Rodman Wanamaker (February 13, 1863 – March 9, 1928) was a
department store magnate. He owned stores in Philadelphia, New York
City, and Paris, France. He was a patron of the arts, of education, of
golf and athletics, of Native American scholarship, and was an
investor in early aviation. He served as a
Presidential Elector for
Pennsylvania in 1916.
5 Wanamaker-Millrose Games
6 Native Americans
7 Professional Golfers Association
8 World War I
10 See also
12 External links
He was born on February 13, 1863 in
John Wanamaker and
Mary Erringer Brown.
Princeton University in 1881, graduating in 1886. In
college, he sang in the choir, and was a member and business manager
of the Princeton Glee Club. He was a member of the Ivy Club, the first
eating club at Princeton University. He was a member of the 1885 Tiger
football team that won the national championship when a dramatic
last-minute punt return bested the Yale Bulldogs.
In 1886, he joined his father's business, and married Fernanda Henry
of Philadelphia. He went to
Paris as resident manager in 1889, and
lived abroad for more than ten years. When his father purchased the
Alexander Turney Stewart
Alexander Turney Stewart business in New York in 1896, he
helped revolutionize the department store with top quality items and
is credited in particular with fueling an American demand for French
In 1911 he bought the
Philadelphia Evening Telegraph.
Wanamaker was content to live in his father's shadow and did not
actively seek the limelight except for some official, largely
ceremonial positions he held in the City of New York toward the end of
his life. Before
John Wanamaker died in 1922 he turned all his
holdings of the two stores over to Rodman.
John Wanamaker had been the
sole owner of the business, with his death in 1922, complete control
and management passed from father to son. No other retail
merchandising business on so large a scale in the world was in the
hands of a single man.
Rodman Wanamaker suffered from kidney disease in the last decade of
his life and the toxins from this condition slowly took their toll on
Rodman Wanamaker had a son, Captain John Wanamaker, and
two daughters. The son had a number of personal problems that made his
choice as successor to the father increasingly problematic. After his
death control of the stores passed to a board of trustees charged with
serving the interests of the surviving
Rodman Wanamaker family.
He died on March 9, 1928, Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was
interred in the Wanamaker family tomb in the churchyard of the Church
of St. James the Less in Philadelphia.
The Wanamaker Organ.
Wanamaker Organ in
Wanamaker's (now Macy's) department store at
13th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, was substantially enlarged by
Rodman Wanamaker in 1924. It is presently the world's largest fully
functioning pipe organ (An organ with more pipes but fewer ranks is
undergoing restoration at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, New
Jersey). Wanamaker sponsored elaborate recitals in the Grand Court of
Philadelphia store, often featuring
Leopold Stokowski and the
Philadelphia Orchestra. As many as 15,000 people attended these
admission-free events, at which all display counters and fixtures were
removed by an army of workers so that seating could be put in place.
Wanamaker's guidance famous organists were brought to play the
Wanamaker Organs in
Philadelphia and New York, including Marcel
Dupré, Louis Vierne,
Marco Enrico Bossi
Marco Enrico Bossi and Nadia Boulanger.
Wanamaker also sponsored a Concert Bureau to book European organists
on trans-American concert tours.
In 1926 Wanamaker commissioned a 17-ton bell from founders Gillett
& Johnston. It was eventually placed atop the Wanamaker Men's
Store at Broad Street and Penn Square in the Lincoln-Liberty Building
(one block from then-
Wanamaker's main store). Named the "Founder's
Bell" in honor of Rodman's father John, founder of the store, it was
the largest tuned bell in the world when it was cast.
Toward the end of his life, Wanamaker gathered a huge collection of
stringed instruments, known as The Cappella, that featured violas and
violins from such masters as
Guarnerius and Stradivarius. The
orchestra concerts ended with
Wanamaker's death in 1928, and the
stringed instruments were also sold at that time.
The America flying boat on Lake Keuka
Rodman Wanamaker was a pioneer in sponsoring record-breaking aviation
projects and in particular and especially an important early backer of
transatlantic flight development.
In 1913 he commissioned
Glen Curtiss and his aircraft company to
further develop his experimental flying boat designs into a scaled-up
version capable of trans-Atlantic crossing in response to the 1913
challenge prize offered by the London newspaper The Daily Mail. The
resulting America flying boat designed under John Cyril Porte's
supervision did not cross the Atlantic because of the outbreak of
World War I, but was sufficiently promising that the Royal Navy
purchased the two prototypes and ordered an additional fifty aircraft
of the model for anti-submarine patrolling and air-sea rescue tasks,
roles flying boats of today still perform. Concurrently, the design
with some improvements from both British and Americans rapidly matured
during the war spurring the explosive post-war growth of the flying
boat era of International Commercial Aviation, giving Wanamaker at
least some claim to being a founding father of an entirely new
industry, and the modern world with its characteristically shortened
international travel times.
American Trans-Oceanic Company
American Trans-Oceanic Company he also funded efforts to
increase aircraft range throughout the next decade so that Wanamaker's
Fokker trimotor America, belatedly flown by Commander
Richard E. Byrd
Richard E. Byrd transited across the Atlantic only a few days after
Lindbergh's historic solo crossing on May 21–22, 1927 that won the
cash prize in the contest. In both cases, aviation and arguably the
world benefited from the sponsorship of Wanamaker.
Wanamaker Tomb and Bell Tower, Church of St. James the Less,
Rodman Wanamaker was a patron of many important commissions in the
field of liturgical arts, and his legacy includes a sterling silver
altar and silver pulpit at the church of the Queen's estate in
Sandringham, England, as well as a massive processional cross for
Westminster Abbey. He made important additions to his Philadelphia
parish of St. Mark's Church, notably the sumptuously-appointed Lady
Chapel, which was a memorial to his first wife, Fernanda.
He commissioned architect
John T. Windrim
John T. Windrim to design a free-standing
bell tower for the
Church of St. James the Less
Church of St. James the Less in the Philadelphia
neighborhood of Allegheny West. It is also an extensive mausoleum for
the Wanamaker family.
Rodman Wanamaker initiated the Millrose Games. They are now
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Millrose was
Wanamaker's country estate near Jenkintown, Pennsylvania) He also
inaugurated the Wanamaker Mile, and reportedly began the tradition of
The Star Spangled Banner
The Star Spangled Banner at a sporting event.
Between 1908 and 1913, Wanamaker sponsored three photographic
expeditions to the American Indians intended to document a vanishing
way of life and make the Indian "first-class citizens" to save them
from extinction. At that time, Indians were viewed as a "Vanishing
Race," and efforts were made to bring them increasingly into the
mainstream of American life, often at the expense of their culture and
traditions. Joseph K. Dixon was the photographer. On the first
expedition, he made many portraits and captured scenes of Indian life.
Dixon published them in a book, "The Vanishing Race." Sadly, original
copies of the book are becoming scarce as people break it up to sell
the photographs individually. The expedition climaxed on the Crow
Indian Reservation with the filming of a motion picture about
Hiawatha. The second expedition in 1909 involved a motion filming a
reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
The third expedition, the "Expedition of Citizenship," took place in
1913. For it, the American flag was carried to many tribes, and their
members were invited to sign a declaration of allegiance to the United
National American Indian Memorial
National American Indian Memorial (1913, unbuilt).
The resulting large bromide prints were presentation photographs, such
collections having been placed in several museums. Mostly, the
subjects are Blackfeet, Cheyennes, Crows, Dakotas, and other northern
plains tribes. Both the glass prints and film negatives of the
Wanamaker Collection photographed by Dr. J. Dixon were donated to
Indiana University's Mathers Museum of World Cultures. They are
currently stored at the museum. Many of his more popular pieces are
displayed at the museum in both a traveling exhibit and as reprints
from the original glass slides and negatives. For information on the
exhibit or collections please contact the curator of collections.
Thousands of original glass plate negatives are also held in the
Research Library of the American Museum of Natural History in New
The Wanamaker photographic expeditions are fictionally treated in the
novel "Shadow Catcher" by Charles Fergus.
In 1909, Wanamaker conceived the idea of a national monument to Native
Americans. He developed the project for a Statue of Liberty-like
colossal statue, and sponsored the 1913 groundbreaking for a National
Memorial to the First Americans on Staten Island, at the mouth of New
York Harbor. The monument was never built, but photographs of the
groundbreaking are represented in the American Museum of Natural
History's Library's collection.
Professional Golfers Association
1933 PGA champion Gene Sarazen, with the Wanamaker Trophy.
On January 17, 1916, Wanamaker invited a group of 35 prominent golfers
and other leading industry representatives, including the legendary
Walter Hagen, and the "Father of American Golf" Alexander A. Findlay
to a luncheon at the Taplow Club in New York for an exploratory
meeting, which resulted in the formation of the Professional Golfers'
Association of America (PGA). During the meeting, Wanamaker hinted
that the newly formed organization needed an annual all-professional
tournament, and offered to put up $2,500 and various trophies and
medals as part of the prize fund. Wanamaker’s offer was accepted,
and seven months later, the first
PGA Championship was played at
Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. Jim Barnes was the first
winner of the event and Thomas Kerrigan, the Head
Golf Professional at
Siwanoy Country Club at the time, was the first player ever to tee
First held in October 1916, the
PGA Championship has evolved into one
of the world’s premier sporting events, one of golf's four major
championships. Each year, now in early August, a top course in the
United States hosts the world’s best professionals, as they compete
for the Wanamaker Trophy.
World War I
Wanamaker Fountain, Sarcus, France.
He accepted an appointment during
World War I
World War I as
Special Deputy Police
Commissioner in New York City, greeting distinguished guests from
around the world and helping organize the victory parade for General
John J. Pershing and the returning doughboys. He purchased more World
War I bonds than anyone else in the United States, and generously
allowed the use of his residences for the war effort, "virtually
putting his enormous wealth at the disposal of the United States."
After the war Wanamaker acted as something of an official greeter for
the City of New York, often lending his
Landaulette Rolls-Royce for
After the war, he financed the rebuilding of a school in Sarcus,
France. A town fountain was dedicated in his memory.
Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida winter home, La Guerida (or "bounty of war"),
was built in 1923 by Addison Mizner. In 1933 it was purchased by Joe
Kennedy for a paltry $120,000 (equal to $2,268,586 today) and would
later become John F. Kennedy's “Winter White House”. The house
regained notoriety from the headline-grabbing William Kennedy Smith
rape trial in 1991. Smith was acquitted of the charges by a jury. It
was sold to John K. Castle, chief executive of Castle Harlan, and his
wife Marianne, in 1995.
Rodman Wanamaker also had a townhouse on
Spruce Street in Philadelphia, a New York residence near Washington
Square, a house in
Atlantic City (where he died), and a country home
near his father's estate in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.
^ a b "R. Wanamaker Dies Suddenly At 65 At Atlantic City. Acute Uremia
Following a Cold Causes Death of Merchant in His Seaside Villa. Man Of
Wide Interests. Body Taken to Country Home Near Philadelphia. To Be
Buried Beside Father. Tributes Paid By Notables. Coolidge, Smith and
Others Tell of Services to Nation. Stores Here and Abroad Closed". The
New York Times. March 10, 1928. Retrieved 2015-07-03. Rodman Wanamaker
died unexpectedly yesterday morning at his villa in the Ventnor
district of Atlantic City. He was 65 years old. A cold developed
complications a week ago, and an acute attack of uremia resulted on
Thursday. He was in a coma for several hours before his death.
Rodman Wanamaker Buys The Evening Telegraph". The New York Times.
February 3, 1911. Retrieved 2011-05-27.
Rodman Wanamaker bought The
Philadelphia Evening Telegraph to-day from his brother-in-law, Barclay
H. Warburton. Mr. Warburton confirmed the sale when questioned at his
home in Ogontz to-night, but declined to give the consideration
^ "Wanamaker Burial To Be Tomorrow. 200 Leading Men Here and Abroad
Invited to Act as the Honorary Pallbearers. Services In Philadelphia.
Special Train Will Carry Mourners, Including Mayor Walker, From New
York. Funeral in St. Mark's Body Remains at Lindenhurst". The New York
Times. March 11, 1928. Retrieved 2015-07-03. The funeral of Rodman
Wanamaker, who died on Friday, will be held tomorrow afternoon in
Philadelphia. A special train will carry honorary pallbearers and
other mourners from New York, including Mayor Walker. It will leave
Pennsylvania Station at 10 A.M., arriving in
Philadelphia at noon.
Following the funeral, it will leave on the return trip at 4:30
^ Arthur Sweetser. Opportunities in Aviation.
^ "Charles Lindbergh-Medal of Honor Recipient". Charleslindbergh.com.
^ "Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham - Sandringham
Estate". Sandringhamestate.co.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
^ "Friends of the Wanamaker Organ". Wanamakerorgan.com. Retrieved 8
^ "Here's What Happened at the Very First
PGA Championship Ever
Played". Golf.about.com. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
Wanamaker's transatlantic America flying boat Film of the assembly and
naming of America, 22 June 1914
"Milrose Games". Millrosegames.com. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
FindLaw Cases and Codes
Search the Opinions of the US Circuit Courts
Obituary in Motor Boating, Jan. 1935 at Lesliefield.com
Rodman Wanamaker at Find a Grave
ISNI: 0000 0000 2738 2417
BNF: cb165847112 (data)