Notes and Documents
The Life and Death of a Bookstore
R OSENGREN'S BOOKSTORE WAS REBORN IN SAN ANTONIO THE YEAR I
was born in Nueces County, Texas. Rosengren's died in the sum-
mer of 1987, and a significant part of my life died with it. No funeral,
family or otherwise, ever affected me more profoundly.
The founders of the store, Florence and Frank H. Rosengren, had
begun their bookselling operations on North State Street in Chicago.
Not long after the crash of 1929, Rosengren had the incredibly good
fortune to find a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue
Morgue in a miscellany of sermons, prison reports, and other nine-
teenth-century curiosa. It was sold to J. K. Lilly, Jr., for $13,000, which
enabled the Rosengrens to gaze up at the towers and spires of Paris
while others in this country were throwing themselves off of such edi-
fices. This part of the story was related some years ago by David Ran-
dall in his memoir, Dukedom Large Enough, but it is badly garbled, even
to the persistent misspelling of the name as Rosengreen.'
By 1935 the Rosengrens had returned to the United States. Because
their son, Frank Duane, who wears the nickname Figgi with unflap-
pable insouciance, was asthmatic and required a more salubrious cli-
mate, the family decided to immigrate. They were influenced in their
choice of location by a good customer, Harry Hertzberg of San An-
tonio, who successfully argued a move to the Alamo City. The Rosen-
grens' first shop in San Antonio was upstairs in the downtown Milam
Building. Later they moved to ground-floor quarters. The competition
came mainly from the book departments at Wolff and Marx and at
Joske's. There were a handful of individual sellers, such as the Roe
*Al Lowman is a historian, bibliophile, book reviewer, and author of This Bitterly Beautzful
Land: A Texas Commonplace Book (1972) and Prmnting Arts in Texas (1975). His biobibliography of
Carl Hertzog is in progress. Lowman is also an honorary life member of the Texas State His-
IDavid A. Randall, Dukedom Large Enough (New York: Random House, 1969), 190o-191.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed January 30, 2015.