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

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

keting at the University of Arkansas, ticks off the errors and manage-
ment failures of Sangers' as if he were writing a textbook on the perils
of retailing. Alex, the glad-handing survivor, paid more attention to
the affairs of the city than to those of the store. The brothers had no
clear plan of succession into top management, despite the availability
of capable second-generation Sangers. The firm clung to its wholesale
business far too long, thereby mortgaging its future to, the vicissitudes
of farming and ranching in the Texas hinterland. Management of cash
flow was horrendous, as dividends poured out in bad times as well as
good, even as bank debts mounted to the limit of the company's ability
to service. Throughout all of this, featherbedding also increased, be-
cause Alex Sanger refrained from laying off needy and elderly workers.
After the sale to the St. Louis firm in 1926, many of these problems
continued. But slowly, professional managers brought Sangers' (the
name was retained) back to health, nursing it through the Great De-
pression into new prosperity in the 194os and 1950s. In 1951 the firm
was acquired by Federated Department Stores, Inc., the giant nation-
wide chain, which in turn supervised the acquisition of A. Harris &8 Co.
in 1961. Today, Sanger-Harris operates twelve prestigious department
stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The heart of this brief book is the 1857-1926 period, and Rosenberg
tells the story well. He wastes no words, and intelligently infers a great
deal from often scanty evidence. His critique of Sangers' management is
strong and convincing. His research appears to have ceased in the mid-
dle 196os, however, and he fails to place his analysis within the frame-
work of the best recent business histories, as exemplified in the work of
scholars such as Thomas C. Cochran and Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. Had
he done so, he might have developed more fully the promising com-
parative dimensions of his study, and in the process discovered that the
story he tells-of a thriving business run almost into the ground after
the passing of the family genius, then rescued by faceless professional
managers-embodies a standard sequence full of significance in the his-
tory of American business.
Harvard Business School THOMAS K. McCRAW
An American Original: The Life of J. Frank Dobie. By Lon Tinkle.
(Boston: Little, Brown &8 Co., 1978. Pp. 264. Acknowledgments,
illustrations, bibliographical notes, index. $1o.)
Lon Tinkle has partly retold, partly excerpted from intensely per-

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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 November 26, 2014.