J. C. Collier – Salesman and Dry Goods Merchant Extraordinaire


Jena Cuthbert (J. C.) Collier was born November. 5, 1866 at 10:00 pm. In J. C.’s own words, it was at the time that he “commenced to hustle.”

In 1881, at age 14, he left his father’s plantation at Piedmont and moved to Barnesville, Georgia to attend Gordan Military Institute.  Apparently he sought more than a formal education for on August 18, 1881, he walked into the store of C. C. Holmes in Barnesville and asked for a job. He was hired and placed in the grocery department at the salary of $12 per month. His duties also included “superintendent of the rag-packing department.”

On October 5, 1882, he began working for W. R. Murphey & Co. in Barnesville for the salary of $20 per month. At age 17, his salary was raised to $50 per month.  Here is a picture of J. C. Collier at age 17.


At age 20, on September 1, 1887, with an investment capital of $1,350, he opened a dry goods business as J. C. Collier & Company. He bought out the company on January 12, 1890 and formed the succeeding business of J. C. Collier Company on February 1, 1895.  By 1896, J. C. Collier Company was recognized as the largest dry goods business south of Atlanta with “big” stores in Barnesville and Thomaston.  About that time, J. C. bought out Howard & Co. and merged that business with his.


J. C. Collier Co. Store – 1894


By 1897, his initial investment of $1,350 had resulted in a net worth for J. C. Collier Co. of over $37,000.


J. C. Collier Co. Store, probably in the late 1890s

J. C. Collier was a marketing strategist. He researched advertising techniques and was a student of successful business philosophies. From this, he learned to cut his prices to gain a larger market share, and he maintained his profit margin by buying directly from suppliers and manufacturers in such places as New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. His seasonal trips to the northeast put him in a position to buy at the lowest possible prices. His acceptance in societal circles in New York was facilitated by his cousin from the Greene side of the family, Floyd Corbin, a resident and well-known financier in New York City.


1896 Newspaper Advertisement for J. C. Collier Co. Note the listing of a New York Office at the top of the ad.


Here is a July 2, 1892 promissory note made to I. C. Collier (Father of J. C. Collier) of Piedmont from an unknown individual.  The note is presented on J. C. Collier Co. letterhead with a sketch of the “big” store at the top.  The note is for the rent of one mule for the year for the amount of $20.00.


The former J. C. Collier Co. Store building in Barnesville, Georgia as it was in 2003.  This is the same building as on the letterhead.


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