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Christmas at Marshall Fields



Marshall Field's at Christmas




FOR OVER A CENTURY, MARSHALL FIELD'S has delighted children and adults at Christmas time. The Walnut Room tree, the main aisle decorations, the magical windows, the 4th floor toy department, and visits to Santa have enthralled generations who visited the State Street store. An imposter stands in Field's place now, but the holiday memories  that were imprinted on visitors' during Field's  reign continue in those of us fortunate to have experience Marshall Field's in its Christmas glory.











. . . it's just not Christmas without a visit to Field's!



                                                                                               . . . and this is why.



Marshall Field's Christmas Memories




CHRISTMAS IN CHICAGO JUST WOULDN'T BE COMPLETE for many of us without viewing the fantastic department store window displays on State Street. It’s a top holiday activity that began at Chicago's Marshall Field's.

In the 1890s, retail pioneer Marshall Field had a novel idea: he chose a theater set designer Arthur Fraser to transform his store’s display windows. Frazer eliminated the chaotic arrangements of merchandise familiar to customers and in their places built mini theater sets. These showcased a minimal number of items in an artistic and dramatic manner.

At no time were these displays more powerful than at Christmas. Field’s clever, beautiful, and eventually animated holiday store windows became a major draw for locals and tourists from all over. 

The first theme windows appeared in 1944 with the story of A Night Before Christmas, which were illustrated under the direction of Fraser's successor, John Moss. Shortly thereafter, the Moss team expanded that idea to present theme windows that spanned the entire length of State Street. Persons could walk from one end to the other and see a story unfold before them.

To compete with Montgomery  Ward's Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Moss created a special character called Uncle Mistletoe (pictured in first photo in this story) who had his Field’s window debut in 1948. Uncle Mistletoe quickly became a favorite of Chicago children.

Other characters featured in the holiday windows over the years include Cinderella, Pinocchio, Harry Potter, The Grinch, Snow White, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.




UPON ENTERING THE STORE, just walk up a few yards into the main aisle near the corners of State and Washington. Stop and look up to see the incredible, mosaic Tiffany Dome.

It was made from 1.6 million pieces of multicolored Favrile iridescent glass, covering a vast 6,000 square foot ceiling. The dome is one of the finest examples of its kind and took 50 artisans a year and a half to install. It became the highlight of the 385 foot main aisle, unveiled to the public on the first day of the store's grand reopening September 30, 1907.

Every Christmas season, however, the magnificent dome takes second place to the spectacular decorations that line the main aisle and tower above the massive, walnut and beveled glass display cases

The tops of the display cases once were lined with mounds of sturdy gift boxes, tissue paper, gift tags, stickers, gold cording, and green shopping bags. Behind them stood smiling sales people waiting to help the customers. All this has changed. Gone are the gift tags, stickers, gold cording, and shopping bags. Flimsy "fold-your-own" boxes have replaced the heavy ones and finding a sales clerk, smiling or not, is a usually a major task.



- 7th Floor

THE WALNUT ROOM IS LOCATED AT THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF THE 7th floor of Marshall Field's department store. Walls are covered with flawless Circassian Russian walnut paneling after which it is named. Crystal chandeliers and dainty wall sconces softly light the room and enhance the beauty of the natural wood. Square tables covered with white linen cloths, nickel silver plated tableware, glass water goblets, and stately firm chairs combine to add a sophisticated air and one that normally would not entice children.

At Christmastime, however, Field's would erect a 45 foot evergreen in the middle of the room. Five thousand brightly colored ornaments and endless strands of lights adorned the huge tree lending a fairytale glow to the staid room. Children, dressed in their Sunday best, eagerly awaited their turn to have lunch under the big tree. The lines were long, and the menu far from child-friendly, but the magical setting created a favorite holiday tradition.



- 8th Floor

YOU KNOW, OF COURSE, that the real Santa was at Marshall Field's. I know because my mom told me, and she wouldn't say so if she didn't know for sure. Therefore, in my mind it wasn't Christmas without a visit to Field's; and it had nothing to do with store windows and decorations or lunch under the big tree. It had to do with speaking to the right person, Santa himself, and explaining what I wanted for Christmas. I never relaxed until my mom, brother, and I made the trek downtown to visit "the big man himself."

We'd dress in our Sunday best, ride the Illinois Central Commuter train to Randolph Street, and walk the half block to Field's department store. Our excitement grew as we came closer and closer to our goal. When we reached the store’s eighth floor, Santa Claus' territory, I remember suddenly feeling a mixture of nervousness and awe. We were about to speak to the very man who'd been incredibly kind and generous to children all over the world. It was truly thrilling.

Well, in reality it took a while before we actually approached Santa. The lines were unbelievably long. Field’s would post a wait-time as you exited the escalator on Santa's floor, and two hours was not unusual. Even for a small child intent on presenting his, or her, Christmas list, two hours was an eternity. But wait, we did; often without a single complaint, except for my younger brother Billy, that is. He would take one look at the long lines and begin to whine.

I tried to explain that this was no time to misbehave - especially if he wanted to be remembered on Christmas Eve - but he never seemed to understand. My mom, fortunately, knew what to do. She'd reach into her purse and pull out a couple of cookies and keep them coming as we waited for our turn.

It's still hard to believe that Santa brought any toys to Billy. He was always getting into trouble at home, school, and here he was again misbehaving as we stood in line to see Santa. Being good while waiting to speak to someone who was about to bring you toys and candy, just made sense to me. I guess he was just too young to understand. Being a big sister was often challenging.  

The store would have stunning displays for us to admire as we waited. Crystal icicles and lacy snowflakes filled the air; whimsical animals and dolls danced before us; and beautifully decorated Christmas trees were everywhere. There was even a detailed mockup of Cozy Cloud Cottage, Santa’s home-away-from-home. In later years Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly would visit with us as we waited our turn.

Finally our wait was almost over. I can still remember our first glimpse of Santa. He was busy listening to two little girls even younger than Billy recite their lists. “What a wonderful man,” I thought to myself.

Even Billy stopped fussing and watched as our turn came closer and closer. Suddenly, we were next! I could feel my heart jump, my legs turn to jelly, and my face burn as we approached Santa. With a wink of his eye he welcomed us by name. “Well, hello, Carole and Billy. What would you like me to bring this year?”

“He remembers us!” was all I could think, and I couldn’t find any words to answer his question. I was overwhelmed.

Suddenly a strong voice beside me said, “She wants a bride doll.”

Santa gave me a questioning look, and I nodded my head.

The bride doll came that Christmas Eve, and I’ve never forgotten who put in my request. I guess having a little brother isn’t all bad.


Our Kids and Grandkids
(Don't forget to send in your photos.)


Carole Fanizzo Mackey's Daughter
Beth Mackey Penesis

Carole Fanizzo Mackey's Daughter
Chris Mackey Hardman

Carole Fanizzo Mackey's Grandchildren
Colleen & Kyle Hardman


Your Children


Your Grandchildren





- 4th Floor

ISN'T IT AMAZING HOW MUCH TOYS HAVE CHANGED since we were young? In our day, we spent hours poring over the Sears Christmas catalog and making our wish lists. Young boys were yearning for BB guns, Lincoln logs, erector and train sets, Radio Flyer wagons, and of course, bicycles. Many boys longed for a coonskin cap so they could look like Fess Parker who starred on the Davy Crocket television show.

Young girls were hoping Santa would bring them one of the glamorous dolls offered by Revlon, Toni, or McCall. They had eyes that opened and closed and hair that could be washed and set in rollers. The life-size baby doll that actually wet her diaper was popular too. Other gifts on many young girls’ lists were clothes for their new dolls, doll houses, tin sinks and stoves, and child-size dishes.

Now, I really don’t mean to criticize the kids of today. But when they talk about their holiday desires, it’s like they’re speaking another language. What on earth are Xboxs, PlayStation 3s, Nintendo Wiis, CDs, DVDs, and IPods? I haven't a clue.

But again, my favorite memories go back to Marshall Fields, 8th floor - specifically their toy department. Can you imagine an entire department store floor devoted to nothing but toys? Fortunately, my mom was patient and didn't mind exploring display case after display case. Store clerks were patient too. They would take out whatever caught our eyes for a closer look.

At Christmas time it was even better. Clerks demonstrated the newest mechanical gadgets. A magician mystified us with magic tricks we could own ourselves. String puppets danced happily before our eyes. Electric trains wound their ways through miniature towns. Elaborate Lincoln log, Tinker toy, block buildings lined the shelves. The smells from chemistry sets filled the air. Erector sets were erected. And, display cases were stuffed with every treasure a child would desire. Fields toy department was probably only second to Santa's workshop. How truly lucky we were to have such a marvelous place right here in our favorite Chicago store! Ah, such a wonderful memory!



1940 Newspaper Advertisements

Vintage 1940s 98 Cents Toys
Price: 98 cents
A selection costing 98 cents including Anti-Aircraft Gun on back of Army Truck, Tractor and Trailer, Dump Truck, and Car Transporter Wagon. They are all between 12 and 18 inches long and made of steel.

1940s Blackbird Crystal Set
Price: $2.98
Blackbird Crystal Set.
Use an earphone to listen to stations up to 75 miles away. It comes with a 75 foot aerial and 25 foot ground wire.

Vintage Gilbert Electric Train Set
Price: $29.95 + $5.98 for 150 Watt Transformer
Description 3/16 inch scale model Gilbert American Flyer Electric AC Train Set. The train and all the carriages are over 5 feet long.

Gilbert Company was an American toy company was best known for Erector Construction sets. Gilbert expanded from the 1930s to the late 1950s to become one of the largest toy companies in the world but following the death of its founder A.C. Gilbert in the early 60's, the company lost its way with the American Flyer products and sold to Lionel.

Gilbert Erector Sets
Price: From $2.98 to $11.98
Shown are models made using the Gilbert Model 9 Erector Set which included wheels, AC Motor, Gearbox, base plates, girders, and more.

Portable Electric Phonograph
Price: $5.75
Portable Electric Phonograph is sold with 6 records of nursery rhymes.

Walnut Finished Piano in Spinet Style Toy
Price: $8.85
Child's Walnut Finished Piano in Spinet Style is 22 inches high, 19 inches wide, and 13 inches deep.

Brightly Enameled Steel Truck
Price: $1.59
The truck is nearly 2 feet long and brightly enameled over rugged steel. (1941)

Selection of Steel Cars, Trucks and Bus for 98 cents
Price: 98 cents
This slection of steel cars, trucks, and bus are 98 cents each.

Table Style Zellophone - Old Toy Xylophone
Price: $1.98
Table Style Zellophone (Xylophone) includes Song Book. Each note is numbered 1 to 12 and the song book instructs the child on the number note to strike with the included small mallet.

Army Doctor/Nurses Kit
Price: $1.98
Army Doctor/Nurses Kit.

What struck me about this one was this quote "Every Little Boy Can Play a Doctor and every little girl can play a Nurse"

World War II Model Plane Kits
Price: $1.00 for all five
Five World War II model plane kits. Cut them out and put them together. The models include Curtiss Warhawk P-40, North American Mustang P-51, and the Bell Airacobra P-39 from the U.S. Air Force. Also included
from the British Airforce are the Hawker Typhoon and the Supermarine Spitfire.

Pull Along Walking Dog
Price: $1.29
This Pull along Walking Dog waggles along behind you like a real puppy and has with fascinating leg action.

Farm Yard Set
Price: $2.98
56 piece Farm Yard Set. From during World War II and includes barn, animals, tractor, fences, farm house, and much more.

World War II Rose O'Neill Kewpie Doll
Price: $2.59
Kewpie dolls were based on illustrations by Rose O'Neill that appeared in Ladies' Home Journal in 1909. They were extremely popular from 1912 to the mid 1930's are still sold today based on her original illustrations.

Parcheesi Board Game
Price: 89 cents
Parcheesi Board Game from World War II. The game was an American adaptation of the Indian Cross and Circle game.

World War II Plane Models
Price: From 23 cents
The World War II Aircraft Models include P-38, Mustang, Thunderbolt, Typhoon, Corsair, Flying Fortress, Wildcat, Tiger Shark, Hellcat, and Spitfire.

Tiddledy Winks/Tiddlywinks
Price: 62 cents


Sidewalk Pedal Plane
Price: $17.81


This was sold in Christmas 1946 following the end of World War II when steel became available again.

Wind Up Plastic Speedboat
Price: $1.98
This Spring Motor Wind Up Plastic Speedboat was over 14 inches long.

Steel Jeep (1946)
Price: $1.98
Steel Jeep based on the Willy's Jeep used during the war.

Chain Driven Tricycle
Price: $23.79

In today's money this would be about $200.00--quite expensive for a small child's present.

1949 Pedal Car
Price: $18.95

What is interesting is how this car reflects changing design. Looking at this makes you realize that the car design we associate with the 50's started in 1949, and children's play reflect the change quickly.

Steel Radio Flyer Wagon
Price: $8.98


This is from 1949 and what is most interesting is that many of these were popular before the war and were quickly brought back into production.

Velocipede 3 Wheel Bike
Price: $15.65


The words Velocipede and Phonograph were both in use in the late forties but have almost disappeared today. Velocipede was replaced by the word trike, and phonograph replaced by record player.




1950 Newspaper Advertisements

Deluxe Junior Steering Wheel
Price: $2.79
Every youngster wants to help "drive" daddy's car. This 10-inch molded plastic wheel with rubber shaft lets a child do just that. It has a three-position gearshift lever and horn that "beeps." A suction cup holds it firmly to any smooth surface.

Vintage Deluxe Velocipede
Price: $14.95
This sleekly styled velocipede has chrome-plated truss rods and adjustable handlebars. All three wheels have ball bearings, multiple spokes, and semi-pneumatic tires. It also has an adjustable spring saddle, molded rubber top, rubber grips, pedals, front mudguard, rear step plate, and it is enameled in maroon and white.


1950s Happi-Time Camera
Manufacturer: Happi-Time
Price: $1.59
Just center the subject in the viewfinder and snap the shutter to take a picture. Takes 12 pictures on standard 127 film.

Alice in Wonderland Watch
Manufacturer: U.S. Time
Price: $7.65
It's Alice herself... just as she appears in Walt Disney's latest Technicolor movie... on the dial of an extra small watch! Gleaming, polished case is chrome plated with a stainless metal back. Dainty pink fabric strap contrasts with soft dial colors. Packed in a teacup of translucent plastic. Colorful Walt Disney gift box shows scenes of the March Hare's tea party.

Vintage 1950s Pepsi Cola Truck
Price: $1.59
Plastic replica of the latest model of Pepsi Cola delivery truck. Body has two shelves, holding six miniature dummy plastic cases of Pepsi Cola with molded-in bottles. There are Pepsi Cola markings on top of truck and the familiar Pepsi Cola bottle cap at rear and sides.

Tweedie Singing Bird in Cage
Price: $2.67
A pretty bird trills a merry tune as he swings to and fro on perch. The cage has two feeding cups and a ring at the top for hanging.

Caterpillar Earthmoving Equipment
Manufacturer: Caterpillar
Price: $2.98
This Caterpillar earthmoving equipment has real working action and with three big pieces in yellow and black: caterpillar scraper, motor grader, and wagon with tractor.

Howdy Doody's TV Game
Price: $1.98
Howdy Doody's TV Game gives children a trip around his television studio. A fun-filled game for 2 to 4 players, 3 to 10 years old. Large 18x18" playing board picturing a miniature of the TV studio.

Mr. Potato Head
Price: $1.00
Mr. Potato Head, an unusual education toy, is wonderful for young children. Use and fruit or vegetable pieces to create amusing characters by merely changing the plastic features.

Toni Doll
Manufacturer: Ideal
Price: $11.95, $13.95, $19.95
Toni doll, made of plastic, has magic nylon wig that can be shampooed and play-waved. She is beautifully dressed and comes with complete play wave kit. Choose from a 14-inch, 16-inch, or 21-inch dolls.

Car of the Future
Price: $1.73
A real streamlined beauty with sleek, low lines: a true car of the future! Powerful friction motor drives car forward or backward. Harmless sparks shoot from the big exhaust and the car motor roars with power noise. The driver sits beneath a plastic bubble canopy designed for perfect vision.

Doctor and Nurse Kits
Price: $1.69 each
Each kit comes with all the accessories that a little doctor or nurse might need: Kleenex, bandages, tongue depressors, and much more.

Giant Pan American Clipper
Price: $3.19
This is an authentic replica of the famous Clipper Planes. It's made of heavy silver-color steel; and i thas four dummy motors with free-spinning propellers and dual wheels with tricycle landing gear. A loading ramp for passengers rolls up to door of the plane. The Clipper has detailed markings on the body and wings.

Smokey Bear
Price: $4.89
Here's Smokey, the authentic fire prevention bear! He's made of rayon plush and stuffed with cotton. Smokey wears blue twill pants, felt hat, metal Ranger Badge, belt; and he carries a plastic shovel. Also included are two Smokey window stickers and an application for membership in Junior Forest Rangers.

Betsy McCall Doll
Manufacturer: Ideal
Price: $7.59
This is a true replica of the popular Betsy McCall doll to sew for. Her
almost life-like head is soft vinyl plastic. She has delicate plastic body, fully jointed arms and legs, and a movable head. Her sparkling glassene eyes, edged with thick lashes, even close. Betsy's saran hair is easy to set, comb, and brush. She wears a perky cotton dress, panties, and shoes. An easy-to-sew apron pattern is included.

Dick Tracy Siren Squad Car
Manufacturer: Marx
Price: $1.89
A siren wails and a red light flashes as Dick Tracy speeds to the scene of the crime. Lithographed steel depicts Dick, Pat, and Sam Catchem at the windows. The car's front wheels adjust for circles or straightaways. The clock spring motor activates siren. The squad car uses standard flashlight battery.

Farm Stake Tonka Truck
Manufacturer: Tonka
Price: $3.98
This truck is realistic in every detail--right down to its rear wheels with mud flaps! Small-fry farmers will find it ideal to haul any load. The stake panels come out for the big jobs. Made of tough, heavy gauge metal.

Life-Size Baby Doll
Price: $4.85
An ideal doll to dress as you like. Soft-as-life latex body that you can sponge clean, a pert face, molded hair of soft vinyl, and a cotton stuffed body, she is 26 inches tall. Baby wears a rayon chemise and has go-to-sleep eyes.

Rocket Bicycle Headlight
Manufacturer: J.C. Higgins
Price: $1.89
This flashy streamlined J.C. Higgins rocket jet headlight is completely new! It is ten inches long and has bright red translucent plastic jet. Headlight casts bright pinpoint beam. A great bicycle accessory.

Electric Pin-Ball Game
Manufacturer: T. Cohn
Price: $24.95
When the ball strikes a bumper, lights flash, bells ring, and the score registers automatically on backboard. Hand kickers keep ball in play; scores up to 100,000 points.
Loads five steel balls automatically.

Lone Ranger Guitar
Manufacturer: Jefferson
Price: $3.98
This is a large size, 6-string Guitar that is decorated just like a cowboy's. It has a rich professional tone and comes with shoulder cord and instructions for playing and tuning.

Mickey Mouse Phonograph
Manufacturer: Vanity Fair
Price: $9.95
The phonograph is
safe for children, is portable, and battery operated--no wires and no plugs. It automatically starts and stops, has Vani-tone Volume Control, and comes in an official Mickey Mouse Club carrying case and batteries.

Milton Bradley Games
Manufacturer: Milton Bradley
Price: 98 cents each
Choose from six fascinating games: Forest Friends, Annie Oakley, Mr. Bug, Treasure Island, Raggedy Ann or Sergeant Preston.

Captain Kangaroo Tasket Basket
Manufacturer: Holgate
Price: $2.67
This is a treasure box of different shaped blocks that fit in shaped holes will help develop hand-eye coordination.

Mighty Mouse
Price: $3.67
This cheerful "defender of mistreated mice" is costumed in rayon satin and has a vinyl face. 15 inches high.

Dennis the Menace
Price: $4.39
This 14-inch tall cartoon character is all vinyl. He has a turning freckle-faced head and is dressed in a cotton shirt, overalls, and molded vinyl shoes. His features are painted on.

Disney Space Ship Set
Manufacturer: Walt Disney
Price: $2.79
Three imaginative plastic models: an 11-inch high Rocket to the Moon; a 12-inch long RM-1 Rocket Ship with display stand; and an 8-inch high Space Station with stand. Cement and assembly instructions are included.

Revlon Fashion Dolls
Manufacturer: Ideal
Price: $6.97 - $17.79

These lovely grown-up dolls dressed in their different fashions range in size and price from 15-inch tall to 20-inch tall.

Zorro Official Guitar
Price: $8.98

The guitar is beautifully decorated with television hero Zorro and his famous "Z" mark. This is almost as large as a professional guitar, and includes a push-button attachment that simplifies playing and snaps over neck of guitar. It's constructed of sturdy plastic with nylon and wire strings and has metal gear action tuning pegs. Instruction song booklet included.

Dick Clark Autograph Doll
Price: $7.49
A teen-age idol and an alive-looking autograph doll for your friends to sign. From vinyl head to stylish shoes, he's an exciting autograph item for memorable occasions. Dick wears cotton poplin jacket, pants, vest, sewed-on shirt with cuffs and cuff links.

Barbie Dolls
Manufacturer: Mattel
Price: $1.29


These images are from 1960 rather than the actual year Barbie was introduced.

Little Miss Revlon
Manufacturer: Ideal
Price: $2.67
As pretty as a fashion model! This easy-to-dress doll has jointed legs, a turning waist allowing her to stand alone and pose. Beautiful rooted saran hair can be combed, brushed, and set. She has a vinyl plastic head and arms, a "Magic-touch" vinyl body that feels like real skin. She's nicely groomed with painted fingernails and toenails. She wears shoes, lacy bra, panty-girdle and earrings. Other outfits can be bought separately. Choose from a doll with a pony tail or bobbed hair.

Plastic Molding Machine with Play-Doh
Manufacturer: Play-Doh
Price: $2.97
A fascinating new device that turns out houses, trees, dogs, and more in non-toxic, colorful Play-Doh. Youngsters will love building their own villages and scenes. The Play-Doh can be used over and over if you keep it in the can. Make permanent objects too, by baking or allowing Play-Doh to dry at room temperature.











NOTE: Email your favorites and if you don't find them let me know and I'll add them to the list.



Field's v Macy's