|Born||May 20, 1826|
|Died||May 4, 1902(aged 75)|
|Occupation||Chicago businessman, developer|
Potter Palmer founded a dry goods store, Potter Palmer and Company, on Lake Street in Chicago in 1852. Unlike many stores of the time it focused on women and encouraged their patronage. Palmer instituted a "no questions asked" returns policy and allowed customers to take goods home to inspect before purchasing, which served to nurture the goodwill and patronage of Chicagoans. He made the store much larger and more distinctive than other stores of the time. Palmer was the first owner to advertise with large window displays that included price comparisons.
When Palmer's doctor urged him to get out of the business in 1865 because of ill health, he brought in partners Marshall Field and Levi Leiter. The trio joined forces and renamed the firm Field, Palmer, Leiter and Company. The store would eventually develop into the prominent Midwestern department store chain, Marshall Field and Company.
Real estate career
In 1867, Palmer sold his share of the partnership and focused his efforts on his real estate interests, leasing a new building to his former partners in 1868 at State and Washington. He built several buildings along State Street on property he owned, including the Palmer House Hotel. When his buildings were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, Palmer borrowed $1.7 million to rebuild, the largest amount lent to a private individual up to that time. He reclaimed the swampland north of Chicago's commercial district, developing it into Lake Shore Drive.
In 1871, he married Bertha Honoré. In 1874, she gave birth to a son, Honoré, and in 1875, she gave birth to another son, Potter Palmer II. Both sons went on to have sons named Potter Palmer III, as well as other children.
In 1885 Palmer built the castellated Palmer Mansion on Lake Shore Drive, leading to the establishment of the Gold Coast. Prior to that time, Prairie Avenue had been the most desirable address in Chicago.
Palmer is buried in Graceland Cemetery.
On March 24, 2013, the half-hour documentary "Love Under Fire: The Story of Bertha and Potter Palmer" aired on PBS affiliate WTTW11 Chicago. The film was written, directed and produced by Amelia Dellos and Corn Bred Films.
- Who's Who in Chicago, 1931
- Death of Potter Palmer in The New York Times, May 5, 1902, p. 9.
- Potter Palmer at Find a Grave
- Love Under Fire: The Story of Bertha and Potter Palmer 2013 documentary film