RETAILING: Golden Rule Merchant

James Cash Penney's first venture as a retail proprietor—a butchershop in Longmont, Colo.—opened in 1899 and failed almost immediately, after he refused to bribe an important local hotel chef with a weekly bottle of bourbon. "I lost everything I had," said Penney, "but I learned never to compromise."

Penney's unwavering faith in the copybook maxims of his youth roused skepticism in a mercenary age, but his credo underlay his success. At his death last week after a heart attack in Manhattan, Penney, 95, left a 1,660-store empire that he built without compromising the stiff principles he had absorbed from three...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!