WARNER & PECK Store - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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believe from 1919 or 1930 Cville Directory

"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: 1908 Breaks School Yearbook Advertisement

Source: Buffalo Sunday Morning News 2 Oct 1892 p 22

The great advantages of location and accessibility of shipping facilities to all points enjoyed by Buffalo has established here many important houses in leading lines of manufacture one that has notably increased during recently years being the production of clothing in its various departments. Of those engaged in this line no firm commands more complete facilities or enjoys a more extensive trade than that of Warner Bros & Co. manufacturers of men’s boys, youths and children’s clothing at Pearl Street and Terrace. The house was inaugurated in 1851 by Warner Bros. the present style being adopted two years ago and the members now being John R Warner, Edward Warner, Kauffman Greenberg, Simon Kempner and Ludy A. Warner, Jr.  These are all business men of experience, and keeping their products at the highest standard of quality they meet the demands of an extensive trade west of the Pacific coast. The house was founded on a comparatively small scale, nearly a third of a century ago by Brock & Wiener who were succeeded five yeas ago by Brock, Weiner & Geismer, and that firm in turn, May 1, 1892 by the present proprietors who occupy at 48  & 50 Pearl street, a four-story and basement, handsome, red brick building 50 x 125 ‘ in dimensions, owned by Mr. M. Geismer and built by him. There they manufacture and carry in stock one of the most complete and comprehensive lines of men’s boys and youth’s clothing to be found in the state  making a specialty oof fine and medium grades.  Seven traveling salesmen represent the house through the West and South and its annual transactions are very large. Mr. M. Geismer who is still in the prime of his life is a native of Germany but has resided in this country 30 years. He was formerly in the lie stock business … Warner Jeilinck, Kempner & Lewis … one of the most notable instances of success in this line is presented by the record of the firm of Warner, Jell, Kemp & Lewin manuf of men’s youths boys and children’s pantaloons at 52 to 56 Pearl Street. The business was established 12 years ago by Warner & Jellinek afterward becoming Warner, Jellinek & Warner and two years ago assumed its present style, the members NOW BEING Lee S. Warner, E. Jellinek, H. Kempner and Benjamin Lewin. They have foiur story and basement brick premises, 50 x 125 ‘ in dimensions provided with every convenience and facility for effective operations, employ a force of skilled cutters and 400 operatives, the greatest care being taken in the selection of materials and their products including all grades of goods, a specialty, however, being made of the finer qualities. The business is distribute over a territory extending west to the Pacific Coast and south to VA and Ky. All of the members are business men of excellent standing, identified with the clothing business for the past 20 years ~!~~

Source: Muncie Star Press Mon 2 Feb 1925 p 3

Indianapolis, Feb 1 – More than 400 retail clothiers and furnishers are expected to attend the annual convention of the Indiana Retail Clothiers & Furnishers Association to be held at the Claypool Hotel Feb 16 and 17. Convention of the Men’s Appprel Club of Indiana composed of salesmen traveling in Indiana and visiting clothiers also will be held at the same time and at the same hotel. Governor Ed Jackson has been invited to deliver the address of welcome at 11 o’clock the morning of Feb 16. He will be followed by an address by Herman Marx of Muncie, president of the organization. Albert W. Levi, secretary-treasurer will give his report, which will be followed by a report by Dumont Peck, of Crawfordsville, National Director.

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