The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979

Book Reviews
ROBERT A. CALVERT, Editor
Sangers': Pioneer Texas Merchants. By Leon Joseph Rosenberg. (Aus-
tin: Texas State Historical Association, 1978. Pp. xiii+ 185. Illus-
trations, bibliography, index. $12.50.)
There were ten of them, seven boys and three girls, and eventually
all ten worked in the family retail stores in East and Southeast Texas.
They were born into a Jewish family in Germany, and emigrated one
by one to the United States in the last half of the nineteenth century.
The first Sanger store opened in McKinney, Texas, in 1858, the second
in Weatherford (1859), the third in Decatur (1860). After the Civil
War, during which three Sangers served in the Confederate army, the
migration of Sanger stores followed precisely the northward progress of
the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. From Millican to Dallas they
expanded, with seven stops in between, then north to Sherman and, in
the meantime, west to Waco.
Three of the brothers led this conquest: Isaac, the eldest; Alex, the
most gregarious; and Philip, the mercantile genius of the family. Isaac
stationed himself in New York as the buyer for all the stores (a pioneer-
ing step, followed later by other firms both in the Southwest and else-
where). Alex and Philip focused their efforts on the Dallas store, which
they built to unchallenged local supremacy. Sangers' in Dallas had the
city's first gas lights, first electric lights, first escalator. Eight of the city's
first fourteen telephones belonged to the Sangers-six for the store, and
one each for the homes of Philip and Alex. The two brothers inter-
twined the success of their business with that of the city, and unabash-
edly boosted both. Thus, they contributed to, and their firm profited
commensurately from, the remarkable growth of Dallas from about
o,ooo population in 188o to about 92,000 in l9o0. Throughout this
period, Sangers' shone as the city's leading emporium, its model depart-
ment store.
Had Philip the genius outlived Alex the backslapper, the decline of
Sangers' might not have begun so soon. But from Philip's death in 1902
until the sale of the stores to a St. Louis company in 1926, the story of
uninterrupted success reversed itself. The decline was gradual, incon-
spicuous, but inexorable. Worst of all, implies author Leon Joseph
Rosenberg, the decline was avoidable. Rosenberg, a professor of mar-

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/. Accessed October 24, 2014.