Welcome to G. Fox & Co.

G. Fox & Co. building

G. Fox & Co. building,
956 Main Street, Hartford.
 
Lindsay Studios, Inc., ca. 1940.
CHS 1949.11.0.

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.

The Fox Philosophy

Once Upon a Time booklet

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.
 
CHS 99795.

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:

  1. The customer is always right.
  2. If you can get it anywhere, you can get it at G. Fox & Co.
  3. If G. Fox says it's so, it must be so.
  4. 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.

Information desk in the interior of the G. Fox store

Interior of G. Fox & Co. store, with escalators and information clerk.
 
Roger Dollarhide, ca. 1945.
CHS 1993.170.x.

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.

The Rise and Fall of the Department Store

Newspaper advertisement for I. & G. Fox

Late and Important News FOR THE LADIES! The first newspaper advertisement for I. & G. Fox fancy goods store.
 
The Hartford Times, April 29, 1847.
CHS collections.

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 store showing a display counter

Interior of G. Fox & Co.
 
Unknown photographer, ca. 1918.
CHS 2007.24.82.16.

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 parking garage

Aerial view of the G. Fox & Co. parking garage with free parking for customers.
 
Charles J. Sullivan, 1953.
CHS 2007.24.83.86.

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's first outlet store

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.
CHS 2007.24.379.

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.

Important Dates in G. Fox & Co. History

1811Gerson Fox born in Germany
1830sGerson Fox immigrates to the United States
1847Gerson Fox founds I. & G. Fox fancy goods store with his brother, Isaac Fox, at 126½ Main Street in Hartford
1848Isaac Fox moves to New York
 
Store is renamed G. Fox & Co.
1850Moses Fox born in Hartford
1880Gerson 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
1887Beatrice Fox born in Hartford
1911Beatrice Fox marries George S. Auerbach and moves to Salt Lake City, Utah
1917G. 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
1918G. Fox & Co. opens a new eleven-story, fireproof building at 956-986 Main Street, designed by Cass Gilbert
1920G. Fox & Co. incorporates
1927George Auerbach dies
 
Beatrice Fox Auerbach joins G. Fox & Co. as secretary, later moving to the role of vice-president
1938Moses Fox dies
 
Beatrice Fox Auerbach becomes president of G. Fox & Co.
1939Beatrice Fox Auerbach forms the Moses Fox Club honoring long-time employees
1947G. Fox & Co. celebrates its centennial
1965May Department Stores Co. buys G. Fox & Co.
 
Beatrice Fox Auerbach joins the May Co. board
1968Beatrice Fox Auerbach dies
1969May Co. opens the first G. Fox & Co. branch store location in Waterbury, Connecticut
1972Distribution warehouse for G. Fox & Co. opens in South Windsor
1991G. Fox & Co. opens the last of its fourteen branch store locations
1993Downtown Hartford location of G. Fox & Co. closes
 
Branch stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York become Filene's department stores
2003Renovated G. Fox & Co. building at 950 Main Street, Hartford reopens to house Capital Community College