Remembering the Marketplace of the Midsouth


Goldsmith's is a well-known Memphis department store which traces its origins to the antebellum period and German immigrant Louis Ottenheimer. After moving to Memphis from Arkansas, where he had operated a provisions store, Ottenheimer opened a store on Main Street with partner Moses Schwartz. In 1867 Ottenheimer brought his nephews, Isaac and Jacob Goldsmith, to the United States and employed them in his Memphis store. As soon as the Goldsmith brothers saved five hundred dollars, they opened their own store, grossing twenty-five dollars on the first day of business. The Goldsmiths soon expanded to larger quarters on Beale Street. Memphis experienced several outbreaks of yellow fever during the 1870s. During the epidemic of 1878, the Goldsmiths kept the store open at least three hours a day.

By 1881 the brothers had bought their uncle's store, renaming it I. Goldsmith and Brother. The Goldsmiths prospered by adhering to a customer-friendly philosophy. Jacob Goldsmith became president of the store when his brother died. He initiated a Christmas parade, preceding Macy's famous event by more than a decade, and in 1960 the store opened the popular "Enchanted Forest" for children.

Goldsmith's became a true department store, among the first in the South, when it arranged merchandise by departments in 1902. It was the first Memphis store to install air-conditioning, escalators, a bargain basement, and a mechanical credit system called Charga-Plate.

When Jacob Goldsmith died in 1931, his sons Elias and Fred assumed management of Goldsmith's. In 1959 the store became an affiliate of Federated Department Stores. The downtown Memphis location was closed in 1993. It is now part of Federated's RLG division--the combined Rich's, Lazarus's, and Goldsmith's department stores--headquartered in Atlanta.

Selma Lewis, Memphis

The fabulous logo dates from Oct., 1946. It was designed by Margaret Grace, an employee of the store's advertising department at the time. The vertical cursive script logo was used in all signage and advertising until the mid-90s, when an all-lower case sans serif font was used "goldsmith's" (see below). There was a great deal of resistance to this change. The only store built after the font change was the Wolfchase location, which proudly displayed the new logo at busy Germantown and Stage Roads. After only a few weeks of public outrage, the sans serif signs were taken down and replaced with the 1940s cursive! But, alas macy*s is in an even less-pretentious font. In later years, the ads went from "goldsmith's" to "Goldsmith's" to "Goldsmith's-macy*s." But Ms. Grace's design remained on all of the stores' exteriors until March 2005. Oddly enough, there was one place the cursive logo survived and was even used in conjunction with "macy*s"--the yellow pages! (right)

Wikipedia has information on Goldsmith's history as well. Goldsmith's






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