The Woolworths Museum

The first twenty-one years of the
F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10¢ Store


Our 1800s Gallery explores the origins of Woolworths and lets you see what some of the first stores were like and take a look at the products that they sold.

The Augsbury and Moore Dry Goods Store in Watertown New York, pictured in 1873. This building was to become the birthplace of the Five and TenThe Dry Goods Store of Augsbury and Moore, in Public Square, Watertown, New York, USA was the birthplace not only of the F. W. Woolworth Five and Ten Cent Stores, but also of the friendships and partnerships that helped the company take hold and prosper.

It was William Moore, the Proprietor, who gave a young Frank Woolworth his first job in Retail, who loaned him the money to open his first store, and who trained many of the Managers and Partners who went on to create Woolworths.

You can see the first store and read its story later in this Gallery. But first here's an overview and timeline showing how it all began.

  • April 13, 1852.
    Frank W. Woolworth was born in Rodman, Jefferson County, New York.
  • February, 1859.
    The Woolworth family bought a farm in Chestnut, near Great Bend, NY.
  • March 24, 1873. Frank took an unpaid apprenticeship at the Augsbury and Moore Dry Goods Store in Watertown, NY.
  • February 2, 1879.
    The first Woolworth store opened in Utica, NY. It closed again in May.
  • June 21, 1879.
    Woolworth tried again with a store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Sales were $127.65, far exceeding expectations.
  • July 19, 1879.
    Frank's brother Charles Sumner Woolworh ("Sum") joined, opening store two in nearby Harrisburg.
  • November 6, 1880.
    Harrisburg branch relocated to York and then Scranton, each in Pennsylvania.
  • January 1881 & 2.
    Sum bought the Scranton store out of profits in two instalments.
  • September 10, 1884.
    Sum recruited Fred Kirby. They open a store in Wilkes-Barre together.
  • September 20, 1884.
    Frank recruited his cousin Seymour Knox. They open a store in Reading together.
  • July 1887.
    Frank opened his first Buying Office in Chambers Street, New York City.
  • August 2, 1887.
    Fred Kirby bought out Sum and takes full control at Wilkes-Barre.
  • September 18, 1887.
    Frank recruited cousin Edwin Merton McBrier. The two open a store in Lockport, NY.
  • Autumn, 1887. Frank opened a large buying office with a warehouse in Broadway, NY.
  • 1888-9. Knox bought out Frank's share in his store and recruited Earle Perry Charlton to the Syndicate.
  • January 5, 1890. Frank promoted Store Manager Carson Peck to be his first office manager.
  • February 19, 1890. Frank set sail on his first European Buying Trip. It proved inspirational!
  • August 1890. Frank opened a larger store in Rochester, NY, to great acclaim.
  • 1891-4. Frank, Sum, Knox, Charlton and Kirby entered a 'friendly rivalry', co-operating and competing and boosting Frank's buying power.
  • 1895. Knox proved a City Centre store format in Detroit, Michigan, which became the model for many more across the Syndicate.
  • 1889. Charlton sells nine stores to Frank, deciding to target Canada and the Rocky Mountains instead.
  • November 1900. With 100 stores in operation, Frank puts up his first skyscraper, a six story complex in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.