Marshall Field was born in Conway, Massachusetts on 18th August, 1834. At the age of 17, he moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts where he first worked in a dry goods store.
In 1856, at age 21, he went to live in Chicago, Illinois and obtained employment at leading dry goods merchant Cooley, Wadsworth and Company. He used his savings to purchase a partnership with the reorganized firm of Farwell, Field & Company.
In January 1865 Field joined forces with Levi Leiter to establish Field, Leiter & Company. Over the next few years it became one of the most successful stores in the city.
In 1881 Field bought out his remaining business partner and changed the store's name to "Marshall Field and Company". He also made Harry Selfridge a junior partner in the company. Selfridge became responsible for advertising. This included employing phrases such as "the customer is always right" and "give the lady what she wants".