Kresge, S. S.

Kresge, S. S. (Sebastian Spering)

(1867–1966) merchant, philanthropist; born in Bald Mount, Pa. After business school he worked as a bookkeeper and a tinware salesman (1890–97). He bought into J. G. McCrory's chain stores, opening stores in Memphis, Tenn., and Detroit, Mich. In 1899 he bought out the Detroit store to begin the S. S. Kresge Company, which sold nothing over ten cents. He expanded to several midwestern cities and incorporated as S. S. Kresge in 1912 with 85 stores; by the mid-1920s there were over 300 stores. In the 1920s he expanded into real estate, bought several other stores, had a $30 million account on Wall Street, and was twice divorced. He also founded the National Vigilance Committee for Prohibition Enforcement and the Kresge Foundation (1924), a philanthropic organization that he endowed with the bulk of his fortune. As chairman of the board from 1925, he continued to play an active role in his company, contributing to the establishment of the Kmart discount stores in 1961 and the Jupiter Stores in 1963.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.