James Cash Penney, was born on the family farm in Hamilton, Missouri in 1875. He went to work in a dry goods store after high school. He soon moved to Denver, Colorado. He was working for the Golden Rule Stores by age 23. The Golden Rule Stores had outlets in Wyoming and Colorado. His ambition and hard work caught the eyes of the owners, and he was given the opportunity to invest in the company and to open his own store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in 1902.
At the time, stores had the habit of charging different prices to customers of different social status. In the mining community of Kemmerer, customers were used to doing business on a credit basis. Penney changed both practices, clearly marking the prices on all items and refusing to grant credit. To the surprise of many who predicted failure, Penney's store thrived and Penney was able to buy several other Golden Rule stores.
By 1909, Penney had bought offices at a headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Penney was a deeply religious man, the name "Golden Rule" was more than a marketing ploy. It became the backbone of his business. Penney believed in providing his customers with quality goods but never charged them more than he had to. He was also a great believer in customer service and money-saving buying practices. He picked his own competent managers.
the J.C. Penney Company was incorporated in 1913. In 1914, the corporation moved to New York City where it issued "The Penney Idea," a mission statement which emphasized ethics and purpose. The J.C. Penney company included Penney's high morals by choosing "Honor, Confidence, Service, and Cooperation" as its motto.
J.C. Penny initiated a program in which associates could save a part of their wages until they had one-third of the cost of their own store. Their manager would then throw in one-third and Mr. Penney would provide the final third. Profits from the store were then split into three equal parts at the end of the year. This allowed J.C. Penney Company to grow rather rapidly.
In 1921, more than 90% of the company's employees took advantage of and educational program that the company had set up for their use.
By 1915, the company was operating 86 stores in 13 states; by the start of the 1920s, it had 197 stores; by 1929, it had 1,400 stores all over the country.
The J.C. Penney Foundation was established to provide money for adoption agencies, youth clubs, vocational schools, homeless shelters, libraries, family guidance centers, health clinics, missionary projects, and peace organizations. Mr. Penney was a devout Christian and established the Memorial Home Community for retired ministers, lay church workers, and missionaries in Florida in 1926.
James Cash Penney died in 1971.