The elder Marshall Field considered himself the Chief Apostle of the American Way, he epitomized the American Dream by becoming one of Americas first rags to riches stories in the industrial boom of both the pre-Antebellum and post-Antebellum periods. Marshall Field was born and raised as a humble farm boy and became perhaps the greatest businessman this country has ever had. Field learned his work ethic as a young boy by direct example of his father, who started working two hours before daybreak and stopped two hours after. As soon as Marshall could walk, he was working on the family farm. At the age of six, he enrolled in district school only during the winter months when farm work was scarce. He continued these lines of life until the age of fifteen, when the Field family was forced to stop working their farm due to a road closure.
At this time it was decided that since Marshall was the youngest son and did not qualify for of the estate property, that he would have to go out and earn his own living. His father being friends with the local dry goods (general store) owner secured Marshall a clerking job in the dry goods store. Ironically, Marshall was fired from that same job after two weeks. When the father inquired what had happened the owner told him that your son has no future in the dry goods market and he should be kept at home on the farm where he belongs. Marshall Field then began working as a hired hand on his brothers farm. After two years of being his brothers servant, he moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts with his other brother.
His brother had secured Marshall a job at the Deacon-H.G. Davis dry goods store. There his first year salary was a measly $400. However, he was able to save two hundred of this by sleeping in the store. By the time of the 1857 panic, Marshall had modernized Deacons credit policies; subsequently Deacon was not monetarily damaged by the panic. By modernizing Deacons credit programs Field was able to insure the stores future by making credit harder to attain, by shortening the amount of time customers had to repay the store.
Because of some unwise business dealings the stores owners had been involved in, the store was reorganized into Cooley, Farwell and Company. Marshall Field was then awarded a partnership for his part in saving the store from the Panic. Now, Fields business prowess became evident when he decided to move to Chicago; where he thought the world of business would open up to him. He decided that the impending sectional crisis of the civil war would make many men fortunes and he wanted to be one of them, thus he contacted his former Employer in Pittsfield, and preceded to secure a one hundred thousand dollar loan, the rest is history. Field became a small partner in the store of a Mr.
Palmer. The reorganized company of Field, Palmer, and Leiter went threw numerous name changes and with the retirement of Mr. Palmer in 1860, and the subsequent buyout of Leiter, the store became Marshal Field and Company.
As Fields wealth grew, he began to invest in other companies. His investments reflected a typically diverse portfolio that is common in todays business place. Field loaned his friend George Pullman a large sum of money as in order to reorganize the Pullman Palace Car Company.
A few years later, the company went threw what is now considered one of the most damaging strikes in American History. In that strike a damaging precedent was set: government by injunction. Field in general was happy with the result of the strike because the Federal government crushed it, but in a business sense, the strike outraged him since it virtually bankrupted his friend George Pullman. If Pullmans company were to go under it would take with it a huge amount of Fields money. Because of this fact, Field took over the management of the Pullman Palace Car Company.
After Fields took over the Pullman Company, he conducted a study to see if the workers were just in their causes for striking. He found in the aforementioned study that the workers were just in their grounds for striking. Subsequently he gave each worker a wage increase of ten percent, and eliminated various housing surcharges that had been implemented by Pullman. Field then proceeded to tell all the Pullman workers, that fair play on their part would result in fair play on Managements part. This is significant because he was the first employer to ever make a guarantee that applied itself in that way.
It was essentially a guarantee that management would look out for their employees if the employees looked out for management.Marshal Field the citizen always asked himself one question before making any decision in his personal or his business life. Is it good for business? The answer to that pivotal question told him what to do.
Another virtue Field lived his life by was Honesty is the best policy. However, the motto that essentially built Field his vast fortune was the customer is always right. Many newspaper articles could be cited to show first hand evidence of how the public viewed the great Marshal Field. However, there are only a few that reflect those views as strong as the people of Chicago felt them. The articles appeared in business periodicals: The first article appeared on March 3, 1902 in Cosmopolitan. This Article called Field the most reputable businessman this great country has ever had. The article then went on to state that those who Field were employed were like part of his family and in times of need he would help them out.
The second article was based around Fields business philosophies, and is directly quoted in the next paragraph.I would say first, a young man should carefully consider what his natural bent or inclination is, be it business or other profession; in other words take stock of ones self and ascertain if possible, what he is best adapted for and endeavor to get into that profession. Having entered upon that profession let him pursue the work in hand with diligence and determination, to know it thoroughly, which can only be done by close and enthusiastic application of the powers at his command; strive to master the details and strive to put into it an energy directed by strong common sense so as to make his services of value wherever he is; be alert and to seize opportunities when they present themselves.
Within the aforementioned quote is every-single philosophy that Mr. Marshal Field used to make himself over 160 million dollars. To better help you the reader appreciate the magnitude of that figure a 160 million dollars at the time of Fields death is the equivalent of 3.5 billion dollars now.Field also founded the Civil Federation, which not only enacted the first civil service laws in Chicago but also policed the labor unions. This organization was founded by the five richest families in Chicago and safeguarded their businesses in times of labor disputes.
Field regarded labor unions as dangerous and saw no need for them. The federation was somewhat of a militant organization since it kept a standing cavalry of approximately two hundred solders. In the creating of this report many important facts regarding Fields personal life have been omitted due to restrictions on the papers length but here are some pertinent facts that will help you ascertain a better understanding of Marshal Fields life as well as his impact on American History. He was born in Conway, Massachusetts on January 9, 1834. He married his first wife Nadine at the age of 29 in 1863. He had only one son who committed suicide in 1905 because he could not live up to all that his father had accomplished.
Five months after Marshal Field II death Marshal Field, I died of phenomena. In 1905, Marshall Field was this countries largest individual taxpayer. And in Cook county he was the largest individual tax payer for almost 15 years as he slowly threw calculated shrewd business deals made his fortune. Towards the end of his life, he also began to invest in real estate owning some 30 million worth of property at the time of his death. It was not until late in life that he began to understand the good that philanthropy could do in his hometown. He contributed almost five hundred thousand dollars to the creation of a public library in Conway. He also founded the University of Chicago both threw two land grants and a cash contribution totaling two million dollars.
He also greatly aided the victims of the Chicago fire that burned down a major part of the city in 1871, as well as his store. The great merchant died in 1906 leaving one of the most detailed holographic wills ever made. The will contained some twenty-three articles each of which directed how his money was to be used in the future. The majority of the money of the estate was given to Marshal Field III who made many heads turn with some of the philanthropy. The size of the elder Fields estate and the language that was contained within the will caused the federal government to modify the existing estate laws. In closing is should be emphasized that many of Marshal Fields policies and business practices have become the cornerstone on which many of todays successful entrepreneurships have been built upon.
BibliographyGale Group Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History: 1999. Gale Group database.
Pierce, B.L. “Rise of a Modern City: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957. Tebbel, John, The Marshall Fields: A Study in Wealth E.
P. Dutton & Company, 1948.Chicago American: Obituary of Marshal Field I, January 17,1906.
Articles found in Gale group DatabaseEverybodys Magazine: Marshal Field a Great Mercantile Genius March 1906. Outlook, the: Article, January 27, 1906