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Mr Selfridge

Updated on July 21, 2015
Harry Gordon Selfridge
Harry Gordon Selfridge | Source

Shopping Seduction and Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead

Mr Selfridge hit the scenes running! Based on the biography, Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead Mr Selfridge the TV series straddles the period from the Belle Epoche at the turn of the century to the the First World War and beyond. Massive social and technological changes were taking place and these changes were made visible in fashion, the role of women, the role of the working classes and every aspect of life in Britain. All this was reflected in Selfridges department store.

The whole story revolves around the fabulous Harry Gordon Selfridge who began his working life at the age of fifteen working in a store as a stockboy but who rose to build the palace that is Selfridges. Affable, maverick, lovable and flamboyant this tea-total retail genius was also a gambler and womanizer. The former enabled him to build a shopping empire, the latter led to his inglorious, and terribly sad, downfall.

Seasons 1 - 3 have already been shown and filming has been underway since April 2015 for broadcasting 2016. I can't wait.

If you liked Downton Abbey, you'll love Mr Selfridge.

Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead - The biography of an amazing man

This book is a factual account of the life of Harry Gordon Selfridge but it's a real page-turner. Loads of facts and information, loads of background history, all complete with notes, and yet, this remains the most fascinating, and easy to read, account of the life of a remarkable and brilliant man.

Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge
Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge
Easy to read and full of the life and colour of the times of Harry Selfridge, this book not only details the historical background meticulously, but it also paints a brilliant portrait of a talented, charming but flawed man.

Season 1 - Season 1 DVD The first TV Drama

Mr Selfridge - Series 1 [DVD] [2013]
Mr Selfridge - Series 1 [DVD] [2013]
The TV series adaptation has been very well received and is everything you would want from a biography translated to film. Endearing characters, fairly close adherence to history, enough departure from history to fill in the background and fabulous sets and costumes. Once you're watched it on TV, gloat over those dresses and interiors (not to mention JP) in your own good time.

Catch a Glimpse of Mr Selfridge here: - Series 1 was captivating

OK - it captivated me but not my husband.

The official ITV trailer

"Bring the world to Selfridges!"

Mr Selfridge Series 2 Began Sunday 19th January 2014

It lived up to Series One.

The first series was so successful that a second was sure to follow - eagerly awaited by me at least. Picking up the story just as war was becoming a reality the transmission (Mr Selfridge Series 2 Began Sunday 19th January 2014) was timed to coincide with the centenary of the First World War 2014.

Mr Selfridge Series 2: Buy from

Watch Mr Selfridge - Series 2

I Love Mr Selfrdge But It Leaves My Husband Cold - Are you hot ..... or not?

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Harry Gordon Selfridge
Harry Gordon Selfridge | Source

Who Was Harry Gordon Selfridge?

A remarkable man and brilliant retailer

Harry Gordon Selfrigde, son of Lois Selfridge, was born in the US in 1858 and died in 1947 - he witnessed the world changing before his very eyes!

Aged 14 he bagan his working life at a bank but found his real metiere when he took up a post at Marshall Field's department store in Chicago. He began as a stockboy and graduallty worked his waty up over the next twentyfive years.

In 1890 he married Rose Buckingham, the enterprising daughter of a prominent property developer Benjamin Hale Buckingham. Rose went into business with her father - she was much more than the placid, if lovely, Rose of the TV series.

In 1906 he took a trip to London and the rest, as they say, is history ...

Mr Selfridge Season 3

Season 3 was first shown on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 9pm

Season 3 opens in post-war Britain. Harry is missing his wife Rose and falls into the arms of Nancy Webb.

I did a little research on the net and as far as I can see Nancy Webb was a fictional character - I must reread Woodhead's biography to double check this though. If I'm right it does make me wonder why on earth the writers have had to stoop to this - Harry Selfridge had more than enough going on in his life without making it up. I can only hope that Nancy is a sort of amalgam of people around Selfridge at the time.

Lois Selfridge - Harry Selfridge's much-loved mother
Lois Selfridge - Harry Selfridge's much-loved mother | Source

Lois Selfridge

Harry's much loved mother

Image: Public image courtesy of Wikimedia

Rose Selfridge, Harry's long-suffering but loved wife
Rose Selfridge, Harry's long-suffering but loved wife | Source

Rose Selfridge

Image: Public image courtesy of Wikimedia

Rose Selfridge and her children
Rose Selfridge and her children | Source

Rosalie Selfridge and Children

Image: Public image courtesy of Wikimedia

Au Bon Marche Paris

Designed by Gustave Eiffel and Louis-Charles Boileau

Selfridge spent time studying the famous department store in Paris, Au Bon March (A bargain) and this model helped to form his revolutionary retailing ideas. He first visited the store in 1888 just as the architect Louis-Charles Boileau and Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame had finished the final phases of the building.

Au Bon Marche had started life as a minor shop opened in 1825 by the Videau brothers had grown into a massive enterprise under the guidance of Aristide Boucicaut. He had introduced fixed prices, annual sales, and exchange or money back guarantee and the freedome to browse as well as holding a huge variety and quantity of stock.

This store became the inspiration for Emile Zola's novel Au Bonheur des Dames.

In America Alexander Turney Steward established a sumptuously decorated store in New York known as 'The Marble palace', where he was the first to hold fashion shows in the store alond with live music and the first plate-glass windows in America.

1893 Chicago World Fair

Along with winning the bid to host 'The Worl's columbian Exposition' - a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher columbus in America, in April 1890 President Harrison approved plans for and international exhibitionof art and industry in Chicago that was to rial the Great Exhibiiton of London in 1851.

The buildings for Chicago's world fair were planned by a group of architects including Burnham, Charles McKim, Frederick law Olstead (who had designed New York Central Park) and Louis Sullivan.

Mrs Potter Palmer was chair of the Board of Lady Managers charged with the Women's Building. They hired Sophia Hayden as architect. Interestingly, Mrs Yale was not allowed to show her rouge and lipstick within the building.

In response to the 25 million visitors expected to attend the fair Marshall Field began an expansion plan and Harry Selfridge became involved in planning the new space - all 100,000 square feet of it. The store now had an overall total of nine acres of space.

Loading Christmas tree outside Selfridges - Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection
Loading Christmas tree outside Selfridges - Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection | Source

The Building of Selfridges

Waring & White and Kreuger & Toll

Selfridge chose the architects Waring and White because of the talented Mr White and he employed the Swedish engineering frim of Kreauger & Toll for their innovative engineer Sven Bylander - 'man of steel'. the building was described as "the first fully steel-framed retail building in England.

Oxford Street was chosen to home the store and architect Daniel Burnham was given the job of designing something truly spectacular. to design something extraordinary. It was a steel-framedbuilding with a neo-classical facade and it had all the latest gadgets including a fire-alarm system that would spell trouble!

It was a marvel: nine Otis lifts; a state-of-the-art sprinkler system; thick concrete floors spanning an acre per level. Not eight stories as Harry had wanted (planning restrictions didn't allow it to be taller than St Paul's) but still a hugely impressive five floors, plus three basement levels and a roof terrace with a garden.

Selfridges Today
Selfridges Today | Source

Selfridges Opening Day

Monday 15th march 1909

The store opened to a blaze of publicitywhere he stresse the 'pleasures of shopping, the fact that the store was open to everyone, admission was free and all were welcome. He was one of the first to hold art exhibitions, cookery demonstrations in the store - futuristic visions (his new friend H G Wells would have been proud of him!).

The shop window displays wer unvaliled to revela Edward Goldsman's fashion displays inspired by Watteau and Fragonard - soewhat marred by the rvolutionary sprinkler system being set off and drenching everything!

90,000 people visited on the opening day alone.

Famous Visitors to Selfridge's Stores

The great and the good the royal and all visited Harry Selfridge

In 1893 Harry met the Duke of Veragua at Marshall Field's - a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus. They were followed by HRH the Infanta Eulalia, daughter of Queen Isabell 11 of Spain. Eulalia and her husband Prince Antoine arrived at the station in George Pullman's own private railway carriage.

He just loved the rich and famous visiting the store. Ice-skater Freda Whittaker skated on the ice rink on the roof of the store and tennis palyer, Suzanne Lenglen, played on the roof tennis court.

So many other celebrities visited the store: Noel Coward (the first of a growing list!)

Were The Dolly Sisters the Downfall of Mr Selfridge? - Lovers and gambling partners of Harry Selfridge

The Dolly sisters were twins born in 1892 in Hungary but in 1905 they left to seek their fortune in the United States - and they found that fortune - both their own fortune and that of Harry Selfridge.

After the death of Rose (his rock) and his mother, Harry's extravagance and gambming went out of control and he was aided and abetted by the 'toxic' Dolly sisters. They began their working life as dancers in 1907 joining the Keith Vaudeville Circuit and becoming Ziegfeld Follies. Just the kind of effervescent, fun-loving show girls that Harry loved.

Not content with one sister it is said that both sisters became the mistresses of Harry Selfridge about 1918 and he was a more than generous lover congratulating their wins and consoling the girls when they lost - with jewelry and emeralds. In 1921 he lost 5,000 at the casinos - ten times a good annual salary.

He would give them mind-blowing amounts of money to squander in the gambling towns of Deauville and Cannes and they often made big winnings ( $850,000, 4 million francs, $11 million) but alas they didn't look after the pennies by any means. Selfridge, in addition to supplying gambling funds, also lavish gifts upon them only to be treated with indifference.

Anna Pavlova danced at Selfridges

July 1910 Abba Pavlova danced for Bertha Potter Palmer and Harry was amongst those invited. Pavlova wore a scarlet satin and gold tissue robe designed by Ivan Bilibine. Dancers such as pavlova, Isadora Dunca and Maude Allan (famous for witing a sex manual) influenced style. Maude Allan made her debut in Vision of Salome based on Oscar Wilde's Salome wearing 'wisp of chiffon'.

The biggest impact on fashion through dance came from Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe launched in Paris 1909 with sets designed by Aleandre Benois and Leon Bakst. Great inf on home d├ęcor. When the ballet came to London 1911 Selfridge deicated an entire run of windows to a promotion of the ballet.

Inspired by Baron Haussmann's Designs for Paris

Potter Palmer, one of the department store pioneers sold the majority of his business to marshall Fiels and Leiter and moved to Paris. Here he saw Haussmann's designes for a rebuilding programme in paris where the narrrow streets were replaced with wide boulevards. This combined with modern sewage systems transformed the shopping environment.

Palmer returned to Chicago and set about remaking the centre of Chicago from lake Street.

Daniel Burnham

Helped to shape Chicago

Daniel Burnham's firm completed a massive new development for Marshell Field & Co in 1908became Selfridge's hero. Today Burnham is best know nfor his iconic Flat Iron building in New York, and it was he who helped to realise the vision for the Oxford Street Store.

New Technology

He put aeroplanes in the shop, he sold telephones, refrigerators, rigged up radio in the store, stocked up with ice-making machines and as a great enthusiast of flight, he even sold aeroplanes.

The first public demonstration of television occurred at Selfridges in 1925 when Logie Baird himself brought in a TV set.

Selfridge and Early Aviation - Calais - Dover - Selfridges and Flights of fancy

Starting motor for Louis Blériot's cross-channel flight
Starting motor for Louis Blériot's cross-channel flight | Source

Selfridge was passionate about flight. Wilbur and Orvill Wright had let to flying mania.

The French who had invented the hot-air balloon in 18th centry were keen to set records. In 1907 the Voisin-Delagrande biplance was airborne and in 1910 Baroness Raymonde de Laroche became the first woman to receive a pilots licence. Louis Bleriot was the first to fly over water in July 1909 he crossed the channel. He was photographed with Selfridge and his plane was showed int eh shop. It was so big that it had to be carried from Dover first in an open railway wagon and then by car - his adverts were 'Calais - Dover - Selfridges'

Image: Public image courtesy of Wikimedia

Mr. Selfridge's Romance of Commerce: An Abridged Version of the Classic Text on Business and Life
Mr. Selfridge's Romance of Commerce: An Abridged Version of the Classic Text on Business and Life
This abridged version of Selfridges book is on my wish list! A must read for me (Selfridge lover!) and for my son who's studying commerce (but is fed up with my sycophantic Mr Selfridge devotion.

Changing Fashions

The Queen was unusual in her use of lipstick, eye-shadow and mascara - normally taboo - cosmetics norally being tucked away in dark corners.

In Paris the new 'lean line' was being launched by Paul Poiret who brought in the hobble skirts. Curved corsets were out and the contour became long, lean and straight. Poiret had 'liberated women' by introducing the brassier. Strong bold colours were coming to the fore.

Selfridge, Fashion, the Vote and Women - What Harry Selfridge did for women

Nod nod, wink win, - no really, Harry was a real women's libber!

Russell's Standard Fashions 1915-1919
Russell's Standard Fashions 1915-1919
When the store opened in 1909 women were trussed up in corsets and weighed down with Edwardian style dresses that impeded movement. By the time Harry Selfridge left the store we saw corsets left behind, hemlines lifted, materials became light and along with the flappers fun had come into fashion in the guise of Coco Channel.

Season 4 will arrive in 2016

Filming for Season 4 began April 2015 so I'm looking forwardard to the fourth and final series next year.


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