Unless you grew up in the Philadelphia – New York City corridor, you may not recognize the name, but he certainly made his mark on American culture in general, and the Philly region in particular. Famed merchant, marketing pioneer, founder of one of the first major department stores, U.S. Post Master General, notable Christian philanthropist, and more, his name was recognized throughout the world in the mid-to-late 19th century. Until its closing, the Wanamaker Building  was a frequent destination for most who visited Philadelphia, especially during the Christmas Season. Some of his more-famous quotes include: “People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.” “People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.” “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
As was reported in the December 12, 1922 issue of The Bethlehem Times , John Wanamaker met his Maker on the same day as this report. While his influence lives on through such simple things as “the price tag” (on products), his name is slowly succumbing to that which befalls us all. Still, those of us who know of his contributions appreciate his impact on society, and have fond memories of his Christmas Light Show and one of the most amazing pipe organs in the world. Thanks John.
Update from a comment posted as a follow-up to this post: “It is true that Wanamaker department store is closed, but since then, the building has housed two other department stores, Hecht’s and Macy’s. Both companies have continued the Christmas light and organ traditions. Macy’s, the current owner, even funded a multi-million dollar restoration to the light show. Going to Wanamaker’s at Christmas is still a yearly tradition that my family enjoys, and many a Philadelphian still “meet at the eagle,” on a daily basis.” Thanks Bill (see posted reply)