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Rodman Wanamaker

Rodman Wanamaker

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Lewis Rodman Wanamaker (February 13, 1863 – March 9, 1928) was a Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 and was a Presidential Elector for Pennsylvania in 1916. Wanamaker created aviation history by financing a two plane experimental seaplane
A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are a subclass called amphibian aircraft...

 class (the Curtiss Model H
Curtiss Model H
The Curtiss Model H was a family of classes of early long-range flying boats, the first two of which were developed directly on commission in the United States in response to the ₤10,000 prize challenge issued in 1913 by the London newspaper, the Daily Mail, for the first non-stop aerial crossing...

) in response to a prize contest announcement by London's The Daily Mail newspaper in 1913 – the flying boat
Flying boat
A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage...

 designs which resulted became very important in military and commercial aviation until well after the advent of the Jet Airliner, forming the basis for thirty plus years of international commercial air travel before there were widespread airports. In many parts of the world today, the flying boat, a legacy of his patriotism, is still very important.


He was born on February 13, 1863 in Philadelphia to John Wanamaker
John Wanamaker
John Wanamaker was a United States merchant, religious leader, civic and political figure, considered by some to be the father of modern advertising and a "pioneer in marketing." Wanamaker was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.-Biography:He was born on July 11, 1838.He opened his first store in...

 and Mary Erringer Brown.

He entered Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 in 1881, graduating in 1886. In college he sang in the choir, and was a member and business manager of the Glee Club. He was a member of The Ivy Club
The Ivy Club
The Ivy Club is the oldest eating club at Princeton University. It was founded in 1879 with Arthur Hawley Scribner as its first head. The members of each class are selected through the bicker process, a series of ten screening interviews, which are followed by discussions amongst the members as...

, the first eating club at Princeton University.

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 former Alexander Turney Stewart
Alexander Turney Stewart
Alexander Turney Stewart was a successful Irish American entrepreneur who made his multi-million fortune in what was at the time the most extensive and lucrative dry goods business in the world....

 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 luxury goods.

In 1911 he bought the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph
Philadelphia Evening Telegraph
The Philadelphia Evening Telegraph was a newspaper from Philadelphia that ran from 1864 to 1918.-History:The paper was started on January 4, 1864 by Charles Edward Warburton and James Barclay Harding. It passed to Barclay Harding Warburton I. In 1911 Warburton sold the paper to Rodman Wanamaker...


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 his health. 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
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City is a city in Atlantic County, New Jersey, United States, and a nationally renowned resort city for gambling, shopping and fine dining. The city also served as the inspiration for the American version of the board game Monopoly. Atlantic City is located on Absecon Island on the coast...

. He was interred in the Wanamaker family tomb in the churchyard of the Church of St. James the Less
Church of St. James the Less
The Church of St. James the Less is a historic Episcopal church building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that was architecturally influential. As St...

 in Philadelphia.


The Wanamaker Organ
Wanamaker Organ
The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the largest operational pipe organ in the world, located within a spacious 7-story court at Macy's Center City . The largest organ by some measures is the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ...

 in Wanamaker's
Wanamaker's department store was the first department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the first department stores in the United States. At its zenith in the early 20th century, there were two major Wanamaker department stores, one in Philadelphia and one in New York City at Broadway...

 (now Macy's
Macy's is a U.S. chain of mid-to-high range department stores. In addition to its flagship Herald Square location in New York City, the company operates over 800 stores in the United States...

) department store at 13th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, was substantially enlarged by Rodman Wanamaker in 1924. It is presently the world's largest playing pipe organ. Wanamaker sponsored elaborate recitals in the Grand Court of the Philadelphia store, often featuring Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Anthony Stokowski was a British-born, naturalised American orchestral conductor, well known for his free-hand performing style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from many of the great orchestras he conducted.In America, Stokowski...

 and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Philadelphia Orchestra
The Philadelphia Orchestra is a symphony orchestra based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. One of the "Big Five" American orchestras, it was founded in 1900...

. 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. Under Wanamaker's guidance famous organists were brought to play the Wanamaker Organs in Philadelphia and New York, including Marcel Dupré
Marcel Dupré
Marcel Dupré , was a French organist, pianist, composer, and pedagogue.-Biography:Marcel Dupré was born in Rouen . Born into a musical family, he was a child prodigy. His father Albert Dupré was organist in Rouen and a friend of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who built an organ in the family house when...

, Louis Vierne
Louis Vierne
Louis Victor Jules Vierne was a French organist and composer.-Life:Louis Vierne was born in Poitiers, Vienne, nearly blind due to congenital cataracts, but at an early age was discovered to have an unusual gift for music. Louis Victor Jules Vierne (8 October 1870 – 2 June 1937) was a French...

, Marco Enrico Bossi
Marco Enrico Bossi
Marco Enrico Bossi was an Italian organist, composer, improviser and pedagogue.-Life:Bossi was born in Salò, a town in the province of Brescia, Lombardy, into a family of musicians. His father, Pietro, was organist at Salò Cathedral, which has a one-manual organ built by Fratelli Serassi from 1865...

 and Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger was a French composer, conductor and teacher who taught many composers and performers of the 20th century.From a musical family, she achieved early honours as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, but believing that her talent as a composer was inferior to that of her younger...

. 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
Gillett & Johnston
Gillett and Johnston is a clock and formerly bell manufacturing business in Croydon, England.-History:William Gillett started a clock making business on Union Road in Croydon, England in 1844. Charles Bland became a partner in 1854 and the company became known as Gillet and Bland. In 1877, Arthur...

. It was eventually placed atop the Wanamaker Men's Store at Broad Street and Center Square in the Lincoln-Liberty Building
One South Broad
One South Broad, also known as the Lincoln-Liberty Building or PNB Building, is a 28-story office tower in Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The art deco tower, designed by architect John Torrey Windrim as an annex for Wanamaker's department store, was completed in 1932...

. 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 name Stradivarius is associated with violins built by members of the Stradivari family, particularly Antonio Stradivari. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or reproduce, though this belief is controversial...

. The orchestra concerts ended with Wanamaker's death in 1928, and the stringed instruments were also sold at that time.


Rodman Wanamaker was a pioneer in sponsoring record-breaking aviation projects and in particular and especially an important early backer of transatlantic flight
Transatlantic flight
Transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean. A transatlantic flight may proceed east-to-west, originating in Europe or Africa and terminating in North America or South America, or it may go in the reverse direction, west-to-east...


In 1913 he commissioned Glen Curtiss and his aircraft company
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was an American aircraft manufacturer that went public in 1916 with Glenn Hammond Curtiss as president. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the company was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States...

 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 Curtiss Model H
Curtiss Model H
The Curtiss Model H was a family of classes of early long-range flying boats, the first two of which were developed directly on commission in the United States in response to the ₤10,000 prize challenge issued in 1913 by the London newspaper, the Daily Mail, for the first non-stop aerial crossing...

 flying boat "America" which resulted did not cross the Atlantic because of the outbreak of World War I, but was sufficiently promising that the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 purchased the original 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.

He also funded efforts to increase aircraft range throughout the next decade so that Wanamaker's entree, the airship 'America' , belatedly flown by Commander Richard E. Byrd transited across the Atlantic only a few days after Lindbergh
-People:* Anne Morrow Lindbergh , U.S. author and aviator; wife of Charles Lindbergh*August Lindbergh , Swedish-American farmer and politician...

's historic solo crossing on May 21–22, 1927 won the cash prize in the contest.. In both cases, aviation and arguably the world benefited from the sponsorship of Wanamaker.

Liturgical arts

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 chapel of the Queen's estate in Sandringham, England, as well as a massive processional cross for Westminster Abbey and important additions to his Philadelphia parish of St. Mark's Church
St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia
St Mark's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, at 1625 Locust St, Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an Episcopal church in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. It is part of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.-History:...

, notably the sumptuously appointed Lady Chapel where his first wife Fernanda is buried.

Wanamaker-Millrose Games

In 1908 Rodman Wanamaker initiated the Millrose Games
Millrose Games
The Millrose Games is an annual indoor athletics meet held on the first Friday in February in New York City. They will be held at the Armory in Washington Heights in 2012, after having taken place in Madison Square Garden from 1914 to 2011...

, which became widely known as perhaps the most prestigious indoor track-and-field event in the world. They are now held at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden, often abbreviated as MSG and known colloquially as The Garden, is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the New York City borough of Manhattan and located at 8th Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets, situated on top of Pennsylvania Station.Opened on February 11, 1968, it is the...

 in New York City. (Millrose was Wanamaker's country estate near Jenkintown, Pennsylvania
Jenkintown, Pennsylvania
Jenkintown is a borough in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, about 10 miles north of downtown Philadelphia. "Jenkintown" is also used to describe a number of neighborhoods surrounding the borough, which also are known by names such as Rydal, Jenkintown Manor and Noble...

) He also inaugurated the Wanamaker Mile
Wanamaker Mile
The Wanamaker Mile is an event held annually at the Millrose Games in New York City's Madison Square Garden.The event is an indoor one-mile race. It was first held in 1908, and in 1926 became known as the "Wanamaker." It is named in honor of the head of the Wanamaker's Department Store in New...

, and reportedly began the tradition of playing The Star Spangled Banner at a sporting event.

Indian photographs

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
Crow Indian Reservation
The Crow Indian Reservation is the homeland of the Crow Tribe of Indians of the State of Montana in the United States. The reservation is located in parts of Big Horn, Yellowstone, and Treasure counties in southern Montana...

 with the filming of a motion picture about Hiawatha
Hiawatha was a legendary Native American leader and founder of the Iroquois confederacy...

. The second expedition in 1909 involved a motion filming a reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

In 1913, Wanamaker sponsored the groundbreaking for a National Memorial to the First Americans
National American Indian Memorial
The National American Indian Memorial was a proposed monument to American Indians to be erected on a bluff overlooking the Narrows, the main entrance to New York Harbor...

 on Staten Island. The monument was never built. 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 States.

The resulting large bromide prints were presentation photographs, such collections having been placed in several museums. Mostly, the subjects are Blackfeet
The Piegan Blackfeet are a tribe of Native Americans of the Algonquian language family based in Montana, having lived in this area since around 6,500 BC. Many members of the tribe live as part of the Blackfeet Nation in northwestern Montana, with population centered in Browning...

, Cheyennes, Crows
Crow Nation
The Crow, also called the Absaroka or Apsáalooke, are a Siouan people of Native Americans who historically lived in the Yellowstone River valley, which extends from present-day Wyoming, through Montana and into North Dakota. They now live on a reservation south of Billings, Montana and in several...

, 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 Universities Mathers Museum. They are currently stored at the Mathers 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.

The Wanamaker photographic expeditions are fictionally treated in the novel "Shadow Catcher" by Charles Fergus.


On January 17, 1916, Wanamaker invited a group of 35 prominent golfers and other leading industry representatives, including the legendary Walter Hagen
Walter Hagen
Walter Charles Hagen was a major figure in golf in the first half of the 20th century. His tally of eleven professional majors is third behind Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods . He won the U.S. Open twice, and in 1922 he became the first native-born American to win the British Open, which he went on...

, 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
Professional Golfers' Association of America
Founded in 1916, the Professional Golfers' Association of America is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and is made up of more than 28,000 men and women golf professional members...

 (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
Bronxville, New York
Bronxville is an affluent village within the town of Eastchester, New York, in the United States. It is a suburb of New York City, located approximately north of midtown Manhattan in southern Westchester County. At the 2010 census, Bronxville had a population of 6,323...


Since 1916, the PGA Championship
PGA Championship
The PGA Championship is an annual golf tournament conducted by the PGA of America as part of the PGA Tour. It is one of the four major championships in men's professional golf, and is the golf season's final major, usually played in mid-August, customarily four weeks after The Open Championship...

 has evolved into one of the world’s premier sporting events. Each summer, one of the nation’s most outstanding golf facilities hosts golf’s best professionals, as they compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.

World War I

He accepted an appointment during 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 ticker-tape parades.


His Palm Beach, Florida winter home, La Guerida (or "bounty of war"), was built in 1923 by Addison Mizner
Addison Mizner
Addison Cairns Mizner was an American resort architect whose Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style interpretations left an indelible stamp on South Florida, where it continues to inspire architects and land developers. In the 1920s Mizner was the best-known and most-discussed...

. In 1933 it was purchased by Joe Kennedy for a paltry $120,000 and would later become John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

's “Winter White House”. The house gained notoriety from the headline-grabbing William Kennedy Smith rape trial. Smith was acquitted of the charges by a jury in 1991. It was sold to John K. Castle, chief executive of Castle Harlan
Castle Harlan
Castle Harlan is a private equity firm based in New York that focuses on buyouts and growth capital investments in middle-market companies across a range of industries. Founded in 1987, invests in controlling interests in middle-market companies in North America and Europe, as well as in...

, 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, Pa.

External links