Women were leaders of the shop’s locations

Andrew M. Santos

M.M. Cloutier

Ward G. Foster, center, talks with James Munroe Munyon, left, and portrait photographer E.W. Histed.
The Ask Mr. Foster location at Palm Beach's now-gone Hotel Royal Poinciana. This image appeared in an Ask Mr. Foster ad in Country Life magazine in 1905.
A woman can be seen helping a customer at the Ask Mr. Foster at the Hotel Royal Poinciana. Women led Ask Mr. Foster locations.
The interior of the Ask. Mr. Foster store at the Hotel Royal Poinciana.

Window displays of jewels and fine apparel weren’t the only enticements that lured turn-of-the-20th-century shoppers to a strip of retailers on the grounds of Henry Flagler’s first Palm Beach hotel.

A giant question mark did the trick, too.

It was painted on a marquee over the entrance to a sought-after business, beckoning passersby to come in and ask about anything at all.

Unlike its immediate retail neighbors flanking Flagler’s Hotel Royal Poinciana — including a pharmacy, a men’s clothing shop and a jewelry store — its customers were assisted by women.

Men may have run the show at most businesses back then, but women led Palm Beach and other locations of Ask Mr. Foster, a travel agency and souvenir shop with a question mark as its logo.

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