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Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfidge
This is the tale of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the American founder of the Oxford Street department store of the same name, now in the hands of the wealthy Weston family.
Selfridge, dubbed the 'showman of shopping', opened the shop in 1909 after cutting his teeth at Marshall Field's in Chicago. It was said that nobody understood the sex appeal of shopping better than him, and he ruled what was then the unfashionable end of Oxford Street for years. Alas, his success was undone by addictions to gambling, mansions and mistresses.Thirty years after the launch, he was ousted in a boardroom coup and died virtually penniless in 1947.
Big Dresses - from 1850 onwards - women of substance were dressed from head to toe in as much as 40 yards of fabric.
Post Civil War, Irish immigrant to NY, Alexander Stewart, established a sumptuous store. Hired only best-looking and charming shop assistants. Fitted the first plate-glass windows and imported the first full-length mirrors. After Lincoln's assassination, his wife Mary's shopping went out of control. She ran up a bill of $48,000 (about a million dollars today) at Alexander Stewart's, whereupon her family had her declared insane and repudiated her debts.
1893 Chicago World Fair featured the first ferris wheel. (But they made George Ferris, the inventor, pay for the whole thing - the stress of raising money and getting it built in time killed him). Fair also featured an exotic dancer named Fahreda Mahzar, who called herself Little Egypt, and had a signature dance called the hootchy-kootchy wearing layers of transparent chiffon.
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