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FRANK WINFIELD WOOLWORTH


KING of the FIVE-AND-DIME

April 13 1852 (Rodman NY) - April 8 1919 (NYC)

Frank Winfield Woolworth

Frank Winfield Woolworth was born in Rodman NY, Jefferson County on April 13 1852.

He was the son of John Hubbell Woolworth and Fanny McBrier of Pillar Point NY, who were married January 14 1851.

John & Fanny Woolworth lived in a quaint 7 room farmhouse which was owned by his parents, Jasper and Elizabeth "Betsey" (Buell) Woolworth.

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FW Woolworth's birthplace in Rodman NY Jefferson Co

The modest farm house where Frank was born and lived for 7 yrs is situated off Zoar Rd, on a little dead end road amidst the rolling landscape of Rutland Hills in the town of Rodman NY.

 

The little 7 room home still has its original carved oval sunburst, and its original paneled door.

FW Woolworth's birthplace in Rodman NY Jefferson Co - carved oval sunburst over door, 4/2004

The house and 150 acres were purchased April 1 1850 by Jasper and Betsey Woolworth (Frank's grandparents) from Anson and Ruth Moody. Prior to that, Jasper and Betsey Woolworth had owned a small 80 acre farm in the town of Watertown which they bought November 19 1844.

 

Across the road from the little house are the barns.

FW Woolworth's birthplace in Rodman NY Jefferson Co-the barns opposite the house


The driveway continues on up a little hill into the woods and fields:


FW Woolworth's birthplace in Rodman NY Jefferson Co-the Smith Rd is now a deadend driveway where the house is located and leads into a hilly field


On February 25 1859, Jasper and Betsey sold the Rodman property to Chauncey B Lawton and purchased property from Gilbert and Harriet Reed located partly in Adams and partly in Hounsfield NY.

Frank's parents, John and Fanny, then purchased a home and 103.5 acres just a short distance from Great Bend NY on the road to Champion NY the following week. Frank spent most of his boyhood days and youth on the Champion farm of his parents only a few yards south of the Great Bend Methodist church which the Woolworth family attended.

Great Bend NY

Frank later had rebuilt and dedicated on September 5 1915 beautifully tall-spired edifice that stands there today.

Church in Champion NY

In June 1877, he returned to Watertown NY after a 15 month illness at the home of his parents in Great Bend NY. He was employed at a salary of $10 a week in the dry goods store of Moore & Smith. With him he brought his young wife, the former Miss Jennie Creighton, whom he had married June 11 1876 and they established themselves in the wing of the above, then 30 Franklin Street, and later 286 Franklin Street after the renumbering of the streets. The house was owned by Nelson H Pierce, a painter and a man of local prominence who lived in the top right part.

 

FW and Jennie Creighton Woolworth's first home on Franklin St in Watertown NY


On July 17 1878, his daughter Helena Maud was born in the Franklin Street wing. On April 20 1904, Helena married a New Yorker named Charles E F McCann and they later had a daughter Mrs J V (Constance) McMullan of New York City. Two other daughters included Edna and Jessie, both born in New York City.

His daughter, Mrs Contance Woolworth McMullan had a vision of making this modest Franklin Street home a memorial to her mother. She purchased the home, but later abandoned the idea after not being able to acquire the necessary adjoining properties.

The house was sold a few more times and subsequently razed in 1956.


NICKELS AND DIMES

 

In the spring of 1878 a man named Golding who had been a clerk in the local Augsberry Bushnell store, told William H Moore about a five-cent novelty counter idea. With $100 worth of cheap goods and trinkets acquired on a New York buying trip, Moore started his sale the following August with F W Woolworth in charge.

Woolworth cleaned the counter in one day. That was about 5 weeks after his first daughter was born. Shown here is a 1905 photo of the original location of FW Woolworth on Public Square in Watertown NY

1905 FW Woolworth store on Public Square Watertown NY

FW Woolworth building, Watertown NY

fwwoolworthbldgwatertown.jpg


Woolworth Building





























On February 22 1879 Woolworth started his own first store in Utica which later failed and closed the following May 28 1880.

Confident in his new venture, he opened a store in Lancaster PA June 21 1881 which was the successful beginning of his chain of stores.

He saw an opportunity to open an entire store around the concept of variety merchandising, at a cost of no greater than a dime (unfortunately inflation made that no longer possible in the 1930's) Up until that time, this method was used only on specialty and novelty counters.

Many others followed in his conceptual footsteps including McCrory's, JJ Newbury, SS Kresge (now KMart), and even a 5 and dime chain (C S Woolworth & Company) developed by his younger brother Charles Sumner Woolworth.

Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan NYC

The 60 story Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan was once the largest building in the world. The building was funded by Woolworth's private funds and was dedicated as the Cathedral of Commerce.


Frank Woolworth's office once occupied the 24th floor



Other Woolworth related interests:

  • "I LOVE WATERTOWN" essay contests were held open to students enrolled in the Watertown School systems, including Immaculate Heart

  • a 1979 100th Anniversary Commemorative coin was produced


When Frank Winfield Woolworth died in NYC on April 18 1919, his total annual sales was $107,175,700 and his personal fortune totalled $27,205,283.