Goldsmith's is a well-known Memphis department store which traces its origins to the antebellum period and German immigrant Louis Ottenheimer. After moving to Memphis from Arkansas, where he had operated a provisions store, Ottenheimer opened a store on Main Street with partner Moses Schwartz. In 1867 Ottenheimer brought his nephews, Isaac and Jacob Goldsmith, to the United States and employed them in his Memphis store. As soon as the Goldsmith brothers saved five hundred dollars, they opened their own store, grossing twenty-five dollars on the first day of business. The Goldsmiths soon expanded to larger quarters on Beale Street. Memphis experienced several outbreaks of yellow fever during the 1870s. During the epidemic of 1878, the Goldsmiths kept the store open at least three hours a day.

By 1881 the brothers had bought their uncle's store, renaming it I. Goldsmith and Brother. The Goldsmiths prospered by adhering to a customer-friendly philosophy. Jacob Goldsmith became president of the store when his brother died. He initiated a Christmas parade, preceding Macy's famous event by more than a decade, and in 1960 the store opened the popular “Enchanted Forest” for children.

Goldsmith's became a true department store, among the first in the South, when it arranged merchandise by departments in 1902. It was the first Memphis store to install air-conditioning, escalators, a bargain basement, and a mechanical credit system called Charga-Plate.

When Jacob Goldsmith died in 1931, his sons Elias and Fred assumed management of Goldsmith's. In 1959 the store became an affiliate of Federated Department Stores. It is now part of Federated's RLG division–the combined Rich's, Lazarus's, and Goldsmith's department stores–headquartered in Atlanta.

Suggested Reading

Paul Coppock, Memphis Sketches (1976)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Goldsmith's
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date July 24, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018