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October 27: World’s Largest Store

October 27, 2013

old_santaMacy’s opened its first store in New York City, on Sixth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets, on this date in 1858, and rang up $11.08 in sales. After its founders died, Macy’s was acquired in 1895 by brothers Isidor and Nathan Straus, who sold china and other goods in the department store. They moved it to Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway — so far north from other New York shopping emporia that it had to transport customers by steam wagonette from 14th Street. The brothers visited Palestine in 1912; Isidor died returning home on the Titanic, while Nathan remained for a time doing charitable work in Palestine. Macy’s is best known for its city-block size and for inaugurating several famous bits of Americana, including the Thanksgiving Day Parade, begun in 1924, and Fourth of July fireworks. The building, which describes itself as “The World’s Largest Store,” was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1978. Other Jewish-owned department stores have included B. Altmans, Gimbels, Kaufmanns, Lazaruses, Magnins, Mays, and Abraham & Straus. The city of Netanya in Israel is named for Nathan Straus; for an explanation of why, look at the video below.

“I often think of the old saying, ‘The world is my country, to do good is my religion.’ . . . This has often been an inspiration to me. I might say, ‘Humanity is my kin, to save babies is my religion.’ It is a religion I hope will have thousands of followers.” Nathan Straus