth" (1947), saying that the claim was a rumor spread by Mr. Field's rivals. Mr. Madsen suggests that Field might have had an affair with his best friend's wife - a rumor at the time - but again there is no evidence. Elsewhere he passes along the speculation that Marshall Field II, the patriarch's son, was killed by an irate prostitute in a Chicago brothel and then transported home; he also reports that it is possible that Field shot himself at home by accident.
The rest of the Field generations get cursory treatment in Mr. Madsen's book, although they deserve more. The entertainment mogul Ted Field, for instance, is a fascinating sort of retailer's scion. In the early 1980s he forced the eventual sale of the remaining family assets in what was then known as Field Enterprises. (The trustees of Marshall Field's estate had sold 90% of the stock in the store to management in 1917. Today Marshall Field's is a unit of Target Corp.) With his stake, he went on to produce the hit movie "Revenge of the Nerds"; on the music front, his Interscope Records was perhaps the most successful independent label of the 1990s, featuring such performers as Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre.
A long way from dry goods, one can't help thinking. A long way from Victorian America, too. —Mr. Trachtenberg is a Journal reporter. (Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2002)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471024934
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/2/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 0.94 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 6.14 (d)

Meet the Author

AXEL MADSEN has written sixteen biographies, including The Deal Maker: How William C. Durant Made General Motors and John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire (both from Wiley). His other books include Chanel: A Woman of Her Own and Gloria and Joe: The Star-Crossed Love Affair of Gloria Swanson and Joe Kennedy. Madsen lives in Los Angeles.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments.

Introduction.

CHICAGO.

1. A Place to Linger.

2. Silent Marsh.

3. Partnerships.

4. Fire, Panic, and More Fire.

5. Instincts.

6. Marshall Field & Company.

7. Paid to Think.

8. Mile-a-Minute Harry.

9. Nannie.

10. Hostilities.

11. Giving Back.

12. Politics.

13. Delia.

14. Son and Father.

15. The Will.

16. Grandsons.

NEW YORK.

17. Secrets and Spies.

18. How to Spend It.

19. Audrey.

20. Evolutions.

21. Roosevelt Radicals.

22. Patriot Games.

23. Coming of Age.

24. Bearing Witness.

25. Cold War.

26. Successions.

LOS ANGELES.

27. The Crunch.

28. Each Generation Speaks for Itself.

Notes and Sources.

Bibliography.

Index.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2008

    good advice from a couple of centries ago

    written very well.if you're in retail take heed: marshall fields memorized his inventory.yea,computers are great, but there is no substitute for taking the customer right where the action is. marshall fields was that guy.his progeny, as history proves happens, were not so brilliant. a great read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)