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Franklin Simon

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Franklin Simon February 7, 1865 – October 4, 1934, was the owner of Franklin Simon & Co, a department store in Manhattan, New York City The store was founded in February 1902, when Simon partnered with Herman A Flurscheim1


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Founding Franklin Simon & Co
  • 3 Fifth Avenue Success and Retail Innovations
  • 4 Personal life
  • 5 Death
  • 6 References

Early lifeedit

Born on New York City's Lower East Side in 1865 to Henri and Helene Simon, Franklin had three brothers and three sisters Simon's father, Henri, was a cigar-maker and wood carver His mother, Helene, was a seamstress2 After his father's untimely death in 1878, Simon found work at a cash-boy at Stern Brothers, a dry goods store located at 32–36 West 23rd Street One of the store's principals, Louis Stern, befriended young Simon, teaching him the "ropes" of dry goods3

By age 21, Simon was earning $5000 per year, a considerable sum at that time4 In 1892, Simon married Frances Carroll, the daughter of a New York City Sheriff The couple had four children: Franklin Simon Jr, who died July 3, 1902, Arthur J Simon 1892–1968; Helene Simon 1895–; and George D Simon 1898–1944

As his responsibilities at Stern Brothers increased, Simon was sent overseas to Paris as a buyer for the firm5 It was during one of these business trips that Simon became acquainted with Herman A Flurscheim, one of Stern Brothers' principal suppliers in France6 The two became friends and soon made plans to go into business together, importing French fashions into the United States7

Founding Franklin Simon & Coedit

By 1902 Simon had saved approximately $100,0008 In a daring move, Simon and Flurscheim purchased the home of Mrs Orme Wilson, sister of John Jacob Astor IV, at 414 Fifth Avenue as the site of their new venture, Franklin Simon & Co, a store of "individual shoppes"9 At that time, Fifth Avenue was primarily a residential street, and Simon's merchant contemporaries derided his choice of location, speculating that the business would be a total failure10

Franklin Simon & Co opened its doors for business in February, 190211 The venture lost $40,000 during its first year of operation and $28,000 during its second12 However, by 1904 Fifth Avenue was coming into its own as a fashion center and the store turned a $16,000 profit13 From that point forward, Franklin Simon & Co remained one of the preeminent Fifth Avenue fashion outlets until its dissolution in the 1970s

Fifth Avenue Success and Retail Innovationsedit

Perhaps the first person to view Fifth Avenue as a major retail and fashion center, Simon initiated "Buyers Week" and "Market Week," thus revolutionizing how manufacturers and retailers presented and sold new fashions and simultaneously generating millions of dollars in business for the surrounding neighborhood By 1922, Simon was known amongst his contemporaries as a "merchant prince," and was one of the leading figures in setting the fashion trends of the day14

Franklin Simon & Co, Circa 1915

Simon's approach to advertising was, in many ways, revolutionary He employed visionary artists such as Norman Bel Geddes and Donald Deskey Their talent helped change the future of department store display windows, creating futuristic designs that stopped traffic on Fifth Avenue15 Simon was also the first Fifth Avenue merchant to offer on-site parking for his customers, a plan he devised himself16

To combat slumping sales, Simon originated the concept of "blue light" sales, by instructing his in-store salespeople to mark down items with blue pencils while customers were looking on17 Simon was also the first merchant to suggest the use of outlet stores as a way to sell out of season merchandise18 This was the first known use of such a sales tactic

To dissuade piracy and trademark infringement, Simon was ferocious in protecting his brand and was not afraid to use the courts to enforce his legal rights19

The success of Simon's original Fifth Avenue establishment was followed by more openings across the country In 1932, Simon opened his first expansion in Greenwich, Connecticut20 Later expansions followed in Manhasset, Long Island – on the "Miracle Mile," Palm Beach, Florida, and several other locations21 The site of the Manhasset store would later be developed into Americana Manhasset

In the 1930s, Franklin Simon & Co would be the first retail store on Fifth Avenue to remain open until nine o'clock in the evening, a remarkable "experiment" that ultimately proved a success and left a lasting impact on the retail industry in the United States22

Personal lifeedit

Mr Simon was a noted philanthropist He was a regular contributor to the New York Times' One Hundred Neediest Cases After the Titanic disaster in 1912, Mr Simon provided clothes and financial support for two French orphans rescued from a lifeboat He published the little girls' picture in major newspapers with the hope of finding their family He insured they had whatever they needed at no cost23

Mr Simon also received France's highest honor, "The Legion D'Honneur" Mr Simon was named as a Chevalier of the Legion for "having done more than any other person to put U S women into French clothes"24

Civic minded, Mr Simon was elected chairman of the centennial committee to save Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home; bound for demolition if not for Mr Simon's efforts25 He was also the director of the Hospital for Joint Diseases and a member of the board of governors of the Stuyvesant Square Hospital Simon was a member of the Empire State Luncheon Club, Westchester Country Club, Quaker Ridge Golf Club, Uptown Club and the National Democratic Club26 Simon was also on the Board, and later served as Vice President of the Fifth Avenue Association, an influential group of public officials and Fifth Avenue merchants that included Ezra Fitch, Robert Adamson, Lucius M Boomer, Eliot Cross, and other luminaries of the era27


Franklin Simon's Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx

Franklin Simon died in his country home at Purchase, New York on October 4, 1934 from kidney failure28

After his death, several of the great merchants of New York paid tribute to Mr Simon, including Percy Straus, President of Macy's, and Bernard Gimbel, President of Gimbel Brothers Isaac Lieberman, President of Arnold, Constable & Co remarked that "Mr Franklin Simon was one of the pioneer merchants of Fifth Avenue and has probably done more to develop Fifth Avenue as a fashion centre than any other single person"29 The New York Times, in an editorial celebrating Simon's achievements wrote "What need of imposing a 'code' upon a man like him He was his own code – always one of honor and humanity"30

Simon's funeral was a grand affair, with Governor Herbert Lehman sending his condolences and arranging a funeral cortege along the Hutchinson River Parkway31

At the time of his death, Simon left a gross estate of approximately $2,394,751 to his wife32 Calculated for inflation, Simon's personal estate, excluding Franklin Simon & Co, was worth approximately $42 million in 2013 dollars After Simon's death, his widow sold a controlling interest in Franklin Simon and Co to the Atlas Corporation in September, 193633

Mr Simon is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx


  1. ^ "HA Flurscheim Dies" New York Times August 20, 1914 Pioneer Dry Goods Merchant and Art Collector Was 63 Years Old Flurscheim wed Miss Bella Goldsmith, of this city, in 1876 She died four years ago leaving five children who now survive him They are Mrs Ansel Strauss, Mrs Otto Loeb, Mrs Harry Cowen and Bernard and Harry Flurscheim  |access-date= requires |url= help
  2. ^ Census of 1870
  3. ^ "Franklin Simon, long ill, Dies at 69" The New York Times October 5, 1934 Retrieved 21 July 2013
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  14. ^ The Clothier and Furnisher Vol 101, Oct 1922 Pg 50
  15. ^ "Art: Along the Avenue" TIME Magazine April 21, 1941 "But the window that tied up traffic last week was at Franklin Simon's" Retrieved 23 July 2013
  16. ^ "Store Parks Cars For Its Customers" The New York Times December 14, 1924 "The parking troubles of customers of Franklin Simon & Co, Fifth Avenue and Thirty-seventh Street, will be ended tomorrow under a plan devised by Franklin Simon, head of the department store At a cost of $50,000, the store will provide parking space in a private garage for all of their customers using automobiles" Retrieved 21 July 2013
  17. ^ The Clothier and Furnisher, Vol 101, pg 61 December, 1922 "Franklin Simon, New York, last year supplied its salesman with blue pencils, with instructions to mark down the special merchandise while customers were looking on"
  18. ^ "New York Fashion; Legends of NYC Best & Co, Peck & Peck, Franklin Simon" Jeffrey Felner The Examiner December 7, 2010 Retrieved 20 July 2013
  19. ^ See generally Franklin Simon & Co v Bramley Blouses, 170 Misc 844, 845 Sup Ct NY Cnty, Jan 27, 1939"Many millions of millions of dollars have been spent by Franklin Simon & Co for advertising in New York newspapers As a result of conscientious effort and extensive advertising of a period of thirty-five years, Franklin SImon & Co has acquired and enjoys an enviable and unique reputation as one of the preeminently fine retail business establishments of the United States"
  20. ^ "Business: Fifth Avenue to Greenwich" TIME Magazine April 4, 1932 Retrieved 23 July 2013
  21. ^ "Franklin Simon Starts Manhasset Branch With Exhibit of famous Crown of Andes" The New York Times October 12, 1956 Retrieved 20 July, 2013
  22. ^ "Fifth Ave Stores Weigh Late Close" The New York Times September 17, 1937 Retrieved 21 July 2013
  23. ^ "Babies Found in One of the Titanic's Lifeboats" The New York Times April 21, 1912 "The children were outfitted to-day without charge by Franklin Simon & Co of 414 Fifth Avenue No request was made to them to do it, but as soon as they heard that the children were in the store they offered us whatever they needed"
  24. ^ TIME Magazine Business: Fifth Avenue to Greenwich April 4, 1932 "France made Franklin Simon a chevalier of the Legion of Honor for having done more than any other person to put U S women into French clothes"
  25. ^ "Open Drive To Buy Jefferson's Home" The New York Times May 11, 1925 "The Jefferson Centennial Committee, headed by Franklin Simon will begin the work of raising funds to purchase the ancestral home of Thomas Jefferson, at Monticello, Va, which they plan to convert into a national shrine" Retrieved July 20, 2013
  26. ^ "Franklin Simon, long ill, dies at 69" Supra
  27. ^ "Fifth Avenue Old and New," Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co New York City, 1924 A publication of the Fifth Avenue Association Available at: http://wwwcolumbiaedu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/cul/texts/ldpd_6201730_000/ldpd_6201730_000pdf
  28. ^ "Milestones, Oct 15, 1934" TIME Magazine October 15, 1934 "Died Franklin Simon, 69, Founder of Franklin Simon & Co big Manhattan department store; of uremic poisoning; in Purchase, NY" Retrieved 23 July 2013
  29. ^ Franklin Simon, long ill, dies at 69 The New York Times October 5, 1934
  30. ^ "Franklin Simon" The New York Times October 5, 1934 Retrieved July 21, 2013
  31. ^ "Last Tribute Paid to Franklin Simon" The New York Times October 7, 1934 Retrieved July 20, 2013
  32. ^ "$1,890,240 In Estate Of Franklin Simon" The New York Times January 29, 1938 Retrieved 20 July 2013
  33. ^ "Atlas Corp Buys Franklin Simon" The New York Times October 1, 1936 Retrieved July 20, 2013

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