John Peto’s painting “The Poor Man’s Store” created in 1885 is a reflection of Philadelphia’s modest shops. It shows a shabby storefront with brightly colored candies, peanuts, gingerbread, and fruits for sale. The canvas is surrounded by a wooden frame painted to simulate a door, shelf, and wall. Peto was known for creating ordinary objects that were overlooked by most people.
Shop windows like the one depicted in this painting were characteristic of Philadelphia in the 19th century – bustling markets that cater mostly to the lower class. This artwork captures how shops back then would display their products and goods outside their stores to attract customers from across the street despite it being substandard or dilapidated.
“The Poor Man’s Store” continues as part of John Peto’s artistic legacy as an illustration of his affinity for mundane subjects such as battered tin pots, rusty keys & old watch chains, attracting admirers even at this time when consumer culture has thoroughly transformed retail spaces worldwide. The painting can now be viewed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts where it takes its place among other American treasures.\