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Cash Was King: James Cash Penney

Missouri-born James Cash Penney was the 7th of 12 children born, in 1875,  to James Sr. --a farmer and Baptist minister--and his wife Mary. As a child, when he wasn’t attending school, James worked on the family farm. His father stressed the value of money and by the time James was eight years old, he was expected to pay for his own clothing. Penney began his work in retail at J. M. Hale and Brothers dry good store, shortly after he graduated from high school. Before long, he was trained as a salesman. In 1902, James Cash Penney opened his first store named Golden Rule for the credo by which Penney lived and did business. His business and personal philosophy paid off : By 1912, there were 34 Golden Rule stores across the country. In 1913, the name was changed to the J.C. Penney Co. and the company headquarters were relocated to NYC.

  Penney died at the age of 95, on February 12, 1971, in New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. His funeral service took place several days later, on February 16th  at St James Episcopal Church on Madison Ave. under the direction of the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel. There was no public visitation and his burial in the family mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx was private. On the day of Penney’s funeral, J.C. Penney Co. headquarters were closed and the 1660 stores which comprised the vast J.C. Penney Co. network, did not open until 1:00 PM in honor of their founder. A philanthropic man throughout his lifetime, Penney’s New York Times obituary suggested donations to the YMCA and 4H Club in lieu of flowers.

 It is interesting to note that J.C. Penney is among a number of famed American retailers --F.W. Woolworth, Franklin Simon, Samuel H. Kress Frederick A. Constable, Charles Loehmann, George A. Hearn, Roland H. Macy and the Straus (Abraham & Straus) Family--interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx..


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