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Woolworth USA and Canada's Hundredth Birthday in 1979


Woolworth's 100th Anniversary logos from the USA and Canada 21 June 1879 marked a major landmark as the F. W. Woolworth Co. celebrated its centenary with a series of special events. A century after Frank Woolworth had opened his Great Five Cent Store in North Queen Street, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the focus was on sales generation. The birthday captured the attention of the media. It received extensive TV coverage and a nostalgic feature in Time Magazine, as well as thousands of column inches of local press coverage. The stories diverted attention from a fierce bid battle raging behind the scenes.


One of a set of five commemorative posters displayed in American Woolworth stores in 1979.


A commemorative poster showing the Woolworth and Northrop store in Elmira, New York from the 1880s.  This was one of a set of five that were displayed in the windows of American and Canadian Woolworth stores throughout the chain's centenary year in 1979. The stores were issued with a series of five framed posters for the windows and checkouts area. They were headed "Values our Tradition since 1879", and showed animated scenes of some of the earliest branches. They became a popular talking point, even in the most run-down five-and-tens.

A well orchestrated promotional campaign brought fresh bargains every fortnight to create a sale atmosphere in honour of the birthday. This helped Woolworth's to re-assert is value credentials and to showcase its newer ranges of fashions, electricals and larger items. Spending rose as nostalgic TV ads prompted a trip to the 5 & 10¢ for a vanilla coke, a soda from the fountain, some popcorn or an ex-chart record for 69¢.


The first store at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA enjoyed a special place at the heart of Woolworths. These pictures show how the store changed between 1879 and 1979A commemorative newspaper supplement was published with the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal and New Year in May 1979. It features pictures of the assembled associates from each of the two Lancaster stores - the downtown store in North Queen Street and the out-of-town store between Court and Arsenal which opened in 1971




In the birthplace, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the a special 100th Anniversary supplement was distributed with the local paper. The covers featured group photographs of the store staff, from both the in-town North Queen Street branch and the state-of-the-art store in the nearby Lancaster Park City Shopping Center. Inside it contained a 12-page potted history, which included details of its international operations in Britain, Germany, Mexico and Puerto Rico.


Tracy and Todd visit the Woolworth Building - a coloring book to mark the company's 100th birthday in the USA100th anniversary commemorative menus from the famous Lunch Counter carried the slogan "The Tradition of Value Lives On" (Image with special thanks to Mr. John Compton)

The celebration giveways included coloring books, menus with the slogan 'The Tradition of Value Lives On', free clown toys and finger puzzles and plastic six inch rulers. But, where once Frank Woolworth had insisted that promotional items had to be particularly well-made, older American Managers remember that every expense had been spared in assembling the selection of freebies.


F.W. Woolworth Co's special 100th birthday Annual Report, which was published in 1979. Investors were also treated to a commemorative coin. There was something more elaborate for Investors and Associates. The Annual Report was distributed in a presentation sleeve and contained two full colour booklets, one telling the story of the first hundred years in words and pictures, and the other looking to the future, with a review of current trading and the business plan. It featured photographs of all of the subsidiaries around the world.

Large gold-coloured commemorative coins were struck for employees. Stockholders were treated to a smart paperweight encasing their coins. It was hoped that the 3,000-strong chain would enjoy another century of success.


Woolworth World (the Associate newspaper in the USA) ran a series of articles on the history of the company.  The 100th anniversary giveaway toy was a far cry from some of the spectacular items Frank Woolworth had bought in Germany in the 19th century and sold for 5 or 10 cents each in his stores.


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