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Graham's Busy Store

"Downtown Department Stores Wage Price War"
- Warner & Graham

Source: Montgomery Memories, February 1992 - by Karen Bazzani Zach

Note: this is a copyrighted article and is not to be used in ANY way without FULL permission from the author.

Four score and eleven years ago, this month, there was a battle going on in downtown Crawfordsville. No! Make that a full-scale war! In fact, this conflict was a long-term competition.

I'm referring to the price war between the two big department stores - Graham's Busy Store and Warner/Peck's. This is not to say that these were the only two stores of their kind in the city at the time - on the contrary, two German brothers (Sol and Max Tannenbaum) had the "first clothing house in Crawfordsville, their rooms elegantly fitted and handsomely furnished with a novel stock of the latest styles in the market," and a first generation German, Louis Bischof, operated a huge establishment - yet Warner & Graham were profound adversaries as well as advertisers.

In the February 1901 Crawfordsville Journal both stores ran ads proclaiming wonderful buys. Warner and Peck, located on the northwest corner of Main and Washington boasted of "relentless reductions." They reminded the citizens of our fair city that for a number of years it, "has been the custom of this store during the month of February to conduct a grand clearing sale to relieve us of all the winter goods, even if disposed of at a loss."

Their ad went on to say that "the prominent factor of the success of the sale is that the goods offered are all of this season's cut and make and are offered while the season is still in full blast."

Of course, there is always the advertising twist, seen in the next line - "Nothing of our immense stock reserved .... except Earl and Wilson collars!" The ad's clincher was that the "genuine clearing sale is worthy of serious consideration."

Graham's (located where Schloot's Furniture is now) had a different twist to their "Busy Store's" advertisement. They had a Department Manager's Sale and each manager's picture was on the full-page ad.

Mrs. Dora Hardeee, White Goods Department said she had "the lowest prices ever known for India linens." Also, three extra specials on bedspreads: 68 x 80 white for 35 cents (aahhh, if only today's prices were the same); extra heavy, regular $1.28 spreads for 89 cents and Bates exytra large $1 spreads for only 69 cents.

Hugh Kelsey, carpet manager, said, "all Ingrain and Brussel's carpets sold during the sale would be cut, matched and made free of charge." An interesting note is that Kelsey also worked at competitor Bischof's for some time. Scotch mixtures were on sale for 35 cents a yard, down from 50-60 cents acording to Dress Goods Manager Bridgetta Costello.

Two daughters of Timothy and Nancy Fell served as managers - Lizzie, Fancy Art Department had doilies for 19 cents and pin cushions for 5 cents. Mary, Clothing & Suit Manager said to, "read her list carefully for a real delight" and included various items like a good heavy rainy day skirt of $1.98 and golf capes for $5.98.

In 1928, when the Curtain Department manager, Mary Reilley died, her obituary stated that she had been associated with the George W. Graham store for 20 years. Irish print curtains sold for $3.98 a pair, whereas homespun Nottingham ones went for 98 cents. Underwear was Darlington nativge, Hattie Naylor's specialty and she said, "It isn't a matter of cheap goods in my department but one of good goods cheap."

Children's all wool hose sold for 12 cents and wool union suits were only 89 cents. Shoes - William Goltra, manager - were selling from 69 cents to $1.98 and shoe polish for a mere 18 cents a can.

Miss Bid (Bridget) Flynn was tagged as determined to break all former sale records and offered items that "should create the liveliest kind of selling." Fringed lunch cloths sold for 25 cents and 70 inch heavey cream damask sold for 29 cents.

Odd that the domestic department would be headed by a man, but that it was, and Claude Crist boasted that the cotton market had been cornered the week before and prices had gone sky high, so since higher retain prices were expected, it would be a good time to come down and take advantage of the sales being able to purchase plain chambrey for 1 cent a yard and bath towels for 5 cents. White unlaundered shirts sold for 35 cents and fancy dress shirts for a mere 4 cents more.

Will Galey also crowed about his $19.98 tailor-made suits in the men's furnishing department. The last of the 13 departments was heladed by Pearl Kincaid and was "notions," consisting of sale items as "a cake of good violet toilet soap for 5 cents and good knitting yard for 5 cents a skein.

General manager Stanley Hatfield bragged of the "novel idea of permitting the department managers to run the entire establishment as they would if each department were owned and controlled by themselves, each manager to decorate, advertise and manage as they see fit. No one will dictate to them, but give them a free rein and they say they will make it the greatest week of Dry Goods selling Crawfordsville has ever known." He went on to say, "here is an advertisement full of facts to cause deep thinking on the part of its reader."

In 1908, one of the two men, George W. Graham died, but this did not sway the Graham/Warner conflict. Although another of the fighting men (Louis Bischof) closed his establishment for George's funeral, Graham's store presented a new idea for a sale in the same paper - an "after supper sale" - with great specials from 7-10 p.m. including 39 cents a yard dress goods; 35 cent hair brushes and Ladies 59 cent corsets - aren't we glad those are extinct?

Now, a bit about the two men who built these great enterprises. Leopold (Lee) S. Warner, born in Austria, came to New York at age 13. Becoming a naturalized citizen at the earliest opportnity (age 21) he was operating a clothing store at age 24. In January 1893, he came to Crawfordsville and purchased the clothing store of Joly Joel. In 1900, he formed a partership with his son-in-law, Dumont Peck. Being a mason for 50 years, as well as particpating in other clubs, he remained active in his business up until his death, November 7, 1921.

The firm's main clothes lines were Hart, Schaffner and Marx and Stein-blocks brands. Regal shoes for men and Holland shoes for boys were sellers - also Stein & Skolmy clothes, plus Knox, Stetson and Imperial hats. Dumont Peck, Lee's son-in-law attended Wabash, graduating with the turn-of-the-century class and entered into Warner's business. Five years later, Mr. Peck married Juliet Warner. They had one son, David. By 1926, Warner's was out of business.

The Graham firm was launched by David F. McClure's Trade Palace. Born in Bath County, Kentucky in 1829, his early working life was spent on a farm (Edward Nutt's) making $8 a month. He later came to Crawfordsville, accepting employment in the stores of Harvey Benefield and Zach Mahorney. He was employed by Frank Fry for some time, and became partners with Frey's son, William who died young. Thus he became the sole proprietor of The Trade Palace. In 1884, he employed 16 clerks. At the time of his death, it was said that he had amassed a "fortune of $50,000" in the 34 years of his business career.

In the early 1890s, another father/son-in-law partnership was formed when McClure's daughter Nancy's husband, George W. Graham had been born in Piedmont, VA and had come to Crawfordsville from Muncie, Indiana where he had learned the jewelry trade from an uncle. In 1875, he was employed by his cousin, M.C. Klein in that trade but later became associated in the dry goods business with McClure. The business was gradually broadened in scope to include many departments and the "Busy Store" soon became one of the largest and best-known department store sin Western Indiana.

Graham was also quite successful, along with partner D.W. Rountree in the buying and shipping of wool. His death came at a time when he was "just realizing the fruition of his plans in business," yet the George W. Graham Co. "continued to flourish for many years under the competent management of Mrs. (Nancy McClure) Graham who showed business qualifications of the highest order."

Yes, Tannenbaum's Wicks & Benjamins, W.C. Murphy's, Tinkham's American Clothiers, Bischof's and even the Golden Rule were great early 1900s stores, but the two with real pizazz remain Warners & Grahams as can be seen in the four score and a year ago (1911) ads when Graham gave S&H Green Stamps away at his nove "hour" sale (9-10, Muslim; 10-11, Plates; 11-12 outings; 2-3 shoes; 3-4 jewelry & petticoats sold from 4-5 - we can only assume one needed a two-hour lunch (12-2) during such a sale and Warner's: "We're ready to give you something greater than we've ever given before - selling anything priced over $20 for $15.95.

Now, if that wasn't a major advertising battle in downtown Crawfordsville, then - I don't know what is.


References: Crawfordsville Journal articles; obituaries; Sugar Creek Saga; Bowen's 1912 History and City Directories.

Source; Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 30 May 1867 p3
It is wonderful to see the immense piles of goods that are sold at the establishment of James Graham & Bro. Any word of this popular house would be superfluous, as its character for keeping a general assortment of the very best goods is firmly established and its reputation for low prices is beyond cavil?  We offer our readers to their advertisement in today’s paper which speaks volumes to those who are in quest of bargains and who wish to ave money. The most fascinating and accommodating clerks in town are to be found at the Graham corner, near the “North Police. Those wishing to buy should go there and they will be sure to accomplish their object in the most agreeable manner.
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 15 July 1869 p 5 – Sheriff’s Sale – by virtue of an execution to me directed from the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas, of Montgomery County, state of Indiana in favor of James Graham and Nathan Graham, issued to me as sheriff of said county, I will expose to sale at public auction and outcry on Saturday the 24th day of July 1869, between the hours of 10 o’clock a.m. and 4 o’clock pm of said day at the court house door in the city of Crawfordsville, Montgomery County, Indiana the rents and profits for a term not exceeding 7 years of the following described real estate in Mont Co IN towit: Part of our lot #28, Wabash Colloge addition to the city of C’ville, beginning at a point on the east …

GRAHAM & BRO Boston Store
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 25 July 1874 p 8
James Graham, recently removed to the insane asylum at Indianapolis is still confined in that institution. He is very feeble and little hope is entertained of his ever regaining his health.
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 18 Oct 1855 p 3
Graham & Bro. The Boston Store!  $30,000 stock. Three rooms filled with New Goods - $75,000 sales in One Year!  We are now receiving the Excelsoir Stock of Fall and Winter Goods, direct from the Manufacturers and Importers of Boston.  Dry goods of every style and quality used in this country can be found in our Tremendous Piles of Goods!
400 Bay State and Brosha Shawls
4,000 Yds. Of Black and Fancy Silks
20,000 Yds of Prints
25,000 Yds. Of Muslins and Sheetings
200 Pieces of Delains
100 Pieces of Morinoes
12 Bales of Batting
100 pieces Striped SHirtings
Clothing Store Upstairs $7,000 stock
The most extensive stock of Ready Made Clothing ever offered for sale in this Market can be seen at Graham & Brother’s
Our stock includes every article of Men’s and Boys’ Ware in use. We pledge ourselves to sell at City Retail prices.  
Boot, Shoe, Hat & Cap Store
100 Cases of Boots & shoes, direct form the Manufacturers of Boston, including every quality and style in use. Hats 7 Caps of every variety and stayle at Graham & Brother’s.
Carpets! Carpets – 1,000 yds at City prices at Graham & Bro’s.,
Wall Paper
A large and extensive assortment of the best styles. We invite every Gentleman and Lady in this and the surrounding counties to call and see our Stock before purchasing elsewhere. The great increase of our trade enables us to bid defiance to competition.
Come on, come all and see the Mammoth Stock of Good at Graham & Brother’s.
We can and will sell below all competition. Come farmers, and mechanics and all, and bring all your families and clothe them at the Boston Store – James Graham & Bro. Sept 20, 1855 – 5 in 1 year

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 29 Nov 1866 p 4
The Mammoth still flourishing. James Graham & Brother are selling goods by the wagon load. Their trade is on the increase, because they sell so cheap. They come as near giving away goods as it would be prudent for a firm to do. The hundreds of buyers who visit their store daily can attest this fact. This will speak for themselves and more to the purpose, in next week’s Journal.

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 17 July 1862 p 3
Legal Notice – state of Indiana – Montgomery Co
James Graham & Nathan L. Graham vs. Goerge Brown
Complain on account for the sum of $48.50. Before John Pursel, Esq, Justice of the Peace in Union Twp, July 11th, 1862.  Filed complaint – said defendant, George Brown hereby notified of filing of suit and unless he appear and answer at the calling of said cause on 9 Aug 1862, at 10 o’clock am at the office of John Pursel, JP as above named said complain and the matters therein contained and alleged will be heard and determined in his absence.  Seal – 16 July 1862 – john Pursel, JP.
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 10 Feb 1859 p 4
All who want to see the Mammoth of Mammoths in immense piles of Dry Goods, Boots & Shoes, Hats & Caps, Carpets, and Readh-made clothing MUST stop at the Graham Corner. This stock is for sale at from 2-10%.  Come and see – nothing charge for showing. James Graham & Bro’s
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 26 Oct 1865 p 2
James Graham, of this old and highly popular dry goods and clothing emporium (The Mammoth) started east a few days since for the purchase of a stock for the fall and winter trade, which, when all shall have been received, will astonish “the natives.” This house will be in receipt of new goods daily – by Express – for the next 60 days, direct from the hands of importers and manufacturers of the East. Graham buys largely and low; and is consequently, enabled to draw and accommodate a large patronage. Look out for the coming of this stock…. and a competition right below says Look Out- Mr. David McClure, of the firm of McClure & Fry we notice has returned from the east. Mc, we are informed, purchased a large and superb stock, and at figures as low as the lowest; and intends selling the same at corresponding prices. This stock will be arriving daily. Call in and examind new goods.
Might be when it began

Source: Crawfordsville Journal 5 Jan 1854 p 4
THE NEW BOSTON STORE – the Excelsior Stock – 500 boxes, barrels, hogsheads, packages and cases of Boston Goods just received by James Graham & Brother, dealers in Foreign & Deomestic dry goods, Boots & Shoes, Hats & Capt, ready made clothing and straw goods.  Our stock is entirely new, every article being just purchased of the Manufactuers & Importers. We are pledged to sell goods 10% below Weaver & Co of Lafayette. Our stock embraces the most extensive assortment of Dry Goods ever offered in this market. Heavy sheetings, light .. dress goods.. …
This one is even older

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 20 Sept 1855 p 2
GRAHAM & BROTHER This enterprising firm have just received and opened one of the largest and best selected stocks of Goods ever brought to this place. Mr. James Grham remained in Boston for some weeks and spared no pains to purchase such goods as will suit the people of this region. For taste, elegance and durability, they are unsurpassed, and are offered on the most liberal terms. Give them a call you will not fail to be please. See advertisement.

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 28 July 1853 p 3
James Graham & Brother – dealers in foreign & domestic dry goods, boots & shoes, hats & caps, ready made clothing …

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal Friday, 8 February 1901
For this sale we give our department managers full sway. They can sell the goods for what they please. We will not dictate. The success of this sale is in their hands and that of their friends. If they want to sell goods for less than they cost, that’s their privilege. We won’t interfere. We trust our department managers will receive the support of all buyers and that they have the best of success in their efforts to do you good.
                                              Geo. W. Graham

GRAHAM"S 1901 Department Managers
General Manager             Will Galey                      Mary Fell                      Pearl Kincaid
SA Haifield                    Men's Furnishings             Cloaks/Suits                 Notions

Bid Flynn                     Claude Crist                    Dora Hardee                   Hugh Kelsey
Linen Dept.                  Domestic Dept.               White Goods Dept.          Carpet Dept.

Bridgetta Costello       Jennie Cade                  WW Goltra                       Hallie Naylor
Dress Goods              Millinery                        Shoe Dept.                       Hosiery

Lizzie Fell                     Mary Reiley
Fancy Art                     Curtains
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