Teach PA History
John Wanamaker and his "New Kind of Store"
What to Know
Teaching Time
2 50-minute periods
Grade Level
High School
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • Civil War and Reconstruction - 1856-1876
  • Development of the Industrial Pennsylvania - 1877-1900
Following the Civil War the shopping experience was a laborious process between buyers and the various sellers who specialized in a certain trade. You went to the cobbler for shoes, the haberdasher for hats, the ironmonger for iron products, the confectioner for candy, the clothier/draper for cloth, and, if you weren't exhausted from walking all over town, you might stop in at the tailor to customize your clothes. The development of the department store, driven by intensive advertising, allowed shoppers to buy products at one location. The following lesson will look at the contributions of John Wanamaker's Oak Hall and Grand Depot department stores in Philadelphia from 1861 to 1911. It will specifically focus on three key aspects: (1) the history of Wanamaker and his first true department store, (2) the experiences of "Shop Girls" who worked in such stores, and (3) the role of advertising in making Wanamaker's a success. After this lesson, students will develop a greater appreciation for how Wanamaker became a success with his department store, identify with the role of women who worked in these stores, and appreciate how advertising can successfully attract consumers.


Lesson Objectives Students will be able to: 1. Comprehend the development of John Wanamaker's department store and its attraction to 19th Century consumers 2. Synthesize knowledge of shop girls who worked in the department stores and how John Wanamaker provided for his workers 3. Compare the two different styles of shopping that existed before and after department stores 4. Evaluate which images or words would be best used to persuade a specific audience to shop at Wanamaker's

Standards Alignment

  • History

    8.1.12. A. Evaluate chronological thinking.
    8.1.12. B. Synthesize and evaluate historical sources.
    8.1.12. D. Synthesize historical research.
    8.2.9. C. Identify and analyze how continuity and change have influenced Pennsylvania history.
    8.3.9. B. Identify and analyze primary documents, material artifacts and historic sites important in United States history from 1787 to 1914.
    8.3.9. C. Analyze how continuity and change has influenced United States history from 1787 to 1914.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.1.11. D. Identify, describe, evaluate and synthesize the essential ideas in text.
    1.2.11. A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.2.11. B. Use and understand a variety of media and evaluate the quality of material produced.
    1.4.8. B. Write multi-paragraph informational pieces.
    1.5.11. B. Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic.
    1.5.11. C. Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.
    1.5.11. D. Write with a command of the stylistic aspects of composition
    1.6.11. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.11. E. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations.
    1.6.11. F. Use media for learning purposes.

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