The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000 Page: 392
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The individual items are clearly worthy of collection and preservation through
publication. The selection and republication of these items to commemorate
the Texas Folklore Society's survival to mid-century seems to be appropriate, but
I do wonder if the need to reprint the volume in 1998 was that pressing.
The 1954 printing is dedicated to J. Frank Dobie, who had edited most of the
twenty-five columes from which the items were drawn. The dedication of the
1998 printing is expanded to include the other editors, Stith Thompson, Mody
C. Boatright, and several associate editors.
Austin ROLLO K. NEWSOM
Texas Merchant: Marvin Leonard and Fort Worth. By Victoria Buenger and Walter L.
Buenger. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1998. Pp. xii+245.
Illustrations, acknowledgments, introduction, notes, bibliographic essay,
index. ISBN o-89o96-844-6. $36.95, cloth.)
Texas Merchant: Marvin Leonard and Fort Worth, a collaborative effort by Victoria
Buenger (a professor of management) and Walter L. Buenger (a business histo-
rian), is an excellent addition to Texas A&M Press's Kenneth E. Montague
Series in Oil and Business History. The co-authors use their respective areas of
scholarly expertise, the Leonard Collection, local newspapers, and an extensive
number of oral hsitory interviews with family members and former employees to
shed light on Marvin Leonard's role as a retail innovator, civic activist, and real
estate developer. Most significantly, the work also focuses on the often-neglected
role of entrepreneurs as active agents in helping bring about social change in
The first four chapters examine Leonard's childhood influences, his early
career, and the genesis and evolution of his retailing/managerial philosophy.
From both parents Marvin learned frugality and the necessity of avoiding debt.
His father, John Leonard, in particular warned his son about the dangers
involved in selling merchandise on credit. Marvin took this admonition to heart
and took advantage of a new trend in retailing during the early part of the twen-
tieth century (the rise of "cash only" stores) to build a business that grossed
more than $1 million in sales volume by 1927 (p. 32). Within these chapters
Victoria Buenger's work is evident in the careful attention provided in present-
ing the minute, but significant, changes in product lines, presentation, and pric-
ing, which helped keep Leonard's ahead of both local and national chain com-
petitors until the late 196os. The final two chapters and the epilogue concen-
trate on the corporation's attempts to buck the trend toward enclosed suburban
malls and survive as a downtown merchant. This proved ultimately unsuccessful
and the authors note that even the wily Marvin "would have difficulty generating
a profit" in many downtown settings today (p. 192).
Interspersed within this managerial and retailing history is important social
history, and this is what makes Texas Merchant so worthwhile. Throughout the
work the authors examine how Leonard, through his pursuit of profit and ser-
vice to his customers, broke down barriers for Jews, African Americans, and
Mexican Americans. Two examples of decisions in this field will suffice in
demonstrating this trend. First, by the late 1940s and early 195os Leonard's
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000, periodical, 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/m1/438/: accessed November 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.