Woolworth, Frank W.

Woolworth, Frank W. (Winfield)

(1852–1919) merchant; born in Rodman, N.Y. As a store clerk, he was a failure; in 1875, at a "ninety-nine cent store" in Port Huron, Mich., his wages were reduced, and he went home sick to Watertown, N.Y. He did, however, have ability in merchandising and convinced Moore & Smith, where he was a clerk (1878), to try a counter of items all priced at five cents. It succeeded, but a five-cent store in Utica, promoted by his boss and run by Woolworth, failed. In 1879 a second store in Lancaster, Pa., with the addition of a line of ten-cent goods, succeeded. He, his brother, a cousin, and later two others became partners, running their own five and dime store chains. By 1912, all five chains were absorbed into the F. W. Woolworth Company. He built the Woolworth building in New York City, then the tallest in the world (1913). At his death his company owned more than a thousand stores across North America with a volume of more than $107 million.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.