James Cash Penney was known for establishing JC Penney Company, which is a chain of department stores selling a wide variety of goods. The store chain has become one of the largest in the U.S.


The biography of James Cash Penney has quite a trivial beginning. He was born in 1875 in a town of Hamilton, Missouri. Penney’s family tree tells that his parents were James Cash Penney Sr. and Mary Frances Paxton. Penney’s family was not wealthy, and he had to earn money by means of farming since childhood.

In 1893, Penney graduated from Hamilton High School and wanted to pursue higher education to become a lawyer. However, due to the lack of money and his father’s sudden death, he had to find a job. Penney became a store clerk to support the family, but soon he encountered health problems that forced him to move to Longmont, Colorado.

In that place, James Cash Penney started working in the Golden Rule stores, owned by G. Johnson and T. Callahan. In 1902, they offered the young man a one-third partnership in a chain store. In 1907, Penney bought out all stores owned by his partners and began to develop his own company. During the following years, he opened stores in different states of the U.S., and, thus, Penney created a chain of department stores selling nonfood merchandise. By 1924, James Cash Penney’s net worth amounted to more than $1.5 million per year.

However, the businessman was not focused only on his profits. One of James Cash Penney’s quotes illustrates his attitude to his work: “A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.” He thoroughly selected people for work in his department stores and taught them what he learned from his experience as a sales clerk. His store managers shared one-third of the profits of the company, which motivated them to strive for the good of Penney’s business.

In 1929, during the Great Depression, the stock market crash led to big problems in Penney’s business. He had to run in debt to meet the company’s payroll, which caused him to have some health problems. However, he later borrowed money and recovered the greatness of his enterprise. By 1971, the year when James Cash Penney died, his company became the second largest chain of dry-goods stores in the U.S.

It is considered that J. C. Penney Company was founded in 1902 when Penney acquired his one-third share in the Golden Rules store. By 1907, it consisted of three stores, and Penney became its single owner. Five years later, the chain comprised 34 stores located in the Rocky Mountain States. By 1920, the company owned 120 stores throughout the country, but most of them were situated in the west.

In 1968, J. C. Penney Company began to expand beyond the U.S. by acquiring a retail chain in Belgium. In the 21st century, the business developed an online market and created a range of its own brands. However, since 2012, the company is in decline, losing its profits, reducing the number of employees, and closing a number of its stores. Nevertheless, the enterprise deserves attention since it was created by an ordinary sales clerk and managed to grow into a profitable nationwide company.

James Cash Penney
Source: https://assets.simpleviewinc.com