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Rowland Hussey Macy

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Rowland Hussey Macy
Macy in 1858
Born(1822-08-30)August 30, 1822
DiedMarch 29, 1877(1877-03-29) (aged 54)
Paris, France
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery, Bronx
Known forMacy's
Louisa Houghton
(m. 1844)

Rowland Hussey Macy Sr. (August 30, 1822 – March 29, 1877) was an American businessman who founded the department store chain Macy's.

Life and career[edit]

Macy was the fourth of six children born to a Quaker family on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. At the age of fifteen, he worked on the whaleship Emily Morgan and had a red star tattooed on either his hand or his forearm (various versions as to the exact location of the marking have been reported).[1][2] He married Louisa Houghton (1820–1888) in 1844, and had three children: Charles A. Macy (1845–1846); Rowland Hussey Macy Jr. (1847–1878); and Florence Macy (1853–1933), who married James F. Sutton.[3]

He and his brother, Charles, opened a dry goods store in Marysville, California, shortly after the city was founded at the height of the Gold Rush in 1850. Charles stayed in Marysville after the store failed, but Rowland headed east. Between 1843 and 1855, Macy opened four retail dry goods stores, including the original Macy's store in downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts, established in 1851 to serve the mill industry employees of the area. They all failed, but he learned from his mistakes. Macy moved to New York City in 1858 and established a new store named "R.H Macy Dry Goods" at Sixth Avenue on the corner of 14th Street, significantly north of other dry goods stores of the time.[4][5] On the company's first day of business on October 28, 1858, sales totaled $11.08, equal to $389.48 today.

As the business grew, Macy's expanded into neighboring buildings, opening up more and more departments, and used publicity devices such as a store Santa Claus, themed exhibits, and illuminated window displays to draw in customers.[6] It offered a money back guarantee, although it only accepted cash into the 1950s. The store also produced its own made-to-measure clothing for both men and women, assembled in an on-site factory.[5] The store moved several times before arriving at its current Herald Square location in 1902.

R.H. Macy's monument at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

In 1875, Macy took on two partners, Robert M. Valentine (1850–1879), a nephew; and Abiel T. La Forge (1842–1878) of Wisconsin, who was the husband of a cousin.[7][8]

Macy died on March 29, 1877, in Paris of Bright's disease.[9] He was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx. His will was probated on May 1, 1877, and he left his wife, Louisa H. "absolutely, all the paraphernalia, wearing apparel, watches, rings, trinkets, jewels, and personal ornaments reputed to belong to her, and during her life, the use of all the household furniture, books, clocks, bronzes, and works of art." At her death this was to pass to his daughter, Florence. He left only a small annuity for his son.[3] The following year, in 1878, Macy's partner La Forge died, and the third partner, Valentine, died in 1879.[7][8] Ownership of the store passed to the Macy family until 1895, when it was sold to Isidor and Nathan Straus.

In popular culture[edit]

  • A fictional, reimagined "R. H. Macy" (depicted as alive and running the company seventy years after the historical Macy's death) was portrayed in the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street by character actor Harry Antrim. In subsequent adaptations of the story, the character was played by Don Beddoe in an episode of The 20th Century-Fox Hour in 1955, Hiram Sherman in a 1959 TV movie, and David Doyle in a 1973 TV film.[10]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Evans, Stephen (March 1, 2005). "The death of the department store". news.bbc.co.uk. BBC News. Retrieved November 2, 2008.
  2. ^ "Richtig packen!". November 16, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Rowland H. Macy's Will". New York Times. May 1, 1877. Retrieved June 14, 2008. The will of Rowland H. Macy, the well known Sixth-avenue merchant, has been filed in the Surrogate's Court. He leaves to his widow, Louisa H., "absolutely, all the paraphernalia, wearing apparel, watches, rings, trinkets, jewels, and personal ornaments reputed to belong to her, and during her life, the use of all the household furniture, books, clocks, bronzes, and works of art ...
  4. ^ Robbins, L.H. (February 12, 1933). "The City Department Store: Evolution of 75 Years. The Macy Anniversary Directs Attention to the Development of The Great Institutions That Serve the American Shopper". New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2008. For long after Captain Rowland H. Macy opened a fancy-goods shop in Sixth Avenue just below Fourteenth Street in 1858, seventy-five years ago, there was no department store in all the world. There were already merchant princes in New York, but they were specialists.
  5. ^ a b Abelson, Elaine S. "R. H. Macy" in Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (2010). The Encyclopedia of New York City (2nd ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11465-2. p. 1102
  6. ^ Burrows, Edwin G. and Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-195-11634-8. pp. 945–946
  7. ^ a b "Abiel T. La Forge". New York Times. February 13, 1878. Retrieved June 14, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "Robert M. Valentine's Will". New York Times. February 26, 1879. Retrieved June 14, 2008. The will of Robert M. Valentine, late partner in the firm of R. H. Macy Co., was offered for probate yesterday in the Surrogate's office.
  9. ^ "Rowland H. Macy, Merchant". New York Times. March 31, 1877. Retrieved June 14, 2008.
  10. ^ "Mr. R.H. Macy" on IMDb

Further reading

External links[edit]