What exactly was a department store? According to Department Store History, they are “core institutions which reassured Americans by their very existence that life was good, that beauty mattered, and that order and stability prevailed. Through displays, demonstrations, lectures, and entertainment spectacles, the stores defined a way of life while furnishing the necessities and luxuries that it entailed.”

Well, if anything, it was a place to go see Santa Claus every Christmas time.

And let's face it – every holiday season the department stores were extremely decked out with thousands of ornaments, lights, displays, holiday-wrapped boxes...a delight for both young and old.

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During the 1960s, the three biggies were Macy's, Hudson's, and Field's.  Michiganders may be most familiar with the latter two, with Hudson's the top department store in the state. Hudson's had 25 stories, and sixteen of those were for selling. 12,000 employees took care of over 100,000 customers each day.

As a kid visiting your hometown's department store, the place you were drawn to was the toy department. Electric trains ran, music played, toy figures moved, and shelves were packed to the ceiling with boxes that even the clerks couldn't reach. We desperately scanned those aisles to find those toys we saw advertised on TV!

The department store had come such an integral part of everyday life, that after the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941, a Chicago woman was overheard saying, "Nothing is left any more – except, thank God, Marshall Field’s."

In the gallery below are 40 images of old Michigan Department stores, ranging from 1900 to 1964.

Michigan Department Stores: 1900-1964

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