Frank Winfield Woolworth

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Frank Winfield Woolworth
Born (1852-04-13)April 13, 1852
Rodman, New York
Died April 8, 1919(1919-04-08) (aged 66)
Glen Cove, New York
Cause of death
Resting place
Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY
Residence Winfield Hall
Education Watertown Commercial College, Watertown, NY
Known for Founded F. W. Woolworth Company
Net worth USD ~ $6.5 million
Political party
Religion Methodist
Spouse(s) Jennie Creighton (m. 1876–1924) (b. c1853 d. 1924)
Children Helena Maud Woolworth McCann (b. 7/17/1878 d. 3/28/1938)
Edna Woolworth Hutton (b. 7/12/1883, d. 5/2/1917)
Jessie May Woolworth Donahue (b. 3/14/1886, d. 11/3/1971)
Parents John Hubbell Woolworth (b. 4/16/1821 d. 2/8/1907)
Fanny McBrier (b.1/14/1831 d. 2/15/1878 m. 1/14/1851)
Relatives Charles Sumner Woolworth (brother) (b. 8/1/1856 d. 1/7/1947))
Barbara Hutton (granddaughter) (b. 11/14/1912 d. 5/11/1979)

Frank Winfield Woolworth (April 13, 1852 – April 8, 1919) was the founder of F. W. Woolworth Company , and operator of discount stores known as "Five-and-Dimes" that featured a selection of merchandise priced at five and ten cents. He pioneered the now-common practices of buying merchandise direct from manufacturers and fixing prices on items, rather than haggling. He was the first to use self-service display cases so customers could examine what they wanted to buy without the help of a salesman.[1]


Woolworth was born Tuesday 13 April 1852 in Rodman, New York to John Hubbell Woolworth and Fanny McBrier, and has a brother, Charles Sumner Woolworth.[1]

He attended a business college for two terms in Watertown, New York. In 1873 he worked as a stock boy in a general store. It was there that he got the idea for a 5 cent store. There was a table with items for just 5 cents that always sold what was on it.

On June 11, 1876, he married Jennie Creighton (1853–1924) and they had three daughters. One of them, Edna Woolworth (1883–1917), the mother of Barbara Hutton, later committed suicide.[2]

He borrowed $300 and opened a five-cent store in Utica, New York, on February 22, 1878. It failed within weeks. His second store was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and it opened in April 1879. He expanded the concept to include merchandise priced at ten cents.

In 1911, the F. W. Woolworth Company was incorporated with 586 stores. In 1913, Woolworth built the Woolworth Building in New York City at a cost of $13.5 million in cash. At the time, it was the tallest building in the world, measuring 792 feet, or 241.4 meters.

He built Winfield Hall in Glen Cove, New York, on Long Island, in 1916.


Woolworth's tomb in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx

Woolworth died on April 8, 1919, five days before his 67th birthday. At the time of his death, Woolworth was worth approximately $6.5 million or the equivalent of 1/1214th of US GNP [3] His company owned more than 1,000 stores in the United States and other countries and was a $65 million ($804,328,215 in 2009 dollars) corporation. He died without signing his newest will, so his handicapped wife received the estate under the provision of his older 1889 will.[4]

Woolworth is interred in The Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.


His granddaughter Barbara Hutton would gain much publicity for her lifestyle, squandering more than $50 million. Hutton likely named her London, UK, mansion after her grandfather's Long Island estate.

Bronze busts honoring Woolworth and seven other industry magnates stand outside between the Chicago River and the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

By 1997, the original chain he founded had been reduced to 400 stores, and other divisions of the company began to be more profitable than the original chain. The original chain went out of business on July 17, 1997, as the firm began its transition into Foot Locker, Inc.

The UK stores continued operating (under separate ownership since 1982) after the US operation ceased under the Woolworth name and by the 2000s traded as Woolworths Group. The final U.K. stores ceased trading January 6, 2009. The UK Woolworths brand was bought by Shop Direct Group in the UK who plan to run the store online only.

Woolworths continues to operate in Germany.

Although both the Australian company Woolworths Limited and the South African company Woolworths Holdings Limited took their names from Woolworth's US and UK stores, they have no connection to the F. W. Woolworth Company.

Mr. Woolworth was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1995.[5]

He has a cemetery named for him east of Watertown, New York state, where he started his first store.[6]

In 1978, the Woolworth Estate became the home of Monica Randall, a writer and photographer. She wrote a memoir of her experiences there entitled Winfield: Living in the Shadow of the Woolworths. Other notable residents of Winfield were the Reynolds family of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Reynolds Aluminum. The mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Helen Pike (December 5, 1999). "Woolworth in New Jersey: A Love-Hate Relationship". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  2. ^ "Mrs. Hutton Found Dead. Daughter of F. W. Woolworth Suffocated in Her Room at the Plaza". New York Times. May 3, 1917. Retrieved 2011-12-03. "Mrs. Franklyn Laws Hutton, who was Edna Woolworth, daughter of F. W. Woolworth, was found dead in her apartment at the hotel Plaza. ..." 
  3. ^ Michael Klepper and Michael Gunther (1996), The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates — A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, p. xiii, ISBN 978-0-8065-1800-8, OCLC 33818143 
  4. ^ "Woolworth Died With Will Unsigned. Death Came So Suddenly That Document, Long Under Consideration, Was Not Executed. Demented Wife Gets All. Estate of Between $30,000,000 and $40,000,000 Disposed Of Under Will Made in 1889.". New York Times. April 15, 1919. Retrieved 2008-06-27. "The family of Frank Winfield Woolworth made public yesterday the fact that Mr. Woolworth's death came so suddenly that he did not have time to execute an extended will upon which he had been long at work, making many ..." 
  5. ^ Fortune Magazine 1990 Business Hall of Fame
  6. ^ location of the cemetery
  7. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 

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