The Business of Doing Business: Retail and Dry Goods in Iowa

Before the proliferation of larger cities, malls, and online shopping, how did Iowans buy goods? Here in Special Collections we have several collections that can help answer that provide insight on the history of retail in Iowa.

"This is the outside of our store... this letter is to invite you to come inside." Marketing letter from The Tilden Store Company  of Ames, Iowa. (click for full letter and map). (MS 75, box 2 , folder 7)

“This is the outside of our store… this letter is to invite you to come inside.” Marketing letter from The Tilden Store Company of Ames, Iowa. (click for full letter and map). (MS 73, box 2 , folder 7)

The Tilden Store in Ames was a staple shopping for 102 years (1869 – 1971). It provided dry goods, shoes, and groceries, eventually becoming a modern department store. Located on Main Street in downtown Ames, the store was the “largest locally-owned store of it’s kind.Downtown Ames is still a place to find many locally-based retailers.

"Color Scheme and Fabrics for the Tilden Store Co., Ames, Iowa" by Alvin L. Weidt Designers Associates, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (undated). (MS 73, box  4, folder 11)

“Color Scheme and Fabrics for the Tilden Store Co., Ames, Iowa” by Alvin L. Weidt Designers Associates, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Undated. (click for larger view) (MS 73, box 4, folder 11)

 

Many of the early retail stores stocked locally or regionally produced goods. One example is the Moingona Pottery Company (see image below), which provided stoneware and crockery to several dry goods and retail stores in Iowa.

Stop by Special Collections and University Archives to see these materials, ledgers, correspondence, receipts, photographs and more.

[A sampling of orders placed with Moinonga Pottery from several retail stores in Iowa. 1876.] (MS 95, box 2, folder 15)

[A sampling of orders placed with Moingona Pottery from several retail stores in Iowa. 1876.] (click to enlarge) (MS 95, box 2, folder 15)

A sampling of related materials:

  • Garst Family Papers (MS 579)
  • George W. Chandler Papers (MS 95)
  • Hanyan Family Papers (MS 4)
  • Peterson Clothing/General Store Records (MS 603)
  • Schroeder, Allen Leo. The Stoneware Industry at Moingona, Iowa: An Archaeological and Historical Study of Moingona Pottery Works (13BN120) and Flint Stone Pottery (13BN132). Iowa State University, Thesis, 1979. (ISU 1979 Sch76)
  • Tilden Store Company Records (MS 73)
  • Tilden Store Company” in the Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archives at the Ames Public Library

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