20 Striking Photos Showing How Department Stores Have Evolved Through History

Since the Paris boutique Le Bon MarchĂ© was revamped to become the world’s first modern department store in the 1850s, these staples of consumerism and entertainment have changed tremendously over the ensuing decades. These vintage photos of old department stores track their evolution from their inception in the mid-19th century to their heyday in the mid-20th century, at which point they became popular for personalized service and salesmanship. These photos also manage to illustrate their devolution, however, as many elegant, older downtown stores closed up shop, making way for late-century, big-box department stores like Walmart and Kmart.

When looking at pictures of department stores then and now, the style, layout, and service of vintage department stores may appear to be a thing of the past; some cities, however, are determined to keep those traditions alive. In many parts of the world, though, these old-school downtown department stores have almost entirely been replaced by strip malls and chains. The architecture of the classic department store, intended to blend in with the city around it, is now replaced by the more practical warehouse model. Luckily, these photos help the golden age of department stores live on in our collective memory. Browse through this gallery to take a visual tour of these changing shops.

Le Bon Marché, Paris, 1875

Fifth Street Department Store, Los Angeles, 1902

Macy’s, New York City, 1907

Marshall Field Tea Room, Chicago, 1909

Finney Isles Department Store, Brisbane, 1910

Marshall Field Jewelry Department, Chicago, 1910s

Mrs. Snyder’s Candy Shop, Chicago, 1927

Matsuzuakaya Department Store, Ueno, 1930

Buying A Radio, Crowley-Milner, Detroit, 1941

Buying A Mattress, Crowley-Milner, Detroit, 1941

Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Show, Detroit, 1942

Macy’s During The Christmas Rush, 1942

Sears Department Store, 1950

Soviet Department Store, 1951

Richards Department Store Window Display, Miami, 1960s

Saks Fifth Avenue, New York City, 1960

Hess Brothers Department Store Models, Allentown, 1965

Demolition Of Eaton’s Queen And Yonge Department Store, Toronto, 1977

Vintage Walmart,  Mid-1980s

Walmart Opening Day, Huffman, 1984

Walmart, 2007

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