Ford’s Store Collection

ford store001Ford’s Store Collection
Bulk Dates: 1910-1964


Collection Overview:
Title:  Ford’s Store
Dates: 1869-1980
Bulk Dates: 1910-1964
Creator: Tony Kelso
Call Numbers: DAL.SMS.098
Repository: Drew Archival Library
Location: Small Collections Box 4
Quantity: 3 Folders
Language: English

Administrative Information:
Access Restrictions: The Ford’s Store Collection is open to researchers.  There are no restricted materials in the collection.
Acquisition Information:  The Ford’s Store Collection was donated to the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society by Tony Kelso in 2016.
Preferred form of citation: DAL.SMS.098, The Ford’s Store Collection in the Drew Archival Library of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society.
Finding Aid Prepared By: Harry Kelso, Duxbury High School Intern, Feb. 2016.

Scope and Content:  The Ford’s Store Collection consists of material personally collected by Tony Kelso, the current Duxbury Town Historian, as well notes and items received by Mr. Kelso from the former Town Historian, Dorothy Wentworth, from her personal collection There are nine photographs, mostly of the exterior of the store Also included are newspaper clippings about the history of the store. The payment book of Laurence Bradford, a Duxbury resident, demonstrates the types of products sold in the store. One item is a note written from Henry W. Royal to Dr. Peterson, correcting a fact made about the Plymouth Railroad.

Biographical Information: Ford’s Store has been claimed to be the oldest department store in The United States. Established in 1826 by Nathaniel Ford & Son, the store began to quickly expand and prosper along Tremont Street in Duxbury. The store was the first in the country to sell different commodities separately. Many of the goods in the store came from all over the world, due in part to the massive shipbuilding industry at the time, with King Caesar being the number one ship owner in The United States at the time.  At the peak of its business, Ford’s Store would bring in two hundred thousand dollars a year, a hefty sum for its time. Daniel Webster was the most well known customer of the store, buying his groceries, among other things, at Ford’s Store. This may be why tourists came from California to Florida to see the store. However, Ford’s Store came to a tragic ending when at 1:45am on October 13, 1921, a fire broke out and decimated the store. It was almost a complete loss. Perhaps it was inevitable, as the store was heated by two wood stoves and sold oil, kerosene and other inflammables that saturated the wood that made the building. Today, there is a marker outside the original location on Tremont Street, put in place by The Tercentenary Committee in 1937.

Organization: The Collection consists of three folders.

Folder 1 (c. 1868-1970)

  1. Postcard of Ford’s Store exterior, c. 1910
  2. Photograph of Ford’s Store exterior, reprint of a glass plate negative, c. 1970
  3. Photograph of Ford’s Store interior, c. 1923
  4. Photograph of Ford’s Store sign, c. 1930-1940
  5. Reprint of photograph of Ford’s Store exterior
  6. Photograph of Tercentenary granite marker, 1958
  7. Receipt for Ford’s store listing food and other goods sold at the store, 1868
  8. Payment book of Laurence Bradford, 1909
  9. Negatives of Ford’s store and Tercentenary marker, c. 1958

Folder 2 (c. 1936-1980):

  1. Henry W. Royal (Pilgrim Society, Plymouth, MA) to Dr. Reuben Peterson (Duxbury, MA), 1936
  2. Notes on Ford’s Store from Ford sisters, 1936
  3. Notes re: panoramic photograph of Ford’s store and vicinity, c. 1936
  4. Duxbury Tercentenary Committee Public Relations release about Ford’s Store, 1937
  5. History of “The Oldest Department Store in America”
  6. Notes on deeds for Ford’s Store compiled by Dorothy Wentworth, Town Historian
  7. Notes on deeds for Ford’s Store compiled by Dorothy Wentworth, Town Historian
  8. Notes on Ford’s Store taken from Boston Times, n.d.
  9. Handwritten notes by Dorothy Wentworth, Town Historian, c. 1974
  10. Duxbury Clipper article, May 22, 1980
  11. Duxbury Clipper article, Feb. 13, 1964
  12. Duxbury Clipper article, reprint of “Fire Destroys Duxbury’s Oldest Department Store Where Daniel Webster Traded,” 1964
  13. Newspaper clipping, “Duxbury Rural & Historical Society” article on Ford’s Store, 1980

Folder 3 (1921):
Conservation Room Map Drawer

  1. “Farewell to the Oldest Department Store,” by Gershom Bradford, Illustrations by Robert G. Gifford, New York Tribune, 1921