FrouFrou 4 YouYou

Chicago Millinery History: Marshall Field and Co. and Millinery Part 2 March 18, 2016


Marshall Filed and Co was cutting edge in the world of fashion. Millinery was no exception.

Hat selection was a fun tho perhaps time consuming process in the early years. Since there were so many choices a woman would be tempted by many, and in some situations, went home with more than one hat at a time.

Once the hat was selected, the transaction proceeded with cash or credit.

Cash or a check was a quick way to finalize a transaction. When the final “new” building at State and Washington was completed it made getting  your change a high tech event.”An extensive pneumatic-tube system, consisting of over 125,000 feet of tubing and 4,500 carriers, whisked customers’ money to the cashiering department where change was made and sent back to the originating sales counter.”

The Field’s approach to credit was very forward thinking early on in the history of the company. “It was the first store to offer revolving credit.”

Who is to be credited with this credit approach is sometimes murky. Harry Gordon Selfridge was a leading man in the retail operation. “He greatly increased the store’s advertising budget, expanded its package delivery system, and established a bargain basement to broaden the store’s appeal among less wealthy Chicagoans. He also promised customers complete satisfaction, offering easy credit, the right to return merchandise for a full refund, and numerous in-store amenities such as a personal shopping service and ladies’ tearoom, one of the first of its kind in the nation.”

Credit cards, or charge cards as they could be called, were issued by the store. There was also another approach locally. The Chicago Credit Plate Service, Inc. These Charga cards were a cardboard form slid into the metal embossed on the back frame. The cards were placed into a machine to run over the embossed part with carbon paper between the multi-layer form to transfer the owner info on the receipts.

This credit card was one where a customer could make purchases at several downtown stores, Marshall Field and Co, Mandel Bros, The Fair, Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co, and  Charles A. Stevens.


Later on the credit card had a different look. For the gold Rewards card of the 1990s, housed at the Smithsonian, an explanation is provided. “This Marshall Field’s Regards credit card belonged to Ms. Joanne Klein during the 1990s. While a store-issued charge card was once a way to extend credit to reputable customers, by the 1990s they became an avenue for department stores to encourage repeat shoppers and store loyalty by providing perks through store credit cards. For instance, Marshall Field’s Regards card granted the holder a free cup of coffee at the stores’ coffee bar. Store issued cards also gave the store insight into the consumer’s purchasing patterns and shopping behavior.”


One in the corporate color of green was a late issue:


Marshall Field and Co did not entirely endorse just using credit. They had banks that looked like earlier cards to save money. (Money one might imagine they hoped you would bring back to the store and spend there.)


Once the transaction was complete the hat went into a hat box. The most often found ones,on the market these days, are round tan/grey wood-look boxes. Some have a same paper as of the box gummed Fields name label. The gummed backing does not stay on well anymore.


If you need one of these boxes, here is one on Etsy:

They have a twisted cord handle, far better than later boxes with a string handle. The green shallow lid square boxes did not even have  a handle.  The oldest box is the one shown at the top of this blog. It is 18″round from the French Room, most likely back in the day when the big hat at a big price could be found in that most elite section of the store. The 28 Shop opened in  1941.

More info on the 28 Shop can be found in another post here, as well as on another blog, by Couture Allure:



This square hatbox is available with a hat from Fields by an Etsy seller, from Indiana. One wonders if the original owner made a trip to State Street to the Mecca of stores, Marshall Field and Co, or had the hat shipped.


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