I would love to see what you can come up with! I have 2 Marathon hats and I'm guessing one is from the 50s and the other from the 40s. Great hats!Hey Fellas,
For a number of years back in the 1990s, before I became interested in Fedoras, I worked as the Company Historian for JCPenney.
It really warms my heart to read some of the glowing comments y'all have written about Marathon hats.
Mr. Penney (James Cash Penney) was a retail genius and a pioneer in the development of the department store. The company grew from a handful of stores in Wyoming and Colorado just after the turn of the 20th century to over 1,550 by the start of WWII. There was a period in the 1920s and 1930s when Penney's was opening a new store in towns big and small on average of every 10 days for a decade! Penney stores were as much a fixture in small and medium sized downtowns as Woolworths, A&P and Piggly Wiggly grocery stores.
Penney Stores revolutionized the way people shopped. Mr Penney based his business on the tenets of The Golden Rule and strove to employ excellent quality sourcing thereby providing Penney's customers with the biggest bang for the buck possible. While his merchandising needed be attractive, Penney knew his bread and butter customers were average working and middle class folks who valued good solid durability most. He believed he could help impact average people's lives by increasing their purchasing power by selling the high quality items at the lowest possible price points. He applied that philosophy from everything to shoes, coats, socks, underwear, towels and linens and just about everything else you can think of.
Keep that in mind today when you find any vintage Penney's merchandise for sale. While some snobs turn their noses up against Penney's, the company has never sold junk in their stores. And this is even more evident when you see the vintage clothes and items that come up for sale on Ebay and other sites. Penney's was targeting Joe and Jane Everybody and their families. They wanted to sell durable that the average guy or gal could wear every day and get their money's worth for their purchase. At the same time, fashion was of great importance.
This was accomplished by knock offs. The company employed buyers to source their product lines. The buyers were responsible for keeping abreast with the latest fashion trends and translating them into Penney's products. tThey then worked with excellent quality suppliers (Lee Hats in the case of the Marathon Line) to develop the best possible merchandise for the years's offerings. Penney's then used their buying power to drive the lowest possible price that was mutually agreeable to both Penney's and the manufacturer. These price advantages were then turned around to the customers. It was a scheme that proved extremely popular.
Unlike higher end clothing stores that needed higher markups to realize a profit ... Penney's profited from volume sales. The result was usually, as this thread shows, wonderful products at bargain prices.
What I find so gratifying, from the comments I've read in The Fedora Lounge, is how well this group appreciates that philosophy as it applies to Marathon Hats. Looking at some of the beautiful hats you guys have collected and the evident esteem for the brand you express, I think Mr. Penney would have been very pleased (though not at all surprised) that his merchandise is still highly valued after to many decades.
One last thing, while I no longer have access to the Penney Archives, I will do some digging to see if I can find some information to help everyone date their finds. I can remember we had a rough logo file that gave date ranges for different brands. I'll see what I can dig up.
One important change was the Company name. You will notice, some logos have the Company name as "J.C. Penney Company" and others just show "Penney's". This name change came about in the 1950s as the company started opening up stores in suburban shopping centers. I don't know the exact year off hand, but it should come in handy for dating hats.
Now that I am interested, myself, in Marathon Hats, I'm hoping to find one of these beauties for myself. I'm a 7/14. lol
Meanwhile, I hope you take a look at this short video about the history of J. C. Penney to even better appreciate some of the wonderful products that came from the company.