F.W. Woolworth and the American Five and Dime

A Social History


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About the Book

For more than a century, Woolworth’s five and dime stores represented Americana, mirroring the country’s growth, its good times and bad, its foibles and its fads. The chain was founded by Frank W. Woolworth, who in 1879 established two stores—one in Utica, New York, which failed and was closed down, and another in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which succeeded and marked the beginning of the legacy of the Woolworth’s Five and Tens.
This work is a full account of the chain, its rags-to-riches founder, Frank W. Woolworth, and his flamboyant and tragic descendants. It traces the important role that Woolworth stores played in the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, the lunch counter sit-ins that began in Greensboro, North Carolina, as part of the Civil Rights movement (which tainted Woolworth’s as the Big Business enemy of the downtrodden), and the gradual disintegration of the five and tens during the 1980s and early 1990s. The dramatic story is enhanced with important photos featuring such events as the closing of a Woolworth’s in Germany by Nazi soldiers and the Greensboro sit-in as well as archival photos from Woolworth’s 40th, 50th, and 60th anniversary booklets.

About the Author(s)

The late Jean Maddern Pitrone lived in Trenton, Michigan.

Bibliographic Details

Jean Maddern Pitrone
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 229
Bibliographic Info: 39 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007 [2003]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3024-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. The Worst Time of His Life      3

2. “The Great Five” Acquires a Family      10

3. Luxury in the Gay Nineties      21

4. The Big Push Overseas      30

5. World’s Tallest—Woolworth Skyscraper      39

6. Heartbreaking Tragedy for the Woolworths      52

7. Multi-millionaire Patriarch Dies      61

8. “Everybody’s Store”      71

9. A Grim Decade Begins      83

10. Protests, Demonstrations and Strikes      91

11. Woolworth Hit by Sit-downs      103

12. Marriages, Divorces and a Real War      116

13. Post-war Labor Problems      128

14. Approaching the Billion–dollar Sales Goal      137

15. Sit-ins Challenge Woolworth      152

16. Expansion Becomes the Byword      165

17. Struggles with the Economy      176

18. Ups and Downs of the 1980s      183

19. Nobody’s Store      189

Notes      197

Bibliography      209

Index      211

Book Reviews & Awards

“a nice study…recommended”—Choice; “valuable…richly detailed”—The Journal of American Culture.