On September 16, 1875, James Cash Penney was born in Hamilton, Missouri. Although his retail career began in Hamilton, he moved to Colorado to find his fortune.  His first store, the Golden Rule, opened in Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902.  Kemmerer was a small mining town.  He and his wife and infant son lived above the small store. He sold basic goods–men’s overalls for 35 cents and ladies shoes for 49 cents.

Mr. Penney made a success of that store and many more. In 1913, the Golden Rule was re-named to the J.C.Penney Company. In 1916, the company had 127 stores.  In 1925, it had 674 stores, and by 1940 there were 1,586 stores.  Mr. Penney stepped down from day-to-day management in 1917, but he continued to travel to many stores through the 1960s as a good will ambassador.

Memphis and Mr P

In 2004, the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University received Mr. Penney’s personal papers from the J.C. Penney Company.  These materials, including letters, speeches, photographs, and more, have been processed and are ready for researchers to use. When the DeGolyer Library’s remodeling is over, we welcome readers to use these papers.