Marshall Field: Industrial Outlier

Industrial Outliers Profile by Miika Jarvela, 5th Period

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  • Along with two other people, he developed the department/general (retail) store which is known today as Marshall Field and Co. It is named after him because the other people left at very early stages of its development

  • Was an innovator/pioneer of modern day stores

    1. High quality of service

      1. Ladies could check in coats

      2. Salespeople available at all time

      3. Easygoing nature

    2. Home delivery

    3. Return of purchases

    4. High ambiance

      1. Restaurants, lounges, libraries, nurseries, etc.

    5. Could purchase all kinds of items ranging from sports equipment to furniture

    6. Promotion/”advertisement” (invested in the lines of the streetcar to stop in front of his store)

  • Philanthropic donations for the Field Museum of National History and the University of Chicago

  • Survived many panics and economic depressions because he worked mainly with cash. Because of this, he had little debts to both pay and collect, so he remained unaffected



Fear was a major facet of inspiration for his employees. When he was not happy about something, it was evident with his face. One aspect which contributed to his fear was his sporadicness on announcements of people who will be fired or receive a raise.
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He never made rash decisions. Every business choice was carefully considered to ensure that the right course of action was being taken. He definitely could not be called a risk-taker because he ensured that there was no way for him to lose from his decisions
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His success was not found easily. There definitely were several hardships which he had to deal with. For example, there was a fire in 1871, and he lost everything that he owned ($3.5 million or ~$70 million, inflation adjusted). Although he had insurance, it could not immediately cover such a large sum. Despite this, he continued business as usual nearly immediately. He worked overtime (nearly 18 hours a day) for a few weeks to get back to normal


Many of the techniques used within his store persist to this day. Ever since the late 19th century/early 20th century when he lived, quality of service has become more and more important. Non-price competition such as this led to consumers favoring some companies over others. Now, almost every single company has a 100% satisfaction guarantee (otherwise the product can be returned). Some stores (such as Walmart, etc.) offer a wide variety of products, like his store. Lastly, home delivery is infinitely more important in modern times. With the rise of the Internet, much of a company’s business comes from online, so it is important to have proper shipping options. Shipping (and the Internet) extend the scope of the business from local to international. Many of these ideas, which were implemented in Field’s store, persist to this day, altered only slightly due to technological advances.
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Field is immortalized in the Field Museum of National History. This museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Annually, about two million people will visit this museum each year, each one seeing Field’s name as they enter, leave, and think about the museum. There are several exhibits with history from around the world. The reason that his name is in the name of this museum is because he donated $1 million (~$20-30 million, inflation adjusted) to the museum along with $8 million (~$200 million, inflation adjusted) from his will. Another donation that he will be remembered for is his purchase of land for the University of Chicago (combined with Rockefeller’s contributions). Although his name is not quite as prevalent as in his museum, he still lasts in the history of the university. Lastly, because he donated to the origins of Merchandise Mart, his bust is displayed among other important businessmen from Chicago.