(May 20, 1826–May 4, 1902)
In 1852 Palmer opened a dry goods store on Lake Street, then Chicago’s commercial center, and was among the first to appreciate the importance of attractive displays including prices of goods and the value of heavy advertising. Palmer also allowed customers to take goods on approval and “charge” purchases. Soon most Chicago merchants adopted the “Palmer system.” In 1865 Marshall Field and Levi Leiter took over creating Field, Palmer, and Leiter – later Marshall Field & Co. He invested heavily in real estate, and brought all of Chicago’s principal stores to State Street, redefining its business district. He is best known for building the Palmer House Hotel. Palmer helped to lay out Lake Shore Drive, was an original incorporator of the Chicago Board of Trade, and helped plan the World’s Columbian Exposition.
photo and text by Joe Collier