Dollar Stores Existed In 1870, And They Were Pretty Classy

The late 19th century gave us the five-and-dime store, where everything cost five or ten cents. Those are the ancestors of what we think of as a “dollar store” today. What you might not know is that dollar stores have been around for more than 140 years. It’s just that back then, a dollar could buy you a lot more, so they were rather swanky.

Here’s a relic of one such store in Albany, New York, resurrected by the history blog Hoxsie for our amusement. The ad’s style is typical effusive 19th-century, but who could resist a store that promises “An immence stock of beautiful and desirable articles” shown off by “POLITE AND ATTENTIVE YOUNG LADIES!” Especially when those “LADIES!” are promised to “show every attention to Visitors.”

Sources I’ve found differ regarding how much $1 in 1870 currency would be worth today, but around $20 is a good ballpark guess.

The store is long gone, as is the building. As far as I can tell, the office building now on that spot holds an Internet service provider, a Citizens Bank branch, and a Starbucks.

The Tweddle Hall Dollar Store [Hoxsie!]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ChuckECheese says:

    I bet my local Walmart’s detergent aisle is at least one hundred and forty feet in length.

  2. CanadianDominic says:

    I’d buy THAT for a dolla!!!

  3. TheMansfieldMauler says:


    Yep, a lot of things have changed since 1870.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      Yes, with today’s modern color printing and web technology, we can splash photos of the polite and attentive young ladies on nearly every advertisement. I especially love the polite attention I get from the imaginary headset hotties servicing all my online affairs.

    • Torgonius wants an edit button says:

      Yeah.. it’s so rare to find polite and attentive salespeople nowadays.

  4. triana says:

    I love that “Polite and attentive young ladies!” is a tag now.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      I’m going to find an excuse to use it again around the same time I get to reuse “Sweet Dryer of Mine,” I think.

  5. farker says:

    This inflation calculator says that $1 in 1870 would buy $15.92 in 2010 (the latest year available).

  6. shepd says:

    Next time some old person tells me spelling was better “back then” I can point to the word “Immence” on this sign. :)

  7. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I’m reading Emile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise right now. It’s all about the birth of a giant department store in Paris in the 1800s. It’s freaky how close to now the marketing, the price wars, and the big behemoth gobbling up the small neighborhood shops is. It’s almost like Zola had a future vision of an amalgam of Sears and Walmart. *shudder*

    Off-topic, but Zola’s novels are awesome. His naturalistic writing is very readable even today, and descriptive as hell. I am a huge fan. I’m attempting to collect them all, and have amassed of Les Rougons-Macquart cycle, including this one, of which my absolute favorite is Nana. That was also my first Zola. He even has a Facebook page (don’t ask; I don’t know!). La Bete Humaine (another in the cycle) even has a serial killer in it!

  8. dicobalt says:

    Too many fonts on that flyer!

  9. HomerSimpson says:

    No doubt the Walmart board wishes it could go back in time and CRUSH THEM

  10. libgeek says:

    If that Starbucks was there in 1870, the coffee would cost $1.00, too.

  11. brnagn50 says:

    Too bad we do not even remotely have customer service like that. Now you are fortunate to even get someone to even look your way let alone speak to you.

  12. spartan says:

    Sadly Tweddle Hall later burned down

    On Jan 17, 1883.the NY Times reported that the historic Tweddle Hall building had burned.

    The times did not mention the fate of the Dollar Store or polite and attentive ladies.

    (click the full article and scroll about halfway down. There appears to be a lot of white space, but the article is there)

  13. PragmaticGuy says:

    Well, we’re not getting anything for a dollar at the stores that took over that building.

  14. Not Given says:

    We used to have a 5¢ and 10¢

  15. golddog says:

    If you twist Google Street View around to look at the capitol, there’s a little tiny house in the middle of the street w/a person entering or exiting. I wanna know what’s in there. MiB? NSA? Affordable housing?

    As a side note, hasn’t that cone zone been there for at least two years??

    • hoxsiealbany says:

      The little hut in the center of the street houses loudspeakers and controllers for Christmas lights. The cons are all cleared but yes, Stare Street underwent a major reconstruction.

      • golddog says:

        Sweet! Thanks for that. I mean, it hasn’t been keeping me up at night, but it’s such a random building I was curious.

  16. Bob A Dobalina says:

    “Polite and attentive young ladies” Will show every attention to visitors”

    I usually pay $50 minimum for that