Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 749

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 749

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This is the grave of Joseph Bloomingdale.

Born in 1842 in New York City, Bloomingdale and his brother Lyman trained at their father’s clothing store. Benjamin Bloomingdale was a German Jewish immigrant who found success in America and wanted his sons to follow his lead. The two brothers went into business for themselves in 1872 and founded Bloomingdale’s, one of the most important department stores in American history. First starting just by selling women’s hoop skirts, they quickly learned the potential of offering high quality goods, displayed in an appealing way. Specializing in the latest European fashions, the name became an iconic American brand. In 1886, they moved the store to its current location on 59th Street and 3rd Avenue. 124 years is a long time in one location! In creating the modern department store, the Bloomingdale brothers helped moved America sales from a store with just a whole bunch of stuff (think a small-town general store here) to a sharply delineated consumerist paradise, with different floors specializing in entirely different types of goods (women’s clothing, men’s clothing, etc).

There is surprisingly little accessible public information on Bloomingdale. Usually, these rich capitalists are quite easy to research. However, it is interesting to peruse the available pages of the Bloomingdale’s 1886 catalog. The easiest way to get a sense of consumer culture from the Gilded Age is simply to look at the goods offered and the ways they are offered–the use of images and words to promote the products.

Anyway, if you all want to fill in the gaps here, please feel free to do so in comments.

Bloomingdale retired from business in 1896. He died in 1904, at the age of 61.

Joseph Bloomingdale is buried in Linden Hill Jewish Cemetery, Queens, New York. If you would like this series to visit other department store capitalists, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. George Romanta Kinney is in Candor, New York and Richard Warren Sears is in Chicago. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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