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F. W. Woolworth

AKA Frank Winfield Woolworth

Born: 13-Apr-1852
Birthplace: Rodman, NY
Died: 8-Apr-1919
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Infection
Remains: Buried, Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Methodist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Five and dime magnate

At 20 years of age F. W. Woolworth found work in exchange for room and board at a local dry goods store, and after his employers held a successful clearance sale he saw the possibilities of a discount store. His key innovations were having the merchandise on open display instead of behind the counter, and having prices plainly marked instead of encouraging haggling. With borrowed funds he opened his first F.W. Woolworth store in the outskirts of Utica, New York in 1879, but the store closed the following year. Deciding that his problem had been a poor location, he opened a new store in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1881. Within months he was opening multiple stores in business partnerships with local retailers, and within a few years Woolworth was a millionaire. In 1909 he opened his first store in England, and in 1913 the company opened its new headquarters in New York's Woolworth Building -- then the tallest building in the world.

Woolworth had a deep fear of dentists, allowing his teeth to rot, and died of a dental infection in 1919. The company had more than 1,000 stores at the time of his death, and with lunch counters in many stores, Woolworth was America's largest restaurant chain through the 1940s. The company peaked as the world's largest department store chain in the late 1970s, with more than 4,000 stores. By the late 1990s business was sputtering, and the company closed all of its American department stores, renamed itself Venator, and sold the Woolworth Building. In 2003 Venator renamed itself after the conglomerate's most successful division, Foot Locker, Inc. Under separate ownership, Woolworth stores are still operated in Austria, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Woolworth's daughter married Franklyn Laws Hutton, brother of E. F. Hutton, and eventually killed herself. His granddaughter was the unbalanced socialite Barbara Hutton.

Father: John Hubbell Woolworth (farmer, b. 16-Apr-1821)
Mother: Fanny McBrier Woolworth (m. 14-Jan-1851)
Brother: Charles Sumner Woolworth ("Sum", founder of C. S. Woolworth dept. stores, b. 1-Aug-1856)
Wife: Jennie Creighton Woolworth (b. circa 1853, m. 11-Jun-1876, d. 1924, three daughters)
Daughter: Helena Maud Woolworth McCann (b. 17-Jul-1878)
Daughter: Edna Woolworth (b. 1883, d. 1918)
Daughter: Jessie May Woolworth Donahue

    University: Watertown Commercial College, Watertown, NY

    Woolworth Founder & President (1879-1919)


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