The Woolworths Museum


Celebrating 100 years in Main Street

1979 marked a major milestone for F.W. Woolworth in the USA and Canada

Woolworth's 100th Anniversary logos from the USA and Canada

21 June 1879 marked a major landmark as the F. W. Woolworth Co. celebrated its centenary with a series of special events. A century after Frank Woolworth had opened his Great Five Cent Store in North Queen Street, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the focus was on sales generation. The birthday captured the attention of the media. It received extensive TV coverage and a nostalgic feature in Time Magazine, as well as thousands of column inches of local press coverage. The stories diverted attention from a fierce bid battle raging behind the scenes.

 

One of a set of five commemorative posters displayed in American Woolworth stores in 1979.

 

A commemorative poster showing the Woolworth and Northrop store in Elmira, New York from the 1880s.  This was one of a set of five that were displayed in the windows of American and Canadian Woolworth stores throughout the chain's centenary year in 1979.

Every store was issued with five framed posters for display in the windows and at the checkouts. They were headed "Values our Tradition since 1879", and showed animated scenes of early 5 & 10¢s. These proved popular, even when the modern store looked older!

A well orchestrated promotional campaign brought fresh bargains every fortnight to create a sale atmosphere in honour of the birthday. This helped Woolworth's to re-assert is value credentials and showcase its modern fashions, electricals and larger items. Spending rose as nostalgic TV ads prompted a trip to the 5 & 10¢ for a vanilla coke, a soda from the fountain, some popcorn or an ex-chart record for 69¢.

 

The first store at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA enjoyed a special place at the heart of Woolworths. These pictures show how the store changed between 1879 and 1979A commemorative newspaper supplement was published with the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal and New Year in May 1979. It features pictures of the assembled associates from each of the two Lancaster stores - the downtown store in North Queen Street and the out-of-town store between Court and Arsenal which opened in 1971

 

 

 

In the birthplace, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the local paper carried a special 100th Anniversary supplement. Its covers featured photos of the staff from both the modern day branch in North Queen Street, and the larger state-of-the-art outlet in the Lancaster Park City Shopping Center nearby. Inside it contained a 12-page potted history, which included details of its international operations in Britain, Germany, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

 

Tracy and Todd visit the Woolworth Building - a coloring book to mark the company's 100th birthday in the USA100th anniversary commemorative menus from the famous Lunch Counter carried the slogan "The Tradition of Value Lives On" (Image with special thanks to Mr. John Compton)

The celebration giveways included coloring books, menus with the slogan 'The Tradition of Value Lives On', free clown toys, finger puzzles and plastic six inch rulers. But, where once Frank Woolworth had insisted that promotional items had to be particularly well-made, older American Managers remember that every expense had been spared in assembling the selection of freebies.

 

F.W. Woolworth Co's special 100th birthday Annual Report, which was published in 1979. Investors were also treated to a commemorative coin.

There was something more elaborate for insiders. The Annual Report was distributed in a presentation sleeve of two full colour booklets, one telling the story and the other looking to the future. Both were beautifully illustrated and spanned all of the subsidiaries across the world.

Large gold-coloured commemorative coins were struck. Associates were given them loose, while they were encased in perspex paperweights for stockholders. At the time the future appeared bright for the chain's 3,000 stores.

 

Woolworth World (the Associate newspaper in the USA) ran a series of articles on the history of the company.  The 100th anniversary giveaway toy was a far cry from some of the spectacular items Frank Woolworth had bought in Germany in the 19th century and sold for 5 or 10 cents each in his stores.