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How Alexander Sanger Helped Make Dallas a Retail Mecca

The German immigrant's dry goods stores were the first in the state to have electricity, passenger elevators, and gas fixtures.
| |Photography courtesy of Courtesy Dallas Historical Society. Used by permission.
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Giving Back: Sanger funded a night school to help employees further their education.

Alexander Sanger was one of seven brothers born to Jewish parents in Obernbreit am Main, present-day Germany. At age 13, he apprenticed for a dry goods business in his hometown. Within two years, he had become a private secretary and general salesman for the entity, and in 1865, he followed his older brothers to the United States.

Issac, Lehman, and Phillip Sanger had all been in the US for several years, and the two older brothers ran Baum and Sanger, which dealt in dry goods before the Civil War. During the war, all three joined the Confederate Army, and when the war ended in 1965, they established the Sanger Brothers, still dealing in dry goods. Their first store was in Millican, Texas,

After arriving in the US in 1865, Alexander worked as a bookkeeper for Heller Brothers in Cincinnati for a few years and was later part of a group that bought out the company and established Ochs, Lehman, and Company. Sanger sold his interest and moved to Corsicana, Texas, in 1872 to join the entity his brothers toiled hard to establish.

Sanger opened a Dallas branch of the store and earned a reputation as a generous employer. He kept more employees than the company needed since he did not wish to retire company veterans with nowhere else to go. He also paid out of pocket to establish a night school for those employees who needed help to finish their education. Sanger married the love of his life, Fannie Fachenbach, on May 11, 1879. They had a son, Elihu, who later served as the company’s Vice President.

He organized Dallas’ first synagogue and advocated for the Texas and Pacific Railway to run through Dallas. He helped establish the Dallas Public Library and secured the services of city planner George E. Kessler to help organize the State Fair of Texas.

The Sanger Brothers chain was the first in Texas with a buying office in New York, enabling a wider selection of goods than could be found elsewhere in the state. By 1892, the company had 250 employees and annual sales of $2 million. Its stores were the first in the state to have electricity, passenger elevators, and gas fixtures.

Alexander took the helm of operations in 1902. In 1926, a year after his death, Sanger Brothers was purchased by St. Louis-based Stifel, Nicholaus, and Co. In 1961, it was merged into A. Harris and Co. to form Dallas shopping stalwart Sanger-Harris, which was later folded into Foley’s in 1987.

The original Sanger Brothers’ downtown store, built in 1910, is considered Dallas’ finest example of the Chicago School style of commercial architecture and today is part of the El Centro campus. The Santa Fe Railroad named the Denton County city of Sanger for the family, and Dallas ISD is home to Alex Sanger Preparatory School.

Author

Vivasvaan Aditya Raj

Vivasvaan Aditya Raj

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