S. S. Kresge

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S. S. Kresge
S.S. Kresge circa 1922.png
Appearance in his mid-50s
Born Sebastian Spering Kresge
(1867-07-31)July 31, 1867
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Died October 18, 1966(1966-10-18) (aged 99)
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Alma mater Eastman Business College
Known for Kmart
Parent(s) Sebastian Kresge
Catherine Kunkle

Sebastian Spering Kresge (July 31, 1867 – October 18, 1966), was an American businessman and was the founder of the S. S. Kresge Company, one of the 20th century's largest retail organizations. The company was renamed the Kmart Corporation in 1977, and evolved into today's Sears Holdings Corporation, parent of Kmart and Sears.

Life and career[edit]

Kresge was born in Bald Mountain (near Allentown, Pennsylvania), the son of Sebastian Kresge and the former Catherine Kunkle.

Living on the family farm until he was 21 years old, he was educated in the local public schools, the Fairview Academy, in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania, and at the Eastman Business College, from which he graduated in March, 1889.

Following his graduation, he clerked in a hardware store for two years, then worked as a traveling salesman from 1892 to 1897.

On March 20, 1897, Kresge began working for James G. McCrory (founder of J.G. McCrory's) at a five and ten cent store in Memphis, Tennessee. He continued there for two years. In 1899, he founded his company, with Charles J. Wilson, with an $8,000 investment in two five-and-ten-cent stores; one was in downtown Detroit, Michigan (for which he traded ownership in McCrory's).

In 1912, he incorporated the S.S. Kresge Company with 85 stores. The company was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange on May 23, 1918. During World War I, Kresge experimented with raising the limit on prices in his stores to $1.

By 1924, Kresge was worth approximately $375,000,000 ($5,000,000,000 in 2009 dollars[2]) and owned real estate of the approximate value of $100,000,000. He was married and divorced at least twice by 1928.[3]

Kresge and his family were members of Detroit's North Methodist Episcopal Church. He held membership in organizations including four Masonic lodges and the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Detroit Athletic, Boat, and Golf Clubs, Rotary, and various commercial and automobiling societies.[4]

Kresge died on October 18, 1966, at the age of 99.[5]


The first Kmart opened in 1962 in Garden City, Michigan. Kresge died in 1966. In 1977, the S. S. Kresge Corporation changed its name to the Kmart Corporation. In 2005 Sears Holdings Corporation became the parent of Kmart and Sears, after Kmart bought Sears, and formed the new parent.

In 1924 Kresge established The Kresge Foundation, a non-profit organization whose income he specified simply "to promote the well-being of mankind." By the time of his death, Kresge had given the foundation over $60,000,000.[6] A strongly committed prohibitionist, he organized the National Vigilance Committee for Prohibition enforcement and also heavily supported the Anti-Saloon League financially, though he later stopped contributions.[7]


Kresge's house in Detroit's Boston-Edison Historic District.

Numerous places have been named after Kresge:


  1. ^ http://www.nndb.com/people/755/000160275/
  2. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2017. 
  3. ^ Farid-Es-Sultaneh v. Commissioner, 160 F.2d 812 (2d Cir. 1947)
  4. ^ The City of Detroit Michigan 1701-1922. Detroit and Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1922, 172.
  5. ^ "S. S. Kresge Dead. Merchant was 99. His 5-and-10 Store in 1899 Grew Into 930-Unit Chain". The New York Times. October 19, 1966. Retrieved 2010-12-14. Sebastian Spering Kresge, founder of the S.S. Kresge Company's network of 930 general merchandise stores throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, died today. ... 
  6. ^ The Philanthropy Hall of Fame, S.S. Kresge
  7. ^ The Unraveling of National Prohibition
  8. ^ "Facilities of the Faculty of Nursing". University of Western Ontario. Archived from the original on December 14, 2008. Retrieved July 17, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Kresge, Sebastian S.", The Book of Detroiters, Marquis, Albert Nelson, ed., 1914, p. 291

External links[edit]