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B. Altman & Co. records

Call Number

MS 31


1876-1955 (bulk, 1881-1933), inclusive


B. Altman & Co.


3.5 Linear feet (2 boxes, 18 volumes)

Language of Materials

The documents in this collection are in English.


Employee records, financial records, legal papers, estate material, correspondence, and miscellaneous items of B. Altman & Co. The collection also includes material relating to B. Altman & Co. president Michael Friedsam (president 1931-1931).

Chronology of B. Altman & Co.

1865 B. Altman & Co. founded by Benjamin Altman as a small dry-goods store at 39 Third Ave., New York City.
c1873 Michael Friedsam, future president, joins B. Altman & Co.
1876 Store moves to 627 Sixth Ave. (at 19th St.); new store known as the "Palace of Trade."
1909 Friedsam becomes Vice President.
1913 Benjamin Altman dies; Friedsam takes over as President of B. Altman & Co. and the Altman Foundation.
1914 Store moves to a twelve-story building on Fifth Ave., between 34th & 35th Streets.
1931 Friedsam dies; John S. Burke succeeds Friedsam as B. Altman & Co. president.
1989 Owner L.J. Hooker Corp. declares bankruptcy; company ceases operations.

(Sources: Encyclopedia of New York; B. Altman & Co.'s Enlarged Store(1914); Joseph Devorkin, Great Merchants of Early New York; Robert Hendrickson, The Grand Emporiums; New York Times.)


The collection is organized in ten series. Material within each series is filed chronologically.

Series I. President Michael Friedsam, 1915-1933, undated
Series II. Employee Records, 1876-1918
Series III. Financial Records, 1887-1955
Series IV. Legal Records, 1913-1953
Series V. Benjamin Altman Estate Material, 1913-1919
Series VI. Correspondence, 1915-1939, undated
Series VII. Study of Shopping Habits, 1936
Series VIII. Electrical Equipment Inspection Certificates, 1906
Series IX. Publications, 1917, undated
Series X. Medals, 1917

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of two boxes and 18 bound volumes, and is organized into ten series. Items are arranged chronologically within each series. The bulk of the material is located in Series I. President Michael Friedsam and Series II. Employee Records, 1876-1917. The Friedsam series contains mostly correspondence, 1915-1918; also news clippings and stock and bond receipts. Other significant series include financial records (bills, receipts, checks, bonds), legal records such as copyright and trademark registrations, and material relating to the estate of Benjamin Altman. The smaller series in this collection contain correspondence, a study of shopping habits, electrical equipment inspection certificates, and medals. The B. Altman & Co. Papers do not include any trade catalogs or company advertisements.

The B. Altman & Co. Papers support research in the fields of New York City business and department store administrative history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The twelve volumes of employee records may also reveal details useful to genealogists, labor historians, and women's historians, as many include summaries of workers' lives. In addition, the Michael Friedsam material contains correspondence pertaining to philanthropy, art collecting, New York City mayoral politics, and domestic efforts during the first World War.

Access Restrictions

This collection is stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult it, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as B. Altman & Co. Records, The New-York Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased at auction, 1990.

Collection processed by

Processed by Melissa Haley

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:50:15 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived frombaltman.xml


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024