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Issue of the Labor Day Gazette

Date: 1937


Description: This is the front page of a magazine called the Labor Day Gazette, published by the T. S. Martin Company, one of the most successful businesses in Sioux City history. It began in 1880 when Thomas S. Martin opened a dry goods retail store. Three years later Martin moved locations to a larger store on 4th Street and his product line expanded to carpets, potions, and clothing items for men, women, and children. Martin’s Department Store continued to grow and expand and moved to several different locations on Fourth Street through the years. By 1902 sales had totaled around one million dollars. The product line kept expanding: china, candies, appliances, cookware, cosmetics, and stationery all became Martin staples, and the store offered other services as well such as a bakery, café, hair salon, and even classes on cooking and cosmetics. They published their own magazines as well, like this Labor Day Gazette, which promoted union interests. Thomas Martin died in 1915 and his sons took over the business, and they ran it until their deaths in the 1940s. After that May Department Store Company from St. Louis bought the store in 1948, who sold it in turn to Younker’s Brothers of Des Moines. The store closed for good in 1970, when it and its building were razed as part of the urban renewal project.


Why was Martin’s so successful? Its products were thought of as higher quality than the competing Davidson Brothers’. Martin’s also offered premium services that its competitors did not, like mail ordering, cloth and fabric samples, and express shipping. Their product line was larger than nearly any other, and they earned a reputation as a one-stop shop. But overall T. S. Martin Company held itself to a certain high standard, not just offering great service and prices but supporting the unions as well, as this magazine illustrates. Their workers were almost all local and the store relied on union labor whenever improvements or projects were launched. All these factors helped Martin’s huge success, and in its heyday it helped Sioux City rise to be the 27th largest retailing center in the nation (1929).


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