Frederick M. Yost collection on John Wanamaker's department store publicity
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Frederick Maurice Yost was born in 1914 to Frederick, Sr. and Bess Yost, and he grew up in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He earned a master's degree from Yale University in theater architecture, stage and lighting design in 1935.
In 1937, he taught design and lighting at the College of William and Mary before joining G. Fox & Co. in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1938 as director of visual merchandising and store design. He married one of his former students from William and Mary, Jessie Lee of New Jersey. The couple had one son, Peter, and a daughter, Suzanne.
Yost eventually set up his own design and consulting business in Atlanta, Georgia, before he was hired at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia as director of visual display in 1948. Yost was responsible for newspaper, radio and television advertising, as well as public relations, exhibitions, shows, and visual merchandising for the Wanamaker’s stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware. He came up with the institutional advertising slogan "John Wanamaker has everything." Yost also conceived the Wanamaker Christmas Light Show which was first seen in the 13th and Market Streets store's expansive central court in 1955. It included a 102-by-60-foot plywood and papier-mâché cathedral and Nativity scene. Construction of the project consumed 10,000 man-hours and Yost spent two summers in Europe researching design of the cathedral. The display earned him a man-of-the-year award from the Philadelphia Chapter of Catholic War Veterans.
Yost retired for health reasons in 1967, two years after being named corporate vice president. He remained as a consultant for several more years.
Yost died in 2001 from complications of dementia.
This collection consists of several decades of papers and scrapbooks documenting various store displays and designs, promotions, and special events at John Wanamaker’s department store compiled by Frederick M. Yost. Yost, a vice president and sales-promotion manager, was responsible for newspaper, radio and television advertising, as well as public relations, exhibitions, shows, and visual merchandising for the Wanamaker’s stores. The majority of the collection includes scrapbooks of photographs of store displays and their construction as well as conceptual and architectural drawings, most notably the elaborate Christmas displays and light shows that were made a tradition at Wanamaker’s. Other materials include office memos, stationery, personal “idea” notebooks, blue prints, floor plans, news clippings, and scrapbooks about John Wanamaker. Items of interest may include the large advertising posters for Wanamaker's stores and Christmas display conceptual designs. The collection is housed in 45 boxes, 13 flat file drawers, and includes 11 volumes.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Sabrina Bocanegra and Megan Evans.
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2016.
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from Maxine and Howard Lewis.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.