The J.C. Penney Company


Our third BIG THREE retail chain was founded by James Cash Penney. The original location, called the Golden Rule, opened for business, in Kemmerer, Wyoming, on April 14, 1902.


A latter-day portrait of James Cash Penney (1875-1971), who hailed from Hamilton, Missouri. Known as "King of the Soft Goods", he was the only BIG THREE founding father to live long enough to see the retail chain he created reach its full potential.
Photo from http://www.biography.com


Penney's first Golden Rule store circa-1902. In 1904, it was moved to a new location in Kemmerer.  
Drawing from The Mid-Cities Daily News


A turn of the century interior view of a Golden Rule mercantile. That's a very young James Cash Penney on the right.
Photo from the J.C. Penney Archives, DeGolyer Library

Business went well at the first Kemmerer store. By 1907, three Golden Rule mercantiles were in operation in Wyoming. A fourth location opened in Utah in 1908. 34 stores had been established, in 8 western states, by 1912.

In January 1913, all Golden Rule stores were renamed under the J.C. Penney Company masthead. The corporate headquarters was located in Salt Lake City, Utah between 1909 and 1914, when it was moved to New York City. The first stores east of the Mississippi followed, in 1915, with new operations in Wausua and Watertown, Wisconsin.

Growth of the chain was explosive during the boom times of the 1920s. By 1927, 750 stores were in operation in 45 states. The J.C. Penney Company had become the nation's first transcontinental retail chain. The 1,000th store was dedicated, in Beloit, Kansas, in April 1928.

In spite of the Great Depression, the company continued to expand. The store count in 1936 had reached 1,496. By August 1956, there were 1,709 J.C. Penney stores across the 48 states.