J.C. Penney Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
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J.C. Penney alias James Cash Penney Jr. was an American entrepreneur, businessman, and philanthropist born in 1875 and died in 1971. He is remembered for founding J.C. Penney department stores. His skills in business developed from a young age. He was born to poverty. As a result, he learned the values of money from a young age.
He was only 8 when he was forced to find something to do to earn some money for buying his clothes. This was a directive from his mother who wanted to teach young Penney the importance of working hard.
In return, Penney bought one pig, and when it fattened, he sold it and purchased more. He later quit the pigs' business and shifted to selling watermelons. His later career working in stores also heightened his experience in entrepreneurship. He liked to be referred to as "The Man with a Thousand Partners.”
Early Life and Education
J.C. Penney was the seventh child born on September 16, 1895, in Missouri, Hamilton in the United States. Out of the 12 children of Reverend James Cash Penney, Sr. and Mary Frances Paxton Penney, only Penney, and 5 others survived infancy.
His father James made ends meet as a farmer because his services as a preacher at Primitive Baptists were offered for free. He received no payment. On the other hand, his mother was a Kentuckian.
Penney attended Hamilton High School where he graduated in 1893. He wished to continue his studies but his parents could not afford it. Instead, his father helped him secure a job at a local clothing and dry goods store. He served there as a clerk and later worked in two other stores before buying a butcher shop that went bankrupt after a while.
His initial jobs at local stores did not pay much. However, his fate changed a few years later when he received a golden opportunity to work at Golden Rule Mercantile Company chain. It was owned by T.M. Callahan, a Longmont, Colorado, merchant. He would later be transferred to work in Callahan’s Evanston, Wyoming, store in March 1899. His monthly salary was $50, a 100% increase from $25 he used to earn in the previous store.
J. C. Penney Company
After Penney garnered enough experience in business having worked in many stores, he established his own company, J. C. Penney Company. The company expanded over the years. He had opened 500 stores by 1924. The 500th was actually in Hamilton, Missouri, his home town.
Penney remained the president of J. C. Penney Company till 1917. Thereafter, he continued serving as the company’s chairman of the board of directors until 1946. Onwards, till 1958, he was appointed the board’s honorary member.
Cattle Farming and Philanthropic Activities
Penny bred cattle in his farm in New York State, occupying a total of 705 acres. Also, he had other farms in Missouri.
Besides cattle farming, he also participated in charitable activities. He was a founder of a home meant for Florida’s retired religious workers. This was in honor of his departed parents.
Penny married three times in his lifetime. In 1910, he lost his first wife. 9 years later, he tied the knot with Mary Hortense Kimball. They were blessed with a son, Kimball. Sadly, she also died in 1923. For the third time, he married Caroline B. Autenrieth in 1926. She bore him two daughters, Carol and Mary Frances.
J.C. Penney took his last breath at the age of 99 on February 12, 1971, in New York, United States. His company J. C. Penney Company by the time had more than 1,660 stores.
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