Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advertising the toy dept

One of the quintessential Marshall Field's moves, at least in the days during and soon after its founder's leadership, was an insistence on service.

It's fascinating to see how this ideal extended even to advertising. Like in this postcard:

Notice that it does not extol how extensive their toy selection it (it was -- at one time among the largest in the U.S., if not the largest) or how diverse (anything from a single balloon to a custom-made bicycle or how rare (one-of-a-kind handpainted toy soldiers anyone?)

No, it's an educational blurb about the value of toys in a child's growth and development. About how important they are in developing breadth and activity. A little lesson in how much Field's cares about that.

I'm not saying there's anything false here. On the contrary. One of the special things about the store was its consistent striving to show that it went above and beyond to provide the ultimate in service. Yes, sure, they're out to make a profit, but they almost make it sound like that's not really their main goal.

Note that even the central image is not really about the toys (that's reserved for the surprisingly detailed border illustrations), but rather of the children playing. And of course developing as they do so.

That is just SO Marshall Field's.


  1. Leslie - this is a GREAT blog and a GREAT way to pre-promote your upcoming book with us! I added your information to our Facebook Fan page this morning. Feel free to post to the page yourself if you'd like.
    - PJ Norlander, Director of Marketiing, Arcadia Publishing

  2. Hi Leslie,

    I love Marshall Fields and actively boycott Macy's. That's why I felt guilty on my last trip to Chicago when I snuck in and bought some Frango mints.

    Can't wait for your MF book. My mom grew up in a small town outside of Chicago and each year, her mother took her in for a shopping trip to Fields. Of course, it included lunch in the Walnut Room.

    In the 70s, my mom took me on a similar trip and I still have great memories of that day. We also still have an old 1940s Uncle Mistletoe doll. It's pretty beat up, but it's a priceless family heirloom.

    Good luck with your project. Chris