James Cash Penney

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James Cash Penney
James Cash Penney (ca. 1902).jpg
Penney circa 1902
James Cash Penney Jr.

(1875-09-16)September 16, 1875
DiedFebruary 12, 1971(1971-02-12) (aged 95)
Years active1898–1971
Known forEstablishing J. C. Penney department stores in 1902
Bertha Alva Hess
(m. 1899;her death 1910)

Mary Hortense Kimball
(m. 1919;her death 1923)

Caroline Marie Autenrieth
(m. 1926;his death 1971)
ChildrenRoswell Penney
James Cash Penney III
Kimball Penney
Mary Frances Penney
Carol Penney
Parent(s)James Cash Penney Sr.
Mary Frances Paxton

James Cash "J. C." Penney Jr. (September 16, 1875 – February 12, 1971) was an American businessman and entrepreneur who founded the J. C. Penney stores in 1902. [1]

J. C. Penney Company, Inc. is an American department store chain with 865 locations in 49 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. In addition to selling conventional merchandise, J. C. Penney stores often house several leased departments such as Sephora, Seattle's Best Coffee, salons, auto centers, optical centers, portrait studios, and jewelry repair.


Early life

J.C. Penney was born on September 16, 1875, on a farm outside of Hamilton, Caldwell County, Missouri. He was the seventh of twelve children, only six of whom lived to adulthood, born to James Cash Penney, Sr. and Mary Frances (née Paxton) Penney. Penney's father was a Baptist preacher and farmer whose strict discipline included making his son pay for his own clothing once he reached his late pre-teens. [2]

Caldwell County, Missouri County in the United States

Caldwell County is a county located in Missouri, United States. As of the 2010 census, the county's population was 9,424. It is part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. Its county seat is Kingston. The county was organized December 29, 1836 and named by Alexander Doniphan to honor John Caldwell, who participated in George Rogers Clark's Native American Campaign of 1786 and was the second Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky.

Baptists Denomination of Protestant Christianity

Baptists are Christians distinguished by baptizing professing believers only, and doing so by complete immersion. Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the doctrines of soul competency, sola fide, sola scriptura and congregationalist church government. Baptists generally recognize two ordinances: baptism and communion.

After graduation from Hamilton High School, Penney intended to attend college with the hopes of becoming a lawyer. However, his father's untimely death forced a change in plans, and Penney was forced to take a job as a store clerk to help support the family. Penney's health problems caused him to venture west to Longmont, Colorado. [2]

Longmont, Colorado Home Rule Municipality in Colorado, United States

Longmont is a Home Rule Municipality in Boulder and Weld counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. Longmont is located northeast of the county seat of Boulder and 33 miles (53 km) north-northwest of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver.

J.C. Penney stores

J. C. Penney mother store
in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Jcpenney-mother-store.jpg
J. C. Penney mother store
in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

In 1898, James Cash Penney began working for a small chain of stores in the western United States called the Golden Rule stores. In 1902, owners Guy Johnson and Thomas Callahan, impressed by his work ethic and salesmanship, offered him one-third partnership in a new store he would open. Penney invested $2,000 and moved to Kemmerer, Wyoming, to open a store there. He participated in opening two more stores, and when Callahan and Johnson dissolved their partnership in 1907 he purchased full interest in all three stores. [3]

Kemmerer, Wyoming City in Wyoming, United States

Kemmerer is the largest city in and the county seat of Lincoln County, Wyoming, United States. The population was 2,656 at the 2010 census. As the county seat of Lincoln County, Kemmerer is the location of the Lincoln County Courthouse.

By 1912, there were 34 stores in the Rocky Mountain States. In 1913, he moved the company to the Kearns Building in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The company was incorporated under the new name, J. C. Penney Company. In 1916, he began to expand the chain east of the Mississippi and during the 1920s, the Penney stores expanded nationwide, with 120 stores in 1920 (mostly still in the west) By 1924, Penneys' reported income of more than $1 million annually. [4] The number of stores reached 1,400 by 1929. The large income allowed Penney to be heavily involved in many philanthropic causes during the 1920s. By 1921 Penney had a home (Belle Isle) on Biscayne Bay in Miami. Penney and partner Ralph W. Gwinn had invested heavily in Florida real estate including 120,000 acres (490 km2) in Clay County. Some of this land became Penney Farms. This was also the start of Foremost Dairy Products Inc. Penney later recruited Paul E. Reinhold to run the dairy. Most of this work was halted when the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression left Penney in financial ruin. [3]

Salt Lake City State capital city in Utah, United States

Salt Lake City is the capital and most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Utah, and county seat of Salt Lake County. With an estimated population of 190,884 in 2014, the city is the core of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a population of 1,153,340. Salt Lake City is further situated within a larger metropolis known as the Salt Lake City–Ogden–Provo Combined Statistical Area, a corridor of contiguous urban and suburban development stretched along a 120-mile (190 km) segment of the Wasatch Front, comprising a population of 2,423,912. It is one of only two major urban areas in the Great Basin.

Biscayne Bay lagoon located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida

Biscayne Bay is a lagoon that is approximately 35 miles (56 km) long and up to 8 miles (13 km) wide located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, United States. It is usually divided for purposes of discussion and analysis into three parts: North Bay, Central Bay, and South Bay. Its area is 428 square miles (1,110 km2). The drainage basin covers 938 square miles (2,430 km2).

Miami City in southeastern Florida

Miami, officially the City of Miami, is an American city that is the seat of Miami-Dade County, and is the cultural, economic and financial center of South Florida. The city covers an area of about 56 square miles (150 km2) between the Everglades to the west and Biscayne Bay to the east. Miami is the sixth most densely populated major city in the United States with an estimated 2018 population of 470,914. The Miami metropolitan area is home to 6.1 million people, the second-most populous in the southeastern United States and the seventh-largest in the nation. The city has the third tallest skyline in the U.S. with over 300 high-rises, 55 of which exceed 490 ft (149 m).

After the 1929 stock crash, Penney lost virtually all his personal wealth and borrowed against his life insurance policies to help the company meet its payroll. The financial setbacks took a toll on his health. Penney checked himself into the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he was treated. After hearing the hymn "God Will Take Care of You" (written by Civilla Durfee Martin) being sung at a service in the hospital's chapel, Penney became a born-again Christian. [5] Even after relinquishing daily operating management of the company, Penney continued his active involvement in managing the company and its stores. In 1940, during a visit to a store in Des Moines, Iowa, he trained a young Sam Walton on how to wrap packages with a minimal amount of paper and ribbon. [6] He remained as chairman of the board until 1946, and after that as honorary chairman until his death in 1971. Until the end of his life, he continued to go to his offices.

Battle Creek Sanitarium United States national historic site

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was a health resort in Battle Creek, Michigan, United States, founded 1866 and originally based on the health principles advocated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Following the disfellowshipping of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in 1907, Kellogg said that he and his employees were "independents" who "did not belong to any church" and the Sanitarium promoted Kellogg's theory of "biologic living" based on Adventist principles.

Iowa State of the United States of America

Iowa is a state in the Midwestern United States, bordered by the Mississippi River to the east and the Missouri River and Big Sioux River to the west. It is bordered by six states; Wisconsin to the northeast, Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, Nebraska to the west, South Dakota to the northwest, and Minnesota to the north.

Sam Walton American businessman

Samuel Moore Walton was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. grew to be the world's largest corporation by revenue as well as the biggest private employer in the world. At one point in his life, he was the richest man in America.

He also subscribed to what was called "Blue Laws". His stores were closed on Sunday so employees could attend church. [3]

Personal life

Boyhood home in Hamilton (that was moved from a farm to town for display) Jc-penny-home.jpg
Boyhood home in Hamilton (that was moved from a farm to town for display)

Penney was married three times. His first marriage, to Bertha Alva Hess (1869–1910) in 1899, [7] produced two sons before her death from pneumonia: [8] [3]

After Bertha's death in 1910, he remarried to Mary Hortense Kimball (d. 1923) in July 1919. Mary gave birth to their son before her death of unspecified medical issues: [3]

In 1926, Penney married Caroline Marie Autenrieth (1895–1992). [12] She was badly hurt in 1928 when she fell from a horse at their estate in White Plains. [7] They had two daughters: [3]

Penney lived in New York City at 888 Park Avenue, though he spent the winters in Palm Springs, California. On December 26, 1970, Penney fell and fractured his hip. Just a few weeks later, he suffered a heart attack and never fully recovered. He died on February 12, 1971. The Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale delivered the eulogy at Penney's funeral. Penney was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City, not far from that of fellow retail entrepreneur, F. W. Woolworth. His estate was valued at approximately $35 million. [16]


Penney was a Freemason most of his adult life, being initiated into Wasatch Lodge No. 1 Free and Accepted Masons of Utah, on April 18, 1911. [17] [18] A member of both the Scottish and York Rites, Penney was coroneted a 33rd Degree on October 16, 1945, and received the Gold Distinguished Service Award by the General Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, in Kansas City, Missouri in 1958. He typically wore a large ring showing his Masonic degree.

Penney was a member of two professional collegiate fraternities: Alpha Gamma Rho for agriculture and Alpha Kappa Psi for business.

Penney was involved with the founding of the University of Miami and served on its Board of Trustees from 1926 to 1930. [19]

At the end of the Great Depression, Penney teamed with Thomas J. Watson, President and Founder of IBM, Arthur Godfrey, the radio and TV personality; and Norman Vincent Peale, a minister, inspirational speaker, and author of The Power of Positive Thinking, to help Henry Simler, an executive with the Remington Rand company. [20] form the first board of 40Plus, an organization that helps unemployed managers and executives.[ citation needed ]

Penney founded the James C. Penney Foundation in 1954. The foundation was restructured in 1999 as the Penney Family Fund, and is no longer affiliated with J.C. Penney Co., Inc., or its corporate giving program. Today, the fund is part of the Common Counsel Foundation, an Oakland, California, consortium of family philanthropic foundations and individual donors. The Penney Family Fund endows organizations in Oregon, California, and Washington State that work to advance human rights, community social, political, economic empowerment, government accountability, and environmental sustainability. [21]

In 1960 Penney teamed up with the University of Missouri to establish the Penney-Missouri Awards to recognize excellence in Women's Page journalism, hoping to improve the sections where his stores most often advertised. [22]


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  1. Barmash, Isadore (13 February 1971). "J. C. Penney of Store Chain Dies; Built Business on 'Golden Rule'". The New York Times . Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  2. 1 2 Brown, John W. Missouri Legends: Famous People From The Show-Me State. Reedy Press: St. Louis, 2008. ISBN   9781933370286
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "J. C. Penney Papers A Guide to the Collection". legacy.lib.utexas.edu. University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  4. "J.C. Penney - Family and Philanthropies". Archived from the original on 2000-05-17. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  5. "The Hymn That Saved J.C. Penney". Archived from the original on 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  6. "An American original, Sam Walton embodies the entrepreneurial spirit and epitomizes the American Dream" . Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  7. 1 2 "Mrs. J.C. Penney Badly Hurt as Horse Trips; Thrown While Riding on Westchester Estate". The New York Times . 2 October 1928. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  8. Kruger, David Delbert (2017). J. C. Penney: The Man, the Store, and American Agriculture. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 304. ISBN   9780806158419 . Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  9. 1 2 "DIED. PENNEY--Roswell K." The New York Times . 16 September 1971. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  10. "J. C. PENNEY JR.; Son of Merchant Had Introduced Gliding in This Country". The New York Times . 8 June 1938. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  11. "Penney -- Ducoudray". The New York Times . 16 March 1927. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  12. "Caroline A. Penney, A Philanthropist, 96". The New York Times . 19 March 1992. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  13. "MISS MARY PENNEY WED TO PHYSICIAN; Daughter of Stores' Founder Bride of Philip F. Wagley in Christ Episcopal, Rye". The New York Times . 21 June 1953. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  14. "Carol Penney Guyer, 72; Philanthropist, Daughter of Retailer". Los Angeles Times. July 20, 2002.
  15. "500 HONOR PENNEY ON 80TH BIRTHDAY; Attend Lawn Party at Home of Merchant -- Hoover and Baruch Send Messages". The New York Times . 18 September 1955. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  16. "J. C. Penney's Estate Is Estimated at $35‐Million". The New York Times . 2 March 1971. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  17. Wasatch Lodge No. 1 F&AM of Utah
  18. Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon
  19. Tebeau, Charlton W. The University of Miami. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1976. p. 393.
  20. New York Times obituary of Henry Simler, June 27, 1954. "Henry Simler, 78, Is Dead on Coast"
  21. Penney Family Fund profile at Common Counsel Foundation website
  22. Voss, Kimberly Wilmot (Spring 2006). "The Penney-Missouri Awards: Honoring the Best in Women's News". Journalism History. 32: 43-50.
  23. https://nae4ha.site-ym.com/members/?id=54487751
  24. web|http://chevychasehistory.pastperfectonline.com/archive/EE2BD7B9-1AEA-49DE-9C73-166308492710
  25. "Penney High School". Archived from the original on August 24, 2011. Retrieved March 16, 2011.

Further reading