The American Department Store Transformed, 1920-1960 Richard Longstreth

Publication date:
22 Jun 2010
Yale University Press
352 pages: 279 x 216mm
243 b-w + 15 color illus.
Sales territories:

After attaining classic stature with palaces erected in the early 20th century, the American department store continued to evolve in ways that were influenced by changes in business practices, shopping patterns, design approaches, and urban structure. This masterful and innovative history of a celebrated building type focuses on many of the nation’s greatest retail companies—Marshall Fields, Lord and Taylor, Gimbel’s, Wanamaker’s, and Bullock’s, among others—and the role they played in defining America’s cities.

Author Richard Longstreth traces the development and evolution of department stores from local, urban institutions to suburban entities in the nation’s sixty largest cities, showing how the stores underwent changes to adapt to dramatic economic and urban developments, including the decentralization from metropolitan areas, increased popularity of the automobile, and challenges from retail competitors on a national level. Extensively illustrated, this fascinating book offers a fundamental understanding of the transformation of Main Streets nationwide.

Richard Longstreth is professor of American civilization and director of the graduate program in historic preservation at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

"His book is an important contribution to the histories of building types, and incidentally, a useful antidote to some of the more waffly aspects of current academic forays into material culture."
-Christopher Woodward, Building Design