The JCPenney chain was started by an actual person named J.C. Penney, and it gave Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, his first job in retail. James Cash Penney started JCPenney with his first stores in 1907.
In 1899, Penney began working for T. M. Callahan, a Colorado merchant who hired Penney to work in his Golden Rule store for $50 per month. Three years later, Penney used the $2,000 he had saved to buy a one-third ownership share in a second store. In 1907, he purchased three Golden Rule stores and named them J. C. Penney Co. He served as president of the company until 1917 and chairman of the board of directors from 1917 to 1958, establishing a culture that rewarded managers and employees for their successes with portions of their stores’ profits. At the time of his death in 1971, J. C. Penney Co. had over 1,600 stores and annual sales exceeding $4 billion.
Sam Walton began working for J.C. Penney in 1940, earning $75 per month as a management trainee. After the outbreak of World War II, Walton quit Penney in 1942, but returned to the retail industry and became the founder of Wal-Mart. As of 2012, Wal-Mart was the world’s largest retailer with sales of $473 billion.