This is a tribute edition from the archives of Historically Speaking. On this last day of Women’s History Month, I’m thinking of my great-grandmother, Eugenia Zambone. She was an immigrant from Italy who began by selling needles, thread, and sewing necessities from the family’s rental; eventually she was the proprietress of a small number of department stores in the towns of southern New Jersey.
As Vicki Howard reminds us in her new book, From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store, it used to be that America was filled with department stores like those owned by my great-grandmother. And stores like these were important centres of community life.
Vicki Howard has already written on the history of the wedding industry. Now she and I talk about the department store, how they began, what they offered people that hadn’t existed before, and how they were undone by the same forces that created them.
For Further Reading
Vicki Howard, Brides, Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition
Michael J. Lisicky, Wanamaker’s: Meet Me at the Eagle
For your late-night browsing pleasure: The Department Store Museum