JCPenney joins digital collections

Greenville JCPenney store and car.
JCPenney store in Greenville, TX

Over 122 years ago, James C. Penney opened his first store in Kemmerer, Wyoming. We have launched a new digital collection of photographs of JCPenney stores, photographs of Mr. Penney or his projects, and a sampling of the first JCPenney newspaper for associates (employees) called The Dynamo.

SMU received the JCPenney collections in 2004. The JCPenney corporate collection (A 2004.0007)  includes over 1,200 boxes of materials ranging from speeches, annual reports, training manuals, advertisements, press releases, correspondence, but here we will be showcasing store photographs. We have over 10,000 images of JCPenney stores, so this small sampling is just the beginning.

Something that you might not expect in the collection are photographs and company newspaper stories about celebrities. Celebrities that had promotional events or projects with the Company include Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ginger Rogers, Ellen DeGeneres, Kenny Rogers, and Willie Nelson. Celebrities who modeled for commercials, advertisements, or catalog include Luke Perry, Ashley Tisdale, and Phoebe Cates.

Willie Nelson wearing a JCPenney cap
Willie Nelson wearing a JCPenney cap

Mr Penney’s papers (A2004.0006) include his high school essays, speeches, correspondence, photographs, and information about his family and his interests in agriculture. A subset of the images include his charitable activities especially the Penney Retirement Community founded for retired clergy and missionaries. Penney Farms, a visionary program to train farmers which Mr. Penney started and funded right before the Depression, also is featured in the collection. Both of these projects were located in Florida, south of Jacksonville.

The Dynamo, published from 1917 to 1932, the first publication by and for JCPenney associates had inspirational messages from Mr. Penney and others, news of the stores, and articles by store managers telling how they increased sales. There are also lists and pictures of store managers, columns featuring letters from women associates, and merchandise buyers teaching about lines of merchandise. The last page always featured a map of the United States showing the locations and growth of the stores. Later employee publications were Pay Day, Penney News, JCPenney Today, and JCPeople.

We’ll be adding to this collection slowly, mostly when people request images of store locations. For more information, please contact