G. Fox & Co. building,
956 Main Street, Hartford.
Lindsay Studios, Inc., ca. 1940.
Once America's largest privately-owned department store, G. Fox & Co. operated in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, from 1847 until 1993. A key component of the store's success was the leadership of the Fox family and its commitment to both customers and employees. By exploring this site, you will get a sense of the company and what it was like to work and shop in the store, as well as a look at the family behind the store. Be sure to visit the section The Collections at the Connecticut Historical Society to find out how you can learn more. You can also share your own memories of the store.
Once Upon a Time. Booklet describing how Beatrice Fox Auerbach became president of G. Fox & Co., presented to her by G. Fox employees in honor of her birthday in 1945.
In 1847, Gerson Fox established a
fancy goods store on Main Street in Hartford. From its beginning, G. Fox & Co. operated according to four principles, each of which stressed the importance of customer service:
- The customer is always right.
- If you can get it anywhere, you can get it at G. Fox & Co.
- If G. Fox says it's so, it must be so.
- G. Fox & Co. is never knowingly undersold.
Upon his passing, Gerson Fox's philosophy was kept alive by his son, Moses Fox, and later by his granddaughter, Beatrice Fox Auerbach; each of them led the store to periods of greater growth and prosperity.
Interior of G. Fox & Co. store, with escalators and information clerk.
Roger Dollarhide, ca. 1945.
Under the leadership of Moses Fox and Beatrice Fox Auerbach, these principles became more than a philosophy; they were the foundation for all company policies. In the employee training manual, for example, sales clerks were reminded,
state clearly what the merchandise will or will not do; never exaggerate. It is better to lose a sale than a customer's good-will.
Late and Important News FOR THE LADIES! The first newspaper advertisement for I. & G. Fox fancy goods store.
The Hartford Times, April 29, 1847.
The rise of G. Fox & Co. in Hartford to a place of retail dominance mirrors the pre-eminence of department stores in cities nationwide. The term 'department store' denotes a specific type of store in which different merchandise was divided into departments such as millinery (hats), dress making, books and stationery, shoes, crockery and glassware, and gentlemen's clothing. Like most other early department stores, G. Fox & Co. was a family-owned and operated enterprise whose founder, like many owners of the most prominent stores, was of German-Jewish origin.
Interior of G. Fox & Co.
Unknown photographer, ca. 1918.
Most department stores developed out of established dry goods stores, which sold mostly fabrics, or from fancy goods stores, like G. Fox & Co., which sold notions (small articles such as buttons, ribbon, or thread). Store owners in the 1860s and 1870s recognized the economic value in expanding their stores' offerings, and by about 1880, the golden age of department stores had begun. From 1880 to 1920, department stores experienced a period of intense growth and nearly constant expansion, as nationwide sales of consumer goods skyrocketed and Americans increasingly moved to urban centers. During the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, department stores were the nation's leading retailers.
Aerial view of the G. Fox & Co. parking garage with free parking for customers.
Charles J. Sullivan, 1953.
From the 1920s to the 1960s, department stores exerted their greatest influence over American society. Stores began paying greater attention to their public image by increasing employee wages, improving merchandise, and upgrading facilities. These establishments were more than places to purchase household goods and clothes; they came to define the middle-class lifestyle in material terms. Department stores had an influential role in the establishment of the ever-changing modern consumer culture and in the development of many marketing and promotional professions such as advertising and display.
Foxmart, G. Fox & Co.'s first outlet store, sold farm machinery and power equipment in South Windsor between 1947 and 1951.
Unknown photographer, ca. 1950.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the proliferation of discount stores and population migration to suburban areas forced many department stores to open branch locations. G. Fox & Co. did not begin opening branches until the late 1960s, but ultimately had thirteen branch locations throughout Connecticut and in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. Downtown stores experienced a period of sharp decline after 1970 as customers preferred to stay closer to the suburbs and began to only shop in suburban branches or at large chain and discount stores. While most downtown department stores have long since closed, their buildings remain a vibrant part of city life as homes to museums, residential lofts, or, as in Hartford, college campuses.
|1811||Gerson Fox born in Germany|
|1830s||Gerson Fox immigrates to the United States|
|1847||Gerson Fox founds I. & G. Fox fancy goods store with his brother, Isaac Fox, at 126½ Main Street in Hartford|
|1848||Isaac Fox moves to New York|
Store is renamed G. Fox & Co.
|1850||Moses Fox born in Hartford|
|1880||Gerson Fox dies|
Moses Fox becomes president of G. Fox & Co.
G. Fox & Co. relocates to a four-story building at 406-410 Main Street in Hartford
|1887||Beatrice Fox born in Hartford|
|1911||Beatrice Fox marries George S. Auerbach and moves to Salt Lake City, Utah|
|1917||G. Fox & Co. building is destroyed by fire|
George and Beatrice Fox Auerbach return to Hartford from Salt Lake City, Utah
George Auerbach joins the firm as secretary
|1918||G. Fox & Co. opens a new eleven-story, fireproof building at 956-986 Main Street, designed by Cass Gilbert|
|1920||G. Fox & Co. incorporates|
|1927||George Auerbach dies|
Beatrice Fox Auerbach joins G. Fox & Co. as secretary, later moving to the role of vice-president
|1938||Moses Fox dies|
Beatrice Fox Auerbach becomes president of G. Fox & Co.
|1939||Beatrice Fox Auerbach forms the |
Moses Fox Clubhonoring long-time employees
|1947||G. Fox & Co. celebrates its centennial|
|1965||May Department Stores Co. buys G. Fox & Co.|
Beatrice Fox Auerbach joins the May Co. board
|1968||Beatrice Fox Auerbach dies|
|1969||May Co. opens the first G. Fox & Co. branch store location in Waterbury, Connecticut|
|1972||Distribution warehouse for G. Fox & Co. opens in South Windsor|
|1991||G. Fox & Co. opens the last of its fourteen branch store locations|
|1993||Downtown Hartford location of G. Fox & Co. closes|
Branch stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York become Filene's department stores
|2003||Renovated G. Fox & Co. building at 950 Main Street, Hartford reopens to house Capital Community College|