Painting of John Wanamaker
John Wanamaker (1838-1922) sits against a plain, dark background in this oil painting signed by artist Leopold Seyffert. Businessman and retail entrepreneur, in 1875 Wanamaker opened one of America’s first department stores in his native Philadelphia. Appointed by President Benjamin Harrison, Wanamaker served as postmaster general from 1889 to 1893. During his tenure as postmaster general, he issued the first commemorative postage stamps in celebration of the World Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 and acted as a vocal proponent for the establishment of a rural free delivery service. Although many rural Americans and the National Grange supported Wanamaker's call for free delivery, he was unable to convince the U.S. Congress to allocate funds to test the service. Opponents argued that Wanamaker was merely looking for the service to gain new customers for his family's store.