Marshall Field, 1834–1906, American merchant, b. Conway, Mass. In 1856, after five years' apprenticeship in a general store in Pittsfield, Mass., he went to Chicago and became a clerk for Cooley, Wadsworth & Co., a leading dry-goods house there, of which he became a junior partner in 1862. In 1865 he became a partner in the firm of Field, Palmer, and Leiter, the company that became Marshall Field and Co. in 1881. He amassed one of the largest private fortunes in the United States and pioneered in establishing many modern retailing practices.
He made the first of his major philanthropies when he was a charter member of the corporation formed (1878) to found the institution which became the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1890 he gave the original tract of land for the Univ. of Chicago, ultimately becoming one of the largest donors to the school. In 1893 he gave $1,000,000 to the fund for the museum at the World's Columbian Exposition. Its collections were the nucleus of the Field Museum of Natural History, now housed in a magnificent building on the Chicago lakefront that was provided by a bequest of $8,000,000 from Field.
His son, Marshall Field 2d, 1868–1905, never made any move to follow his father into business. His early death from a gun wound was officially held to have been accidental.
Marshall Field 3d, 1893–1956, son of Marshall Field 2d, was educated at Eton and at Cambridge, then served in World War I. He engaged in numerous business activities until 1936, when he gave up all of them to devote himself to his various social projects. In June, 1940, Field helped found the New York City liberal newspaper PM. He was the publication's largest stockholder and, from Oct., 1940, its owner. He took no part in its editorial direction, but offered it financial support until Apr., 1948, when the paper was sold; soon afterward it went out of business.
In 1941, Field started the Chicago Sun, and in Jan., 1948, he bought the Chicago Times and merged the two papers. Field took a more active part in that journalistic enterprise, ultimately becoming the paper's dominant personality. Through Field Enterprises, Inc. (est. 1944) he also published the World Book Encyclopedia. His charities included many child welfare organizations. Field's political and social beliefs are expressed in his book Freedom Is More than a Word (1945).
See L. Wendt and H. Kogan, Give the Lady What She Wants: The Story of Marshall Field and Co. (1952); biography of Marshall Field 3d by S. D. Becker (1964); J. Tebbel, The Marshall Fields: A Study in Wealth (1947).