Sanger Brothers

Phillip, Isaac and Alexander Sanger are credited for having founded Sanger Brothers. They were three sons of Elias and Barbetta Sanger of Bavaria. Elias was a wine merchant and farmer. Isaac had been born in Bavaria (Germany) in 1836 and emigrated to the United States when he was 16, in 1852. Lehman (born in 1838) and Phillip (born in 1841) followed him when they each turned 16. They had all learned the mercantile business from Elias. Isaac worked for a few years in Connecticut for an uncle before coming to Texas in 1857. There he settled in McKinney and co-founded a store, Baum and Sanger. Lehman soon joined them. The partners relocated their store to Weatherford for a while and gradually expanded to other north Texas towns including Decatur, adding Morris Lasker as an associate.

Their business was interrupted by the Civil War. Isaac and Lehman joined the Confederate Army first. Lehman was a member of the 21st Texas Infantry which is known to have served in the trans-Mississippi area and also participated in the retaking of Galveston. The 21st was disbanded in 1865. Isaac joined the Frontier Regiment and appears to have served in that capacity in Texas during most of the war. Phillip had been residing in Georgia and joined the 32nd Georgia Regiment and participated in battles in the southeast. After the war, the brothers reunited with Lehman and Phillip forming a store named “L & P” and Isaac acting as a buyer.

They began to expand by opening stores along the former Houston and Texas Central Railroad as it extended its route north from the Gulf Coast. Their first store to be named Sanger Brothers is thought to have been located in Bryan. Other stores were gradually added until the railroad reached Dallas in July, 1872.

The brothers were successful in bringing the rest of their family to the United States from Europe and more brothers, including brothers Alexander, Sam, Jacob and David came into the firm. Some of the siblings became involved in the management of the store chain. After much negotiation, the Texas and Pacific Railroad route was altered to include Dallas. When the lines were completed, it provided Dallas with north-south and east-west rail service, connecting just outside the business district. Realizing that this was vital to the financial stability of the Dallas area, brother Alex Sanger had been involved in securing a bond issue to provide for Texas & Pacific infrastructure.

Image credit: Dallas Daily Herald – 27 April 1872

The Dallas store was extremely successful in the retail area and the brothers also developed a wholesale business early on, to sell goods to other retailers. The wholesale division began in the 1870s and operated until the 1920s. The brothers were active in civic affairs and are credited for their involvement in many institutions and events including the State Fair, Temple Emanu-El, charitable institutions and many others. They were of the Jewish faith and for many years, the stores closed in respect of the Jewish holidays.

One by one the brothers died and the smaller stores closed, leaving Waco and Dallas as the operating retail outlets. Though the family retained an investment interest, the stores were conveyed to an investment company in 1926. The company was merged into Federated Department Stores in 1951 and later combined with another local company, A. Harris and Co. The stores expanded in the Dallas area and were rebranded as Sanger-Harris. Finally, the Sanger name disappeared in 1987 when the stores were rebranded as Foley’s.

[Sources: They Came to Stay: The Story of the Jews of Dallas 1870-1997, by Rose G. Biderman; Sanger Brothers, Texas State Historical Association, Handbook of Texas Online.]

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