Harry Gordon Selfridge, Sr (Harry Gordon Selfridge)

Harry Gordon Selfridge, Sr

Businessman. American born, he founded the British department store “Selfridges”. His father owned a small dry-goods shop in Ripon, Wisconsin, but went away with the Union cavalry in the Civil War of 1861 to 1865, attaining rank of Major, and never returning to his family. In 1879, aged 21 he joined the retail firm of Field, Leiter and Company, working his way up the commercial ladder in a 25 year tenure. He married Rosalie Buckingham but she died tragically in the influenza pandemic of 1918. In 1908, he left America with a small fortune he had accumulated and traveled to London, England. Unimpressed with the quality of existing British stores, he decided to invest his capital in his own department store (Selfridges), in Oxford Street. A pioneering marketer, he advertised a radical notion of shopping for pleasure rather than necessity. There were elegant restaurants, a library, reading and writing rooms, and a silence room, with soft lights and deep chairs, all intended to keep the customers in the store for as long as possible. He invented the phrase, “the customer is always right.” The business prospered well during World War I and up to the mid-1930s, but, because of expensive personal follies in the years before World War II, he drew too much capital from his company and was forced to resign in 1939 with the honorary title of president. The company was taken over in 1951 by Lewis’s Ltd, of Liverpool. Thus did the fortunes of the “merchant prince” rise and fall within 30 years, perhaps reflecting the same ways England’s own fortunes during the same period. He died in 1947 at Putney, in south-west London. He was buried next to his wife and his mother. (bio by: s.canning)  Family links:  Parents:  Robert Oliver Selfridge (1821 – 1873)  Lois Frances Baxter Selfridge (1834 – 1924)  Spouse:  Rosalie Amelia Buckingham Selfridge (1860 – 1918)*  Children:  Chandler Selfridge (1891 – 1891)*  Rosalie Dorothea Selfridge de Bolotoff (1893 – 1977)*  Violette Buckingham Selfridge de Sibour (1897 – 1996)*  Harry Gordon Selfridge (1900 – 1976)*  Beatrice Buckingham Selfridge Lewis (1901 – 1990)* *Calculated relationship


  • January, 11, 1858
  • USA


  • May, 05, 1947
  • England


  • St Mark Churchyard
  • Dorset
  • England

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