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Retail Studies in the Depression

March 17, 2008

by Robin Elliot

In 1933 Drexel applied to the state of Pennsylvania for permission to give a B.S. degree in retailing. The application was denied and the students received a degree in Commerce instead. The number of students who qualified was extremely limited, which was one reason for the denial. The degree would have been part of the existing Co-operative Retailing course. The wide variety of courses required were demonstrative of a liberal arts education: students would have studied art history, economics, chemistry, a language, sociology, political science, and English as part of the degree. Students who took the Retailing courses were required to work for nine months in a retail workplace.

They also had four years of academic study. The third and fourth years of college were spent half in the work place. There was a particular track for women who wanted to work in merchandising stores. These courses were in addition to normal academic courses and included fashion, principles of advertising, commercial law, textiles, economic aspects of fashion, among many other subjects. All of these courses were primarily courses which had been taught at Drexel prior to 1933 in the Schools of Home Economics and Business Administration, both of which were available to women. While Drexel was denied the opportunity to give this degree, New York University was giving an M.S. in Retailing and the University of Southern California was giving similar degrees in the B.S. for merchandising. Drexel also stated that they felt that with the large number of women entering the retailing field an established degree in it would help its students. The degree would have been open to both male and female students.

For information on the retailing curriculum at Drexel see Kolbe, Parke R. (U.R. 1.5) records at the Drexel University Archives

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