Christmas at the Wonder Store, 1881

Christmas advertisement for the Wonder Store, Dec. 19, 1881 (Courtesy State Journal-Register)

Frank Myers was no relation to Springfield’s later department store dynasty, the Myers Brothers, but he apparently had some of the same merchandising instincts – down to the monkeys both used as advertising gimmicks.

From the 1870s to 1904, Myers’ Wonder Store on the north side of the downtown square sold everything from books to clothing to furniture to horse-drawn buggies. It also was one of Springfield’s first toy stores. Myers advertised constantly in the local newspapers, but he pulled out all the stops when it came to holidays like Christmas and the Fourth of July.

“Frank Myers drew a large and admiring audience of boys, last evening, by firing off a brilliant display of fireworks,” the Illinois State Register reported on July 3, 1880. Myers had five one-line ads in the same edition of the paper. “Fireworks, torpedoes, etc., at Myers,’” one said.

Myers’ most ambitious promotion may have taken place during the 1881 Christmas season, when he encouraged Springfieldians to bring their families to the store’s Christmas Carnival, which featured puppets, performers, steam-operated “comical toys,” and a cigar-smoking monkey. Plus, of course, “The Original and only real Live Santa Claus.”

Myers (1848-1904) came to Springfield from Missouri with his family at about age 16. He originally went into merchandising with his father, Henry C. Myers, under the name H.C. Myers & Son.

“Upon the death of his father in 1871,” the Illinois State Journal said in Frank Myers’ obituary, “he assumed charge of the business and improved it until he carried one of the largest stocks of merchandise in central Illinois and was compelled to move his establishment to larger quarters, which he did in 1879.”

In addition to owning the Wonder Store, Myers was an auctioneer and dealt in real estate and insurance. Outside the business world, he served as president of the village board of South Springfield and on the Sangamon County board of supervisors. Myers also was one of the organizers of the Springfield Liberties, the city’s first semi-pro baseball team.

Read about the Myers Brothers monkey here.

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