Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Arnold Constable Corp. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Arnold Constable Corp.

List of Deals

Aaron Arnold, an immigrant from the Isle of Wight who became a well-known Manhattan merchant, started the first Constable store in 1825 in New York City's lower Manhattan, at Canal and Mercer Streets. Prior to that time, Arnold had been associated with James A. Hearn. The Arnold store obtained the second half of its name when an English lace salesman, James Constable, called on Mr. Arnold with his wares. Mr. James M. Constable married Mr. Arnold's daughter and became a partner in 1837. In 1868 the store was moved to Broadway and Nineteenth Street, the company leading in taking up quarters in the then-new shopping district.

The next change occurred in 1911, when Edwin H. Weatherbee, son-in-law of James M. Constable, succeeded to the entire business through the retirement of Walter C. M. Constable and Alfred G. Evans, who had become members of the firm. On February 11 of the following year, Mr. Weatherbee died after less than a week's illness of stroke of apoplexy that attacked him while he was attending the opera at the Metropolitan Opera House. His son, Hicks Arnold Weatherbee, took over as president of the company.

There were various changes in the firm until the company incorporated in June 1914, with a capital of $2.5 million, with Hicks Arnold Weatherbee as president.

In 1914 the site of Frederick W. Vanderbilt's former home was leased by the company and preparations began on a new building. The cost of the plant was estimated in the neighborhood of $1 million. The company opened their store on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Fortieth Street on November 8, 1915. The doors were unlocked by little Miss Reid, a great-great-granddaughter of founder Aaron Arnold.

During the nineteen twenties, the street in front of Constable's was frequently the scene of limousines and chauffeurs waiting for affluent women of the period to make their purchases.

The new management of Arnold Constable Corporation showed the extent of its efforts in 1927 when it was the first year that there were no adjustments to make following the consolidation of the Stewart and Arnold stores with the new management in control. Management had been able to turn deficits into profits in a comparatively short time. Net profit was nearly doubled and there was a substantial increase in sales. Sales totaled over 13.5 million dollars for the twelve months ending January 31, 1928, compared with 11.5 million dollars the previous fiscal year. Net profits for the twelve months aggregated $708,862 after depreciation. The company's common stock sold at around 50, compared to its 1925 range that had been between 41 and 51 ¼.

The company showed its ample hold on inventories with a total of 1.28 million compared with 1.18 million the previous year, despite the large increase in business. The ability of the Arnold management to turn its inventories rapidly was a feature of its success. The company was constantly adding new accounts to its books, with some 25,000 added between 1926 and 1927. While the management departed from many of the selling methods of the old Arnold management, it maintained its old clients. Some of the customers that were on the books in the twenties had been there for decades. The new building going up adjoining the store would double its capacity for stock. Thus the store was to offer growing competition to the largest stores on Fifth Avenue.

Arnold Constable was to become one of New York's oldest specialty stores, lasting 150 years in business, and a half-century on Fifth Avenue.

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