Way back when Davenport was just getting started, general stores, or dry-goods stores, stocked almost everything a person might need, and maybe a few little extras they might want. At the same counter, one could buy a yard of fabric, ten-cent nails, a box or two of buckshot, a barrel of flour, and maybe a length of ribbon for the wife and a few pieces of maple candy for the kids.
As things became settled and Davenporters grew more sophisticated, shops became specialized. It now took visits to at least three stores to run the same errands, though the quality and quantity of goods was much improved, especially when the railroad came through.
Some general dry goods stores remained, and one of these was run by John C. Petersen, who established his store in 1872. Business was good, and Mr. Petersen decided that the newfangled department store idea—sort of putting several specialty shops in one place, would make it even better. He hired Frederick Claussen to design a large red brick building on the corner of 2nd Street and Main and put a sign reading J. H. C. Petersen & Sons over the door.
Petersen’s wasn’t the only game in town. The Boston Store, established in 1887 by Roland Harned, E.C. Pursel, and C. J. Von Maur, went departmental in 1898. The two competed for a while, until John C. Petersen and two of his sons passed away. In 1916, William Petersen sold the business to Mr. Harned and C. J. and Cable Von Maur (Pursel had passed in 1897). The two stores continued, albeit under the same owners.
In 1928, the stores merged in a more public way, and were renamed Petersen Harned Von Maur. This name continued as the business developed and expanded, even when Mr. Harned died, leaving the Von Maur family in sole ownership in 1937. In 1972, the business celebrated its 100th anniversary (that would be the Petersen part) by opening its first mall location in Bettendorf, Iowa. In 1989, the business shortened its name to Von Maur, Inc.
Since then, Von Maur has expanded its stores well beyond the Quad-Cities, but it all began here—just another Davenport success story.