If there is an irony in R.H. Macy's effort to buy Federated Department Stores, it is that Macy's would own Bloomingdale's.

The two department stores -- which, along with Gimbels, defined the New York retailing scene for more than 100 years -- have long been rivals for the hearts and wallets of shoppers in the Big Apple. Gimbels eventually gave up the fight, closing its New York store in the fall of 1986.

Macy's, founded in 1858, built its reputation by selling for less and selling for cash only.

At one time, shoppers in the bargain basement of its Herald Square store were so intense that the scene spawned the phrase, "I'd rather work in Macy's basement." It was another way to say, "I'd rather die."

The department store prided itself on the idea that if customers couldn't find what they wanted in its 11-story, one-block-square flagship store in Manhattan, Macy's would get it.

Macy's, which for years claimed to be the largest store under one roof, at various times sold ponies, airplanes, canaries, cars and prefabricated houses. The store also presents the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.

Trendy Bloomingdale's, which opened in 1872 to serve conservative middle-class Manhattan families, instead sought a chic image after World War II. The store became a fashion pacesetter.

Jackie Onassis' sister and a princess-by-marriage, Lee Radziwill, once described the store as "the obvious place to go for everything."