James Cash Penney

By | Sep 16, 2015

Nearly everyone knows of the store J.C Penney. The first store was opened in 1902 in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The owners were Guy Johnson, Thomas Callahan and James Cash Penney, or J.C. Penney. By 1907 two more stores had been opened. Johnson and Callahan decided they wanted to dissolve the partnership leaving Penney as lone owner.

James Cash Penney was born on September 16, 1875 and spent the first few years of his adult life working in dry good stores. In 1898 he began working in a Golden Rule store that was owned by Johnson and Callahan.

With the help of Earl Sams, Penney’s Sales Manager, by 1912 there were 34 stores in the Rocky Mountain States. A year later the main offices were located to Salt Lake City, Utah and incorporated under the new name, J. C. Penney Company.

The chain continued to grow in the west and extended east of the Mississippi in the 1920s. The chain grew from 120 stores in 1920, mostly in the western states to 1400 nationwide stores by 1929.

It was hard to keep the company operating through the early years of the depression. Before 1929 Penney had a large income which allowed him to perform many philanthropic causes. In the 1930s Penney used whatever means available to make payroll including borrowing on life insurance policies.

The chain and the man survived the depression, although it was hard on his health. In 1946 he left his position of Chairman of the Board, although he did remain the honorary chairman until his death on February 12, 1971.


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