When the new ITV and PBS television series Mr. Selfridge launched, it popularized the story of retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge and his success with his London company Selfridge and Co. This series, however, neglects to tell the story of what happened before Selfridge moved to England, specifically the 25 years he spent working at Chicago’s Marshall Field and Company.
Beyond breaking new ground in retail, both Field and Selfridge inspired social change. For example, their popularized slogan “give the lady what she wants” helped women gain the freedom to shop and socialize without their husbands. Moreover, their “Bargain Basement” de-stratified economic classes in retail, providing high-quality merchandise at an affordable price.
This panel discussion with Chicago author and historian Gayle Soucek, architectural educator James McKay, and Field and Selfridge expert Alfred Imhoff will consider the still-debated issues of Selfridge’s 25 years in Chicago at Marshall Field and Company.
- Gayle Soucek is the author of Marshall Field’s: The Store That Helped Build Chicago, Carsons: The History of a Chicago Shopping Landmark, and other best-selling books about Chicago history, such as Chicago Calamities.
- As an architectural educator, James McKay focuses on design for social change. McKay is currently a director for the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Office of Community Affairs, in which he pays special attention to digital media in the community and economic development in Chicago’s Bronzeville. He has been interviewed about Marshall Field’s by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times, BBC World Service, CBS, NBC, ABC news, Associated Press, and many more outlets.
- Alfred Imhoff (moderator) is an expert on Marshall Field’s and Selfridge and writes for the World Bank and Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Imhoff started his career working in the toy department at Marshall Field’s Evanston store.
If you need a sign interpreter or require other arrangements to fully participate, please call 312.422.5580 at least 72 hours prior to the event. For parking locations near the facility, please visit ChicagoParkingMap.com.