(Lewis) Rodman Wanamaker
(February 13, 1863 –
March 9, 1928, Atlantic City,
New Jersey) was the second son of Philadelphia department store founder John Wanamaker and Mary Brown.
was a Presidential Elector
Pennsylvania in 1916.
the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1881, graduating in 1886.
In college he
sang in the choir, and was a member and business manager of the
Glee Club. He was a member of The Ivy
(founded 1879), the first eating club at Princeton
In 1886 he joined his father's business, and married Fernanda Henry
of Philadelphia. He went to Paris as resident
manager in 1889, and lived abroad for more than ten years.
When his father purchased the former A.T. Stewart business
York in 1896, he helped revolutionize the department
store with top quality items and is credited in particular with
fueling an American demand for French luxury goods.
Wanamaker was content to live in his father's shadow and did not
actively seek the limelight except for some official, largely
ceremonial positions he held in the City of New York toward the end
of his life. Before John Wanamaker died in 1922 he turned all his
holdings of the two stores over to Rodman. John Wanamaker had been
the sole owner of the business, with his death in 1922, complete
control and management passed from father to son. No other retail
merchandising business on so large a scale in the world was in the
hands of a single man.
Rodman Wanamaker suffered from kidney disease in the last decade of
his life and the toxins from this condition slowly took their toll
on his health. Rodman Wanamaker had a son, Captain John Wanamaker,
and two daughters. The son had a number of personal problems that
made his choice as successor to the father increasingly
problematic. After his death control of the stores passed to a
board of trustees charged with serving the interests of the
surviving Rodman Wanamaker family.
Rodman Wanamaker was also famous for carrying extremely large
life-insurance policies, totaling in the millions of dollars.
Organ in Wanamaker's (now Macy's) department
store at 13th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, was substantially enlarged by Rodman Wanamaker in
It is presently the world's largest playing pipe
organ. Rodman Wanamaker sponsored elaborate recitals in the Grand
Court of the Philadelphia Store, often featuring Leopold Stokowski
and the Philadelphia Orchestra
. As many as
15,000 people attended these admission-free events, at which
all display counters and fixtures were removed by an army of
workers so that seating could be put in place. Under Wanamaker's
guidance famous organists were brought to play the Wanamaker Organs
in Philadelphia and New York, including Marcel Dupré
, Louis Vierne
, Marco Enrico Bossi
and Nadia Boulanger
. Wanamaker also sponsored a
Concert Bureau to book European organists on trans-American concert
In 1926 Rodman Wanamaker commissioned a 17-ton bell from founders
Gillett & Johnston. It was eventually placed atop the Wanamaker
Men's Store at Broad Street and Center Square, then called the
Lincoln-Liberty Building and now called One South Broad.
It was the largest tuned bell in the world
when it was cast.
Toward the end of his life Rodman Wanamaker put together a huge
collection of stringed instruments, known as The Cappella, that
featured violas and violins from such masters as Guarnerius
. The orchestra concerts ended with
Mr. Wanamaker's death in 1928, and the stringed instruments were
also sold at that time.
Rodman Wanamaker was a pioneer in sponsoring record-breaking
aviation projects and an early backer of transatlantic flight
Richard E. Byrd
piloted Wanamaker's airship America
across the Atlantic days after Lindbergh
historic solo crossing.
Wanamaker was a patron of many important commissions in the field
of liturgical arts, and his legacy includes a sterling silver altar
and silver pulpit at the chapel of the Queen's estate in
Sandringham, England, as well as a massive processional cross for
Westminster Abbey and important additions to his Philadelphia
parish of St. Mark's Church, notably the sumptuously appointed Lady Chapel
where his first wife Fernanda is buried.
In 1908 Rodman Wanamaker initiated the Millrose Games
, which became widely known as
perhaps the most prestigious indoor track-and-field event in the
world. They are now held at Madison Square
Garden in New York
City. (Millrose was Wanamaker's country estate near
Pennsylvania) He also inaugurated the Wanamaker Mile, and reportedly began the
tradition of playing The Star
Spangled Banner at a sporting event.
Between 1908 and 1913, Wanamaker sponsored three photographic
expeditions to the American Indians intended to document a
vanishing way of life and make the Indian "first-class citizens" to
save them from extinction. At that time, Indians were viewed as a
"Vanishing Race," and efforts were made to bring them increasingly
into the mainstream of American life, often at the expense of their
culture and traditions. Joseph K. Dixon was the photographer. On
the first expedition, he made many portraits and captured scenes of
Indian life. Dixon published them in a book, "The Vanishing Race."
Sadly, original copies of the book is becoming scarce as people
break it up to sell the photographs individually. The expedition
climaxed on the Crow Indian
with the filming of a motion picture about Hiawatha
. The second expedition in 1909 involved a
motion filming a reenactment of the Battle of
the Little Big Horn.
In 1913, Wanamaker sponsored the groundbreaking for a National Memorial to the First
on Staten Island. The monument was never built. The
third expedition, the "Expedition of Citizenship," took place in
1913. For it, the American flag was carried to many tribes, and
their members were invited to sign a declaration of allegiance to
the United States.
The resulting large bromide prints were presentation photographs,
such collections having been placed in several museums. Mostly, the
subjects are Blackfeet
, and other northern plains
tribes. Dixon's negatives are at the Mathers Museum of Indiana University
The Wanamaker photographic expeditions are fictionally treated in
the novel "Shadow Catcher" by Charles Fergus.
On January 17, 1916, Wanamaker invited a group of 35 prominent
golfers and other leading industry representatives, including the
legendary Walter Hagen
, to a luncheon
at the Taplow Club in New York for an exploratory meeting, which
resulted in the formation of the Professional
Golfers' Association of America
(PGA). During the meeting,
Wanamaker hinted that the newly formed organization needed an
annual all-professional tournament, and offered to put up $2,500
and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund.
Wanamaker’s offer was accepted, and seven months later, the first
PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville,
Since 1916, the PGA Championship
has evolved into one of the world’s premier sporting events. Each
summer, one of the nation’s most outstanding golf facilities hosts
golf’s best professionals, as they compete for the Wanamaker
World War I
accepted an appointment during World War
I as Special Deputy Police Commissioner in New York City, greeting distinguished guests from around the
world and helping organize the victory parade for General John J. Pershing
and the returning
doughboys. He purchased more World War I bonds than anyone else in
the United States, and generously allowed the use of his residences
for the war effort, "virtually putting his enormous wealth at the
disposal of the United States." After the war Wanamaker acted as
something of an official greeter for the City of New York, often
lending his Landaulette Rolls-Royce for ticker-tape parades.
Mr. Wanamaker had three children: Fernanda Wanamaker, John
Wanamaker, Jr., and Marie Louise Wanamaker
His Palm Beach, Florida winter home, La Guerida (or "bounty of
war"), was built in 1923 by Addison
. In 1933 it was purchased by Joe
for a paltry $120,000 and would later become John F. Kennedy
's “Winter White House”. The
house gained notoriety from the headline-grabbing William Kennedy
Smith rape trial. Smith was acquitted of the charges by a jury in
1991. It was sold to John K. Castle, chief executive of Castle Harlan
, and his wife Marianne, in 1995.
Rodman Wanamaker also had a townhouse on Spruce Street in
Philadelphia, a New York residence near Washington Square, a house
in Atlantic City (where he died) and a country home near his
father's estate in Jenkintown, Pa.
- A Salute to Rodman Wanamaker