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Resseguie Collection
Catalog Record
Mss 776 c.1945-1966
Cartons 1-30

The Resseguie collection on department stores, which covers the years 1945 to 1966, contains the research files of Harry E. Resseguie, editor at Fairchild Publications, for a never-published book on the history of the department store in the second half of the twentieth century. The collection consists largely of clippings from Women's Wear Daily and other newspapers, as well as Resseguie's manuscript notes.

The collection offers a wealth of information on all aspects of the history of department stores and the retail industry. Resseguie collected clippings on such subjects as individual stores and chain retailers, new methods in sales and service, retail in specific cities, labor-management relations, and on the unionization of department stores from 1940 to 1958.

While upper management was almost exclusively male for most of the history of department stores, Resseguie's files show that women were present throughout these organizations. A clipping from Women's Wear Daily of May 21, 1964 offers a composite of the "happy buyer" based on a survey of 107 buyers, male and female: "A married woman, who is over 55 and has worked with a big store in the Far West for 20 years." Several clippings from 1957 to 1963 address the professional development of comparison shoppers, women who visited competitors' stores to report on prices and the availability of goods. "From comparison shopping," one article asserts, "which pays in the range of stenographic work, many advance to the executive ladder. Macy's considers comparison shopping part of its executive training program."

The collection contains clippings on a wide range of topics of gender interest, such as fashion and consumer habits. There are articles on the furor that resulted when Dior raised its hemlines by six inches in 1953. "Some skirts are nearly 18 inches off the floor," one article reports. A folder on "Out-Size Apparel Stores" reveals that a number of women opened tall-girl specialty shops in the early 1950s. Analyses by Fairfield Publications (publishers of Women's Wear Daily of the Department of Commerce's 1948 and 1954 Census of Business compare the number of men's and women's clothing stores. A 1957 clipping reports, based on a survey on consumer spending, that professional and semi-professional women workers spent more money on clothing than any other group of women.

Resseguie was interested in the nitty-gritty details of the development of department stores, as well as in the broader arenas of political and cultural change. Clippings on the controversial development of department store charge accounts include a 1954 article (probably from the Wall Street Journal) entitled "Survey Claims Women With Charge Accounts Aid the U.S. Economy." The article is subtitled, "That Is, Brother, They'll Buy More Than Those Armed Only With Cold, Hard, Cash." The folder "Consumer's League" contains Resseguie's summaries of books and articles on the National Consumers League, obituaries of Florence Kelley and other leading women in the movement to better women's and girls' working conditions in factories and department stores through consumer pressure, as well as Resseguie's notes on the movement.

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