With February coming to a close, let's take a look back to the Chicago of February 1837, when a third generation watch repairman named Elijah Peacock, opened the House of Peacock, the town's first retail jewelry store. With this, Chicago went from being a town to a city in March of 1837. Learn more in our monthly installment of This Month in Chicago History.
Being the city's first major retail establishment, it set the tone for the young city's elite by taking them from a period of "semi-savageness to civilization and refinement." Elijah sold and repaired watches and offered a small line of jewelry.
In 1838, a son, Charles Daniel, was born. Elijah trained his son from his earliest days, in the watch and jewelry business. The House of Peacock flourished and served a who's who of Chicago's elite, including Cyrus McCormick, Potter Palmer, George Pullman, Marshall Field and Mary Todd Lincoln!
On October 8, 1871, disaster struck the Chicago metropolis, in the form of the Great Chicago Fire. After 3 days, the city was in ruins. But the House of Peacock survived! Employees had been able to get all the merchandise into the fireproof vault. The House of Peacock would survive! Eighteen years after the fire, Elijah retired and handed the business over to Charles. The House of Peacock became C. D. Peacock.
As Chicago grew, so did C. D. Peacock. Each store was designed to be a showplace for the finest jewelry and watches. Only the best materials were utilized. Peacocks most legendary store was located at the corner of State Street and Monroe, inside the Palmer House Hotel. Visitors coming to the finest hotel in Chicago expected the finest shopping, and C. D. Peacock never failed to awe. This legendary establishment continued to amaze and inspire into the latter part of the twentieth century. But changing demographics and high operating cost meant the closure of the Michigan Ave Store, Peacocks last urban outlet, in 1993. They now survive in four suburban locations.
But you can still experience the thrill of C. D. Peacock! Enter the Monroe St entrance to The Palmer House Hotel, and there you will be dazzled by the brass doors that once covered the entrance to the store. The beauty and craftsmanship is stunning. Also check out the Peacock clock and Peacock fans on the exterior of what is now Ultra Jewelers.
C. D. Peacock may be gone, but it is far from forgotten.