Wanamaker, John (wŏnˈəmāˌkər) [key], 1838–1922, American merchant, b. Philadelphia. He went into the men's clothing business in Philadelphia with Nathan Brown, his brother-in-law, in 1861. The firm was Wanamaker and Brown until the death of Brown in 1868, and from 1869 it was John Wanamaker and Company. In 1875, Wanamaker bought the site of the old Pennsylvania RR freight station and opened a new dry goods and clothing store, which later became one of the first and best-known department stores. He was Postmaster General (1889–93) in Benjamin Harrison's cabinet and greatly improved the efficiency of the service. He extended his business into New York City in 1896, when he took over the store which had formerly been A. T. Stewart and Company. He was identified with religious work in Philadelphia, as a paid secretary (1857–61) and later president (1870–83) of the Young Men's Christian Association and as superintendent of the Bethany Presbyterian Sunday School for many years.
See biographies by H. A. Gibbons (1926) and J. H. Appel (1970).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.