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MARCUS, HAROLD STANLEY

MARCUS, HAROLD STANLEY (1905–2002). Stanley Marcus, “America’s Merchant Prince” and legendary Texas retailer, was born on April 20, 1905, in Dallas, Texas. The eldest of four sons of Herbert Marcus and Minnie Lichtenstein Marcus, he grew up in Dallas. Herbert, along with his sister, Carrie Marcus Neiman, and her husband, Abraham Lincoln Neiman, founded Neiman Marcus in 1907.

Stanley Marcus graduated from Forest Avenue High School in Dallas. He attended Amherst College in Massachusetts but left after only one year due to his encounter with anti-Semitism. His Jewish heritage proved less problematic at Harvard University, where in 1925 he completed his bachelor of arts. The following year he attended Harvard Business School before going to work for his father at Neiman Marcus.

In 1926 Marcus served as both the secretary and treasurer of Neiman Marcus. That same year he held weekly fashion shows in the department store. By emphasizing the superior products Neiman Marcus had to offer, Stanley Marcus targeted the newly-rich oil society of Texas. He transformed Neiman Marcus into a luxury store by selling the best, and often rare, products, and he introduced personalized gift-wrapping. He elevated the company’s prestige by publishing advertisements in national fashion magazines. In 1939 the company issued its first “Christmas Book,” which later became notable for its introduction of extravagant “his-and-her” gifts in 1960. The catalogue’s selections ranged from submarines to mummy cases and Beechcraft airplanes to buffalo calves.

During World War II Stanley Marcus was asked to join the War Production Board. Although Marcus, at thirty-six years old in 1941, was unable to enlist, he supported the war effort by developing methods to conserve textiles. He described his work with the War Production Board as “one of the most enlightening experiences of [his] career.” Marcus was the executive vice president of Neiman Marcus in 1949. When his father died the following year, the board voted him president of the department store. In 1969 Marcus sold the company to California-based Broadway-Hale Stores (which later merged to form Carter Hawley Hale Stores). The Marcus family, which owned the largest block of shares, continued to provide advice in company affairs.

Stanley Marcus enjoyed membership in numerous professional, civic, and social organizations. Professionally, he led the Stanley Marcus Consultancy Service, directed the Better Business Bureau of Dallas, and served as both a consultant and honorary director of Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Inc., Los Angeles. His civic membership included the Dallas Symphony Society, Dallas Museum of Fine Art, State Campaign Chairman of the Easter Seal Society Drive for Crippled Children and Adults of Texas, and director of A.C.T.I.O.N. (American Council to Improve our Neighborhoods). His social organization membership included the Grolier Club of New York, Harvard Clubs of both Dallas and New York, and the Club of Odd Volumes of Boston. He founded the Book Club of Texas in 1929.

Stanley Marcus was active in his synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, and held a liberal political affiliation. He formed friendships with several presidents, including Texans Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson, whose wives wore outfits they purchased from Neiman Marcus. Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Marcus wrote “What’s Right With Dallas,” an article that urged Dallasites to become more tolerant and open-minded. Stanley Marcus published several books, including Minding the Store (1974), Quest for the Best (1979), and His and Hers (1982). Beginning in 1984 he also entertained readers in the weekly columns he wrote for the Dallas Morning News. Over the course of fifteen years, his columns touched on diverse subjects ranging from marriage and sports to phobias and aging.

Stanley Marcus received multiple honors and awards. In 1945 he won the Tobe Award for Distinguished Service to American Retailing. In 1949 the Dallas Sales Executive Club named Stanley the Distinguished Salesman of the Year. That same year he also received the Chevalier Award of the French Legion of Honour. He received the New York Fashion Designers Award in 1958 and was honored with a gold medal from the National Retail Merchants Association in 1961. Marcus was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1984. In 1995 he was one of four recipients of the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. In 1999 he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

Stanley Marcus married his first wife, Mary “Billie” Cantrell in 1932. They had two daughters, Jerrie Marcus Smith and Wendy Marcus Raymont, and a son, Richard, who became president of Neiman Marcus in 1972. Stanley Marcus retired in 1975. After the death of his wife Mary in 1978, he married Linda Cumber Robinson the following year.

On January 22, 2002, Stanley Marcus died at Zale Lipshy University Hospital in Dallas, Texas, at the age of ninety-six. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Thomas E. Alexander, Stanley Marcus: The Relentless Reign of a Merchant Prince (Waco: Eakin Press, 2009). Stanley Marcus, Minding the Store (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974). New York Times, January 23, 2002. Mark Seal, “Life of a sales-man,” Texas Monthly, December 1992.

Crystal Taska

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Crystal Taska, "MARCUS, HAROLD STANLEY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmabz), accessed August 29, 2014. Uploaded on April 10, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.