On the night of December 14, 1921, Joseph P. Day concluded what The New York Times called the "World's Greatest Auction Sale." Day had sold 1,574 dwellings in 12 hours, a record that probably still stands today. When he died in 1944, Time Magazine said: "New York City lost a major landmark--a gregarious, white-maned, 70-year-old supersalesman, one of the last of the P. T. Barnum era . . . . Auctioneer Day had sold more real estate in & around New York City than any other single human being in the memory of man." The Time article was titled: "The Great Salesman."
Day lived most of his life in New York City where he was born in 1874. His father John W. Day, was a prosperous producer of soda water, his mother Catherine A. Hayes, a typical housewife of the era. However, Day's childhood was anything but sanguine. His father died when Joe was 5. His mother followed 9 years later, forcing the 14-year-old to quit public school and eke out a living as a clerk in a Manhattan wholesale dry-goods firm, reportedly for $5 to$8 a month. But it was also an opportunity for commercial education. The dry goods store became the proving grounds where he could hone his craft.
Like so many other successful salesmen who clerked at a young age, Day learned the importance of knowing more about the products he sold than his competitors or customers. Aided by an innate sense of people, the ability to appraise customers and instantly and accurately gauge their wants, create the right pitch and redirect their questions to conclude a sale, enabled Day to climb the commercial ladder rapidly.