The Magic of Marshall Field’s Holiday Windows

Christmas in Chicago just wouldn’t be complete for many of us without the thrill of viewing the fantastic holiday windows on State Street.  It’s an American tradition that began here in Chicago well over a century ago and continues strong today, including on our annual Holiday Tour of Drinks, Daleys and Dead Guys.

Historic Image of Marshall Field's holiday Windows

Origins of Holiday Windows

In the 1890s, retail pioneer Marshall Field’s had a novel idea. Hire a theatrical set designer to transform his store’s display windows.  Gone were the windows that shoppers were used to, crammed with as much merchandise as could possibly fit.  The Field’s windows were mini theater sets – pared down, dramatic and thematic.  The previous chaotic arrangement became passe’, and this new style affirmed Marshall Field’s position as trend-setter of the high class. And these windows worked retail magic: dazzled passersby were drawn into the exciting experience of shopping at Marshall Field’s.

At no time was this more powerful than at Christmas. Field’s State Street holiday store windows, with their clever and Touring Chicago's Christmasbeautiful – and eventually animated – displays became a major draw for locals and tourists from all over.  A trip to Field’s at holiday time to see the windows – as well as the Great Tree in the Walnut Room – became a tradition for many generations of Chicagoans and still elicits feelings of nostalgia for many.

One window designer, John Moss, created a special character named Uncle Mistletoe. He competed with Montgomery Ward’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Uncle Mistletoe had his Field’s window debut in 1948 and became a favorite for Chicago children. Other characters featured in the holiday windows over the years include Cinderella, Pinocchio, Harry Potter, The Grinch, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Snow White, and Mary Poppins.

Holiday Windows in the Macy’s Era

As of 2006, Marshall Fields was no more. Macy’s officially bought them out.

But Macy’s continues the holiday window tradition.  Underneath the 42 trumpets protruding over State Street are seven large windows, decorated with a new theme each year. We visit Macy’s on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour and discuss the innovative window designs. We love when locals come on our tours and share their own personal stories. One guest told of her fond memory of going to Marshall Field’s as a little girl to get a red velvet dress and how she felt like such a princess!

— Wendy Bright, Tour Guide


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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