A.T. Stewart Store

Image: A. T. Stewart Department Store.
Source: Courtesy of Kume Museum of Art.

While in New York City the delegates paid a visit to one of the first department stores, the A.T. Stewart Store on Broadway Avenue. The building had large street level windows, allowing light to filter through as people browsed the latest fashions through the glass. It was the advent of modern window shopping. Kume remarked that, “the Stewart’s have provided a magnificent building filled with merchandise in order to stimulate the New York City economy.” However, he and the other delegates were surprised to learn that despite its opulence, the building barely turned a profit.

The original A.T. Stewart Store, located at 280 Broadway, was constructed in 1846 of Tuckahoe marble. Many knew the reputable store as the “Marble Palace” (now known to New Yorkers as the Sun Building). When the delegates arrived, they visited the second of Stewart’s stores, this one constructed in 1862 of cast iron and even more impressive in stature. Both buildings were revolutionary for their time, changing the architecture of commerce in the city for decades to come.

Image: New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services. [Unnamed.] “The Sun Building.” Photograph. Accessed February 11, 2022.

It wasn’t until 1904 that Japan inaugurated its first modern department store. When the longstanding kimono fabric store Mitsukoshi updated its business practices, increasing variety and stock, the company issued a “department store declaration” to make it official. 


Kunitake, Kume. “A Record of New York City.” In Japan Rising: The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe, edited by Chushichi Tsuzuki and R. Jules Young, 97-101. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Gray, Christopher. “A City Plan to Revitalize the 1846 ‘Marble Palace’.” The New York Times, March 20, 1994. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1994/03/20/491373.html?pageNumber=275.

New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services. “The Sun Building.” Accessed February 11, 2022. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dcas/business/dcasmanagedbuildings/sun-building.page.

Mitsukoshi Isetan Group. “About Isetan Mitsukoshi Group: The Heritage and Development of the Isetan Mitsukoshi Group.” Last updated 2020. https://cp.mistore.jp/global/en/history.html.