Before it closed in 2006 and was replaced by Macy’s, Marshall Field’s flagship store on State Street was known for its cheerful holiday window displays.
The Chicago History Museum photo above shows a window display of Santa’s workshop as pictured on December 2, 1943. The tradition of window displays dates back to 1897, when display manager Arthur Fraser, who pioneered the store’s window design, began utilizing the “show windows” that had been installed a few years prior. Fraser used elaborate displays to showcase toys and other merchandise around the holidays.
In 1944, Fraser’s successor, John Moss, created the first “themed” window displays that were designed to tell a story. The windows became an attraction, especially with the addition of “Uncle Mistletoe” in 1946. Marshall Field’s created the character in response to Montgomery Ward’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Read more about the Marshall Field’s windows with Art & Design in Chicago or this Chicago Stories episode from 2000, which you can watch here.