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A. A. Newman

                               ORAL HISTORY AND STORIES ABOUT HIM.

                                               ORAL HISTORY - NEWMAN.
             [Sent to Mary Ann Wortman December 1996 from Mrs. Robert A. Reynolds.]
My grandfather, Phillip D. Finch, died October 7, 1887, leaving his wife, Mary Elizabeth, with six children: Hugh, Blanche, Roy, Jacie, Otus, and Stacy.
Grandfather’s wish was to be buried in the family plot in Indiana, but Grandmother didn’t have the means to do this for Grandfather.
A. A. Newman, hearing about the wish and the circumstances, outfitted all of them, gave them a trunk and the means to take Grandfather’s body to Indiana for burial.
                                                     Ernestine Finch Reynolds.

[The following data was taken from one side of a tape made by Ruth Bedell, Arkansas City Historical Society Treasurer, at a meeting of the Society at Cowley County Community College in March 1978. All of the report was not taped. In November 1996 Catharine Goehring transcribed the tape for use by the Society. We are grateful to both for their efforts in learning more about A. A. Newman. MAW]
                                                    THE NEWMAN STORY.
                                             Narrated by Lura Hodges Newman
You didn’t definitely specify any one certain thing, so there is too much to tell of the Newman history, and that goes back a long way and takes in a lot of people, so for the most part I did it on Mr. A. A. and the Newman store, but I am going to give a little background of Mr. A. A. Newman.
It was 110 years ago that Albert A. Newman became a resident of Kansas. Although his first home was in Emporia, where he had a department store, fifty-two of his fifty-four years in Kansas, Mr. A. A. Newman has been identified with Arkansas City, a town he helped to build and a town he loved. He always wanted the best for Arkansas City and worked tirelessly toward that goal.
The Newman Family came from England and were colonial settlers in Massachusetts. A. A.’s great grandfather, Ebenezer Newman, Sr., fought with the Massachusetts troops in the Revolution. His grandfather, Ebenezer Newman, Jr., was born in Massachusetts, but when a young man went to Weld, Maine, and was a farmer by occupation and remained so throughout his lifetime. His father, Augustus G. Newman, was born in Weld, Maine, in 1821. He didn’t care for farming and decided on merchandising. When he began his budding career, he was a Democrat but subsequently turned to the Republican party. He held all of the local town offices and for many years was a selectman. He was a Baptist and helped to build the Baptist church in this village.

Augustus A. Newman and Caroline Beedy of Maine were married in Weld, and to them were born five children: two girls and three boys. Albert A. was the oldest. Eventually the three sons moved to Kansas. One daughter married and went to California, and the other married and went to Massachusetts. The children were not spoiled by over-indulgence and luxuries. In their home environment there was an unquestionable belief in God. Other training such as the importance of integrity and love and caring made for good character and the ability to develop their own talents.
Albert A. Newman grew up in his native village, attended the local schools, and was a student in the Maine State Seminary at Lewiston. At the age of nineteen he decided to give up his studies in the seminary to fight for the cause of the Union. Although he never went  back to school, he never gave up his books and was always an avid reader. He enlisted in the 10th Maine Infantry and was under fire in several of the great battles in the east. After a time he was transferred to New Orleans and finally was in General Sheridan’s army as they went up the Shenandoah Valley.
Mr. A. A. Newman had been impressed with the Midwest as he went to New Orleans, and upon leaving the army, he decided he would like to stay in this part of the country. He and his foster brother, T. H. McLaughlin, went to Fayetteville, Tennessee, where they operated a dry goods store for nearly three years. The Newman store might still be there had the residents not learned that the proprietors were “Damn Yankees.” They were ordered to leave immediately. This occurred in 1868.
A. A. was attracted to the Indian lands of southern Kansas and the new Oklahoma territory. These were being opened for trade, and so again with the thought of having his brother there to take care of the business, he decided to come south to investigate. He found a fine place on the Walnut River for a mill and secured a contract with the government to grind grain for the Indians. The mill was completed according to contract in October 1871, and Mr. A. A. was in the milling business. Soon after the mill was in operation, Mr. Newman realized the need for another store in Arkansas City, a scrawny little village, and he immediately began plans to operate one.
Late in 1871 the original Newman store was opened at 205 South Summit Street in a small frame building, 20 x 40 feet. Due to the small amount of space, the stock was limited to men’s clothing and furnishings, boots and shoes (high-laced boots were a popular item). It is believed that the first merchandise came from the Emporia store as it took so long to get an order in and back from the east before the opening of the store. The first store, located at 205 South Summit, is the first building south from where Albert’s Drug Store [now Taylor Drug] is right now.
After the opening of the store, Mr. Newman went to Emporia and sold the business to his brother, bringing his wife and little infant daughter, Pearl, to Arkansas City. Later they had two sons—Earl G. and Albert L. Pearl, by the way, married a major in the regular army, who later became a general and served as chief of staff at the post artillery.
A year passed, and more room was needed for the store. Mr. Newman moved across the street to 206 South Summit Street, where he had three times as much space as he did in the first store. He added groceries and dry goods to his stock, most of which were staples.

Before the next move, which came in 1874, Mr. Newman bought a two-story frame building at 116-118 South Summit, about the present site of the Burford Building. The store remained at this location for nearly five years, and with this move he gained another 500 square feet, which allowed him to add some more piece goods and other necessities. It was then that Mr. Newman began making trips to the New York market, going by stage or rig to the railhead and then by train to the east. The train ride was long: the train stopped at every junction, every village and town and city along the way—sometimes with over an hour’s stop. These trips were made in January to buy for spring and summer; in June they were made to buy for fall and winter.
[The next item does not make sense to me. Newman built a brick building in 1876 or 1877. MAW]
In 1880 Mr. A. A. Newman built the first brick building in Arkansas City. It was located where the Home National Bank is now. The building became the fourth home for his store, and as always, additions were made to the stock; also, in 1880, the store was incorporated from A. A. Newman to the Newman Dry Goods Company.
The next move of the company was to 212-216 South Summit Street, the area now occupied by Graves Drug Store. All of the departments were enlarged, and a third market trip was added. Mr. Newman was beginning to think about some of the things that he could do for some of his customers—special things to bring more people into the store. He was a kind man. He liked people, and people liked him, often coming to him for his advice because they knew he could be trusted. He wanted to give these people—his customers and friends—a real bargain. Keeping this in mind, he left for market. He met his brother, George, in Emporia, and the two spent the next month on the train and in New York City. Mr. A. A. was a fine merchant. He knew quality, and he wanted the best available merchandise possible in all price ranges. Calico was a popular material in those days, and he decided that calico was going to be his “special,” and that women would not be able to buy calico for any less anywhere than for what they could buy it in his store. He bought bolts and bolts and bolts and bolts of material. Every time he went to market, he bought bolts of calico, and it ranged in price from 3 ½ cents to 7 cents. That was the wholesale price. He would sell it for 4 cents regardless of the market cost. If he and George thought that the price was too high, George would dicker with the salesmen—sometimes getting the price lowered from ½ to 1 cent per yard because of the volume of the material they purchased. The family always said A. A. couldn’t argue over price, but it didn’t bother George at all. He was the “dickerer.”
When the new merchandise arrived, the calico was put on the tables and in the windows with the 4 cent price mark. Knowing what an excellent value this was, the ladies in town hurried in to get yardage. Many thought it would be a one-time buy, but Mr. Newman kept on and continued the sale of calico at 4 cents for a long, long time; consequently, some of them jokingly used to say that the Newman Dry Goods Company was built on “four-cent calico,” and maybe it was.
It was while in the same location that A. A. Newman bought a three-story and basement building with a seventy-five foot front at 302 South Summit Street, where the K. G. & E. is presently located. Mr. Newman remodeled the building suitable for the various departments that he was enlarging considerably now; and also while he was remodeling, he put in an elevator. In 1895 the store was moved to this location and remained there until the present store was completed in 1917. It was in this location that Newman Dry Goods Company became a complete department store carrying everything except groceries and furniture.

It was after they came to 302 South Summit Street and about five years before moving from that store that they began deliveries. In one of the old pictures out at the museum, it shows the front of the store and a covered wagon: not like they went across country in, but shaped up square with an entrance and with black oil cloth and big white letters with “Newman’s” on it. That was the delivery wagon drawn by two horses.
I was talking to Lois Hinsey [Arkansas City Historical Society member], and as a little girl she said that one of the things that she remembered in that store—and she must have been pretty little—was right in the center of the building was an elevator, and she said, “I couldn’t help but think when I was shopping at Towne East in Wichita that Mr. Newman was way ahead of himself and way ahead of others in the merchandising business.” She said: “At Towne East right in the center, I believe it’s Henry’s—it has an elevator going down, and this is an open cage elevator. Newman’s didn’t have lucite or unbreakable glass in those days, and so the elevator was just an open elevator with grill work out in the center of the store.” She commented that she was very much impressed when she went downstairs with her mother, stating that she had never seen so much glassware and so much china. She just didn’t know anyone could have that much china and glassware.
The thing I remember about that store, and I think I must have been about five or six years old, because it was shortly before they opened the other store, were the rows and rows of shoes around the walls and these tall ladders on rollers, and I used to think that it would be fun to climb those ladders and sell shoes.
Another thing that I was very much impressed with was the story about Mr. A. A. Newman told to me by a very dear friend of ours in Newkirk, Oklahoma. He and his wife were married after 1895 and had a little girl, and they lived up here, and he worked for the Santa Fe. He said they didn’t have much but they were happy. One fall day they decided they would take their little girl, Laura, and go for a walk. They didn’t live too far from town. They wrapped her in a blanket and went walking downtown; and as they were going along, stopped in front of Newman’s store and were looking at things in the window and saw among other things a coat for a little girl. He stated: “The wife and I turned around and I said, ‘Now, Anna, when I get paid on Friday, we are coming down and get Laura a coat.’” About that time Mr. Newman came by and spoke to them, commenting that it was a pretty chilly day to have that little girl out without a coat. Roy told Mr. Newman that was what he and his wife were just talking about and that they were coming in on Friday to buy one. Mr. Newman took the keys out of his pocket and said: “You are coming in now to get a coat.” He opened the door and took them in, and they chose the coat. Mr. Newman said: “If you can’t pay for this on Friday, it is all right. You can come in next Friday—and if you can’t pay all of it, pay what you can, and you tell them I said so.”
So that is another example of the sort of person that Mr. Newman was. Everybody loved him, and he had a great deal of compassion.

It was while they were in this location that Earl G. Newman [out of school] joined his father in the business. At that time Mr. A. A. Newman began planning for another store. It was also while they were in this location that our beloved Floyd Wright went to work for Mr. Newman—and that was when he was 14 years old, and Floyd Wright is now 85. That is a long, long time, so he was part of Newman’s, as everybody in town knows, and there are so many people who have worked for the Newman store that you can’t begin to name all of them. Floyd was employed in many capacities and became the buyer of the men’s department and remained such until his retirement. Mr. Wright is still on the Board of Directors.
I was talking to Floyd about Mr. Newman. “You have been here so long. What can you tell me about him? Did he have a way or something? Floyd thought for a minute and said, “Well, let me think. When Mr. Newman talked, you listened. He didn’t talk if he didn’t have something to say, I guess.
Mr. Wright also stated that Mr. Newman told him about due bills. “Another thing he said (and I don’t know whether you know about these things), but I didn’t, was in regard to due bills. He asked me, ‘Do you know what a due bill is? Do you? Do you know what it is? Well, maybe you do, and maybe you don’t, but anyway I am going to tell you and I hope this is something new. A long time ago some of the hotel managers back east would send advertising things out to the Arkansas City Traveler, and not only the Traveler but other newspapers all around in some of the towns smaller and a little larger, and oftentimes they came about market time.’ Floyd was informed by “Mr. A. A.” before going to market to go by Oscar Stauffer’s before leaving for the east to see if there was a due bill. Apparently Mr. Stauffer then would give the Newman buyers a statement to present to the hotel, and they would stay in one of these hotels that had sent out the advertising. Floyd remembered staying in the Pennsylvania Hotel a number of times. When they got ready to pay for their rooms for the time they were in market, they would take Mr. Stauffer’s bill to the manager; he would give them credit for that amount on their bill for the time they were in market. In the meantime, the buyer or whoever was there would give the statement to the manager, who would mark the bill paid, giving Newman’s credit for that much on their bill, and then when the buyer returned to Arkansas City, Mr. Stauffer paid fifty percent of whatever the hotel owed him.  Mr. Wright said, “It made that trip that much less than what it used to be, and I guess they did quite a little advertising with Mr. Stauffer and probably did it with others—I don’t know—but we were always told to go by Stauffer’s to get the due bill before we went to market. I thought that was kinda funny.”
In February 1908 Albert L. Newman and Mate McMillen were married in Arkansas City, and made it their home. They had four sons. Albert W. Newman was the oldest. In later years they moved to 301 North B Street, which had been the home of his parents.
In June 1908 Earl Newman, Sr., went to Boston, where he married Miss Gertrude Waterhouse and brought her to Arkansas City. They established their home at 305 North B Street. Earl and Gertrude had one son, Earl, Jr., and four daughters.
Much of the above information I have given came from the history of Kansas published in 1918. This was compiled by the secretary of the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka. It showed that in the first 45 years the Newman Dry Goods Company went from a tiny hole in the wall into a department store recognized as the largest in this section of Kansas.

There may be some taller buildings but none built better than the Newman building. It is 100 x 134 feet. It is five stories high and has a basement and sub-basement. The heating facilities are in the sub-basement, and steam heat is used throughout. The building is constructed throughout of concrete and fireproof material; and this certainly was proved in 1953 when there was a big fire on the top floor of the store. Had this fire occurred in the previously occupied building, everything would have been lost. If you remember, it was along in the ’50s, I think, when Montgomery Ward lost their store by fire, and that is when Montgomery Ward moved into the building they now have.
The present Newman store has a large freight elevator that runs from ground level to the loading dock and to the basement and on up to all floors above. There is also a passenger elevator in the basement and to all floors.
The basement floor when the store was first built was really a department store and had lower-priced merchandise. Mr. A. A. Newman always made it very clear that he did not buy cheap merchandise. The merchandise in the basement was not cheap but less expensive from what Newman’s carried upstairs, and that is what I mean when you knew how to buy. Here is an example of his lower-priced merchandise. Lorraine, a popular selling lingerie today, was carried in the basement when we had a full basement store. It was good merchandise. It wasn’t fancy and lace-trimmed at that time, but it was good and it was made of good material and well stitched. The basement store also had shoes, all kinds of general merchandise, clothing, and hardware. Better china and gift wares were in one section, and then they had the regular kitchen ware things. Also, there was a tea room which was back along the north wall where there is the basement now. Now a lot of you would remember the tea room, but there are a lot of you who wouldn’t. It was really lovely, and it would seat from seventy-five to ninety people, and they had elegant food. They served civic clubs, and they were open for the noon meal, which made it nice for the men who worked downtown. They had a nice place to go to and could get back to work easily; and also they would serve parties for the ladies. If they wanted to have a bridge party down there, they could, or they would take teas or have a special party at night; but the only night they were open regularly was on Saturdays, and everybody came in to shop on Saturday night from the towns around and the countryside, and so they would open for Saturday evenings. It never made money, but it didn’t lose money, so for a long time until things got hard and really difficult after the first world war and into the late ’20s and just before the ’30s was when they closed it.
The first floor, at the time the store was opened, had the men’s clothing and all kinds of men’s furnishings. The shoes were in the far east end of the store—rows and rows of shoes—and I’ll tell you (I had forgotten this) but Terry said I goofed—tell about the x-ray machine. A lot of you probably stood on the x-ray machine. She said that was the reason she liked to go shopping for shoes there because she could look at her feet through the x-ray machine. They later decided it was not a good thing to x-ray feet so often, so they did away with it. The medical group decided on this action.
Also on the first floor was a large piece goods department with everything from the very finest ginghams to satins and silks and all of that.
Toward the back part of the store we had other domestic things and the lower-priced cottons. There were purses, jewelry, and really there was a drug department where you could buy almost anything you wanted except prescription drugs, and a transfer desk. Now at the transfer desk almost all the people—if they were going to do very much shopping and if they were going to pay cash—would have the merchandise sent to the transfer desk. It was right there by the elevator on the first floor. If they were going to charge it, they could still have it all sent there, put in one big package, and they didn’t have a lot of things to carry out.

And for his out-of-town customers, Mr. Newman gave a rebate for coming to shop with him, and that was when they came up on the train from Newkirk or down from Winfield. He gave a percentage discount—enough they thought to pay for their way up and back to shop; or if they drove up and brought five people in their car, there was a rebate depending on what they spent in the store to the person who drove the car. So when I was little, if it was under a dollar, I could go get it; but when it was $3, $4, or $5, Dad got it.
The balcony had the boy’s department where the gift department is now. Down the south side was the beauty shop with a number of booths along there with the manicuring tables out by the railing of the balcony. Around the corner there was a shoe shining chair at the end of the beauty shop. Then around the corner from there was the knit shop and art gift work and a shop where they had packages of things, and around the corner from that were the towels and linens and now they had the luggage department. Everybody had wardrobe trunks with lids that lifted up in sections that would come out, or the little steamer trunks. And they couldn’t stack them because if they wanted to show them, they were too heavy to lift down, so they were just lined all the way around the room, and the Chilocco Indians used to come up on—Well, I don’t know how they come now but for a long, long time the girls would come one Saturday and the boys would come another Saturday. They came up on a train that got into Arkansas City around 11:00 o’clock—between 11:00 and 11:30. They all had a sac lunch, and they marched up the street from the depot in their uniforms with capes and everything right to Newman’s. They came in the north door, went right up those steps to where the luggage was, and that is where they would sit and eat their lunch except if there were too many of them, some would go on down and sit at the side of the balcony because there were some chairs there.
Floyd Wright told me about this when I was talking to him one day. “One Saturday morning there was a salesman there—he was from the east—and a lot of you know the people from the east think (at least I think some of them still think) we are kinda heathenish out here. Salesmen were in the habit of putting their shirts out on a table. Oh, yes! They decided the luggage should be covered because the children just weren’t too careful—the boys and girls! I mean they weren’t doing too much, but they had a clean-up job to do. They would have to wipe them all off. So one Saturday morning the salesman was in and showing merchandise in the men’s department. He laid his shirts out—about ten or twelve of them, one on top of the other so that you could see the stripes and the color and the little figure in the pattern and what not. All at once John Robson, who was standing by the door, looked out and saw the little Indians from Chilocco come marching up the way. He came running and said, ‘Get the covers! Here come the Indians!’
The salesman started screaming and started out the door, running down the street,  because he really thought the Indians were coming. Well, they were! They were coming to eat lunch. I asked John what happened, and he said that the salesman had dropped some shirts along the way. That took care of the balcony, and it’s been quite a joke since then.

On the second floor was ready-to-wear. It was carpeted and had a large ready-to-wear and millinery department. You could buy an array of beautifully trimmed hats. From the last of 1917 through the ’20s you didn’t go downtown if you didn’t wear a hat. The women would make fun of us! If you didn’t like the way the hat was trimmed, Newman’s had all kinds of trimmings: they would take the trimmings off a hat and put on what you wanted.  Or they had hats that were just plain. Ada Dewey, who was here for many years, was the milliner at that time and did the hat trimming. Lillian Sanderson helped Ada with the trimming of the hats. I guess that is really where Lillian and Sandy met. Sandy worked in the shoe department and later opened his own shoe store.
Some of you may remember all those pillars on the second floor had mirrors around them. The prettiest hat I ever had came from Ada Dewey. It had daisies all around the brim.
The children’s and infants’ wear was on that floor and the corset and lingerie department.
      [Unfortunately, the first side of tape ended here and the rest of her story cannot be told.]


Cowley County Historical Society Museum