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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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J. C. PENNEY COMPANY. James Cash Penney began his career in retail management when he opened The Golden Rule store, a partnership with Guy Johnson and Thomas Callahan, on April 14, 1902 in Kemmerer, Wyoming. He participated in the creation of two more stores, and when Callahan and Johnson dissolved their partnership in 1907 he purchased full interest in all three locations. By 1912, Penney had 34 stores in the Rocky Mountain States. In 1913, all stores were consolidated under the new name, J. C. Penney Company. By 1917, the company operated 175 stores in 22 states in the United States.

By 1941, J.C. Penney operated 1,600 stores in all 48 contiguous states.

In 1956, J. C. Penney started national advertising with a series of advertisements in Life magazine. J. C. Penney credit cards were issued and accepted at its stores for the first time in 1959. In 1962, J. C. Penney entered discount merchandising with the acquisition of General Merchandise Company. In 1963, J. C. Penney issued its first catalog. The company operated in-store catalog desks in eight states.

The company dedicated its first full-line, shopping center department store in 1961 at Black Horse Pike Center, in Audubon, New Jersey.

In 1969, the company acquired Thrift Drug, a chain of drugstores headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It also acquired Supermarkets Interstate, an Omaha-based food retailer which operated leased departments in J. C. Penney stores, The Treasury stores, and Thrift Drug stores.

In 1971, the company's revenues reached $5 billion for the first time and catalog business made a profit for the first time. JC Penney reached its peak number of stores in 1973, with 2,053 stores, 300 of which were full-line establishments.

In 1984, J. C. Penney acquired the First National Bank of Harrington, Delaware and renamed it JCPenney National Bank. With the bank the company became able to issue its own MasterCard and Visa cards. The company also began accepting American Express cards.

In 1998, J. C. Penney launched its third channel for shopping convenience. Its Internet store has grown into one of the largest apparel and home furnishings retail sites on the Internet. In early 1999, JCPenney went from a middle-scale chain to an up-scale chain. In 2003, the company opened three off-the-mall stores in strip centers. These stores were located in Texas, Minnesota, and Indiana.

Beginning in 2007 the store slogan changed from "It's All Inside" to "Every Day Matters"; the new slogan and associated ad campaign was launched in television commercials during the 79th Academy Awards in late February 2007.

In November 2007, the company launched a new public website, JCPenneyBrands.com, which covered the company's private and exclusive brands, and their branding strategy, with a preview of an upcoming product line. In February 2008, the company launched the "American Living" brand, as developed by Ralph Lauren, across several product lines, including Men's, Women's, and Children's Apparel and Shoes, Intimate Apparel, and Home. The launch, which was accompanied by an ad campaign during the 2008 Academy Awards, was the company's largest private brand launch. American Living for infant apparel was launched in July 2008. In the summer of 2008, J. C. Penney also added a new brand to its home collection, "Linden Street." The Linden Street brand features a contemporary lifestyle collection of furniture, domestics, and home decor. Linden Street was sold exclusively in J. C. Penney stores and through their website. Other new exclusive brands for junior's and young men's were launched in the summer of 2008, including Le Tigre, Decree, and Fabulosity, a junior line of clothing by Kimora Lee Simmons.

In July 2009, new additions were made to the J. C. Penney young men's department, including an expansion of their private brand Decree (previously exclusively a juniors clothing line) and the introduction of more skate/surf-oriented clothing, including Rusty, RS by Ryan Sheckler, and 3rd Rail. In September 2010, J. C. Penney joined Facebook to help promote their "Care, Share, Win" campaign. J. C. Penney donated over $100 million to after school care. Fans of J. C. Penney on Facebook help decide which school will receive the next million dollars.

In 2009, J. C. Penney reached an agreement with Seattle's Best Coffee to feature full-service cafes within leased departments inside J. C. Penney stores across the country.

On January 24, 2011, J. C. Penney announced it would leave the catalog business and close all 19 of its catalog outlet stores. An additional seven stores, two call center facilities, and one customer decorating facility would also be closed.

On December 7, 2011, J. C. Penney announced the acquisition of 16.6 percent of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia stock. J. C. Penney planned to put "mini-Martha Stewart shops" in many of its stores in 2013, as well as starting a web site together.

On February 1, 2012, J. C. Penney began a new pricing method, with "Every Day" prices on most days reflecting what used to be sale prices, "Monthly Value" for certain items every month in place of sales, and "Best Price" two Fridays each month, tied to paydays. Prices would also not end in 9. The changes in the stores include a focus on the mini-stores such as those for Martha Stewart products. Ellen DeGeneres, a former J. C. Penney employee, became the chain's spokesperson in a tour and advertising campaign in Spring 2012.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

The 1923 Dubuque City Directory listed 978-98 Main.

In Dubuque... The original J. C. Penney store in Dubuque was located from 1920-1928 at 10th and Main. Based on the idea that "sell for cash and you can sell for less," the company later developed its lay-away plan. A customer could choose merchandise and have it set aside for later use. A small payment was collected at the time of selection with the balance of the purchase paid in partial payments. (1)

The 1929 through 1945 Dubuque City Directory listed 855-61 Main. In 1931 an announcement was made that a Bargain Annex would be opened at 10th and Main where the J. C. Penney Company had been located before its relocation. The Annex carried lower priced items from the store as well as several new lines including "aluminumware," enamelware, woodenware, and electrical supplies. (2)

A new building that would become the new location for the company in Dubuque was started in June, 1957. The site was the former location of the AVON THEATER, the former Penney's building, and the Burden Building. With an estimated cost of $1 million, the building had a basement and four floors with all but the fourth floor designed for retail merchandise. While construction was taking place, the store moved into temporary headquarters on Locust Street. The manager at this time was Herman LOTT. (3)

After years as a cash-and-carry store, J. C. Penney began offering credit to customers in July 1960. Plans were that all 1,700 Penney stores nationwide would have credit purchasing by 1963. (4)

The 1958 through 1980 Dubuque City Directory listed 855 Main when it was listed as a department store. The founder of the company, James Cash Penney, visited Dubuque on July 24, 1958 to open the new store.

The 1985 through 2014 Dubuque City Directory listed KENNEDY MALL.



1. Penny's New Store $1,0000,000 Project," Telegraph-Herald, July 23, 1958, p. 14

2. "Penney Firm to Open Second Dubuque Store," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Mar. 15, 1931

3. "Penny's New Store..."

4. "Credit System Installed by Penney's," Telegraph Herald, July 2, 1960, p. 3