Sebastian Spering Kresge (July 31, 1867 – October 18, 1966), was an American businessman and was the founder of the S. S. Kresge Company, one of the 20th century's largest retail organizations. The company was renamed the Kmart Corporation in 1977, and evolved into today's Sears Holdings Corporation, parent of Kmart and Sears.
Life and career
Kresge was born in Bald Mountain (near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), the son of Sebastian Kresge and the former Catherine Kunkle.
Living on the family farm until he was 21 years old, he was educated in the local public schools, the Fairview Academy, in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania, and at the Eastman Business College, from which he graduated in March, 1889.
Following his graduation, he clerked in a hardware store for two years, then worked as a traveling salesman from 1892 to 1897.
On March 20, 1897, Kresge began working for James G. McCrory (founder of J.G. McCrory's) at a five and ten cent store in Memphis, Tennessee. He continued there for two years. In 1899, he founded his company, with Charles J. Wilson, with an $8,000 investment in two five-and-ten-cent stores; one was in downtown Detroit, Michigan (for which he traded ownership in McCrory's).
In 1912, he incorporated the S.S. Kresge Company with 85 stores. The company was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange on May 23, 1918. During World War I, Kresge experimented with raising the limit on prices in his stores to $1.
By 1924, Kresge was worth approximately $375,000,000 ($5,000,000,000 in 2009 dollars) and owned real estate of the approximate value of $100,000,000. He was married and divorced at least twice by 1928.
Kresge and his family were members of Detroit's North Methodist Episcopal Church. He held membership in organizations including four Masonic lodges and the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Detroit Athletic, Boat, and Golf Clubs, Rotary, and various commercial and automobiling societies.
Kresge died on October 18, 1966, at the age of 99.
The first Kmart opened in 1962 in Garden City, Michigan. Kresge died in 1966. In 1977, the S. S. Kresge Corporation changed its name to the Kmart Corporation. In 2005 Sears Holdings Corporation became the parent of Kmart and Sears, after Kmart bought Sears, and formed the new parent.
In 1924 Kresge established The Kresge Foundation, a non-profit organization whose income he specified simply "to promote the well-being of mankind." By the time of his death, Kresge had given the foundation over $60,000,000. A strongly committed prohibitionist, he organized the National Vigilance Committee for Prohibition enforcement and also heavily supported the Anti-Saloon League financially, though he later stopped contributions.
Numerous places have been named after Kresge:
- The Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University, established through a grant from the Kresge Foundation
- The Kresge Science Complex at Albion College, in Albion, Michigan
- A street in Amherst, Ohio, Kresge Drive
- Kresge College, a residential college at the University of California, Santa Cruz
- The Kresge Auditorium at Bowdoin College
- The Kresge Auditorium at Olivet Nazarene University
- The Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- The Kresge Auditorium at Stanford University, torn down in 2009
- The Kresge Auditorium at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan
- The Kresge Auditorium at Indiana University at Kokomo - Kokomo, Indiana
- One of Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts' theaters
- The Kresge Ford Building at College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan
- The Kresge Library at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan
- The Kresge Library at University of Michigan Ross School of Business
- The Kresge Engineering Library at University of California, Berkeley
- The Kresge Physical Sciences Library at Dartmouth College
- Kresge Chapel on the campus of Claremont School of Theology
- Kresge Hall at Northwestern University, which currently houses the art and language departments
- Kresge Hall at Bentley University, a residence hall built in 1975
- Kresge Hall at Harvard Business School and the Kresge Building at the Harvard School of Public Health
- The Kresge Law Library at the University of Notre Dame was funded, in part, by a grant from the Kresge Foundation.
- The Kresge Art Center at Michigan State University is his namesake.
- The Kresge School of Nursing at the University of Western Ontario was named after Kresge after he donated $200,000 in 1960.
- The Purdy-Kresge Library at Wayne State University.
- The Kresge Administration Building at Tuskegee University
- The Kresge Court at the Detroit Institute of Art in Detroit, Michigan