G. Fox & Co. Collection Highlights

In January, I began processing a collection of G. Fox & Co. materials, including both company records and family papers. It’s a rather large collection so once a week for the next several weeks, I’m going to be highlighting a different part. I’d like to begin this week, though, with a brief overview of the company and the Fox family, for those of you who may not know about this important part of Hartford’s and Connecticut’s history.

The story of G. Fox & Co. begins in 1847 with Gerson Fox, a German immigrant who established a two-room fancy goods store on Main Street in Hartford. The business was quite successful and, within a few years, it was necessary for the store to expand. By this time, Gerson’s son, Moses, had joined his father in the family business. In August of 1880, just months before the store was ready to expand into a four-story building on the east side of Main Street, Gerson Fox died and Moses assumed the presidency. Store expansion continued, however, and by 1915, G. Fox & Co. occupied five buildings. A terrible fire in 1917 could have spelled the end of the Hartford institution, but Moses was determined to rebuild. Despite the massive destruction it caused, the fire did have many positive outcomes. It not only resulted in a new, state-of-the-art building for G. Fox & Co., but also brought Moses Fox’s daughter, Beatrice, back to Hartford.

After her marriage, Beatrice Fox Auerbach had moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where her husband, George S. Auerbach, worked in his family’s department store, F. Auerbach & Brother. With the 1917 fire, however, Beatrice and her family returned to Hartford so that George could help his father-in-law to rebuild Fox’s. When George died in 1927, Beatrice began working alongside her father in the family business. In 1938, Moses Fox died and Beatrice assumed the presidency.

Beatrice’s presidency coincided with the heyday of the Hartford department store, the largest family-owned retail establishment in New England. In 1965, Beatrice sold G. Fox & Co. to the May Department Stores Co., but remained President until shortly before her death in November, 1968. In January of 1993, the May Department Stores closed the downtown location of G. Fox & Co. and renamed all branch stores Filene’s. In this way, the store’s 145 year reign came to an end. Today, the building that once housed this retail giant is occupied by Capital Community College.

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40 thoughts on “G. Fox & Co. Collection Highlights

  1. Does the name Seth Velsey appear in the G. Fox & Co. material recently acquired, or in the G. Fox oral history project?
    Thanks.

  2. Hi Ralph,
    Seth Velsey does not appear in the G. Fox oral history project, at least not on my list of people interviewed and I did not come across the name during my readings of the transcriptions. I also haven’t come across the name in any of the other G. Fox material. My email address is cynthia_harbeson[at]chs.org if you would like to discuss this matter with me further.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Cyndi

  3. Thanks for the comments, Danielle! Yes, Beatrice did have children. She had two daughters, Georgette and Dorothy. Georgette was born on May 14, 1916 when Beatrice and her husband, George Auerbach, were living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dorothy was born after their return to Hartford on October 14, 1919. Georgette and Dorothy each had six children and, from what I have gathered, Beatrice was quite the doting grandmother, known to her grandchildren as “Granny Bea.”

    As for your second question concerning the association of S. Lippman or someone by the name of Hallenbeck with G. Fox & Co. or the Auerbach family, I have been unable as of yet to find anyone by either name in our collection of materials. It is possible they were employees of the store, employees at the Auerbach home, or worked at Auerfarm. I will continue to pursue your question and if I find anything, I will post it in a comment.

    Again, thanks so much for commenting. If you have any other questions about the collection, please let me know, either through the blog or you can email me directly at cynthia_harbeson[at]chs.org.

    Thanks!

    Cyndi

  4. Is there any possibiity anyone would happen to have a picture of Beatrice F. Auerbach? I would like a picture of her for a school project. Or if anyone knows where I could find on-line that would equally be terrific.

  5. Hi, I have been trying to find out some info on a tonka semi truck that the company had commisioned in 1953. it may not have never been sold in the store just given to employees any info. Thanks Jim

  6. Hi Jim,
    Thank you for your comment. We have a tonka truck in our collections from G. Fox & Co., but it is the step van that was produced in 1954. The step van was produced for strictly in house use and probably less than 100 were made. It was presented to various employees, but never retailed. We do know that a tonka semi truck was also produced, but we don’t know whether it was marketed or just made for employees. If you are interested in finding out more information, I would be happy to look into the question further and see what else I can find out about the semi truck.

    Sincerely,
    Cyndi

  7. I have a Currier & Ives print, handed down in our family who come from Hartford (Comstock family). I’ve always been aware of the “G. Fox & Co., Hartford” sticker on the back (it’s framed) but it only now occurs to me to see what I can find out about it on the web. So, now I know what the G. Fox Co. is. Also on the back in pencil is “Comstock, ’71” and something like an inventroy number. The print is from 1869, so I’m guessing it would have been recent enough to be on sale in the Fox store in 1871 and that my grandparents bought it at that time.

  8. I heard from someone years ago that one of the first jobs that Ed Sullivan ever had
    was working at G. Fox & Company.

    Maybe the person was wrong.
    Maybe I heard wrong.

    Can you clarify.

  9. I have very fond memories of G. Fox & Company. My sister was employed there in the jewlery department. I had a friend who worked in the department that took payments and made change through a tubing device that was throughout the store. You would pay for your purchase, it would be put in a tube that went to a department in the lower floor of the store. The clerk in that department would make the change and send the tube back. I have a collection of old G. Fox hat boxes which I cherish. Christmas time was always special, the display in front above the entrance was spectacular in it’s day. Would you have any photos of that display? Thanks for all the information regarding G. Fox and family. It brings back great memories.

    • Ms. Marino,
      Thank you very much for sharing your memories with us. I love hearing about everyone’s memories of this special store.
      In answer to your question, we unfortunately have very few photos of Christmas at G. Fox and none of the marquee or outside displays.
      Many thanks for adding your comments to our site.

      Cyndi

  10. I am originally from New Britain, although I have lived in Florida since my teens. I have very fond memories of G. Fox – especially the restaurant that I believe was in the basement. Although I was a child, I can remember the smell of delicious coffee and the clatter of plates. There was a counter in addition to tables. My father as a teenager worked at Brown Thompson and I recall him telling me about the tubes that employees sent payments through.

    • Dear Ms. Kruger,
      Thank you so much for your comments. I’m so glad to hear that you have such strong memories of G. Fox & Co. even though you have been away from Connecticut for so long.

      Thanks very much for sharing your memories with us.

      Sincerely,
      Cyndi

    • The restaurant that you refer to in the basement, was actually the Heritage Room in Brown Thomson’s – I ate lunch there four out of five days a week when I worked at Fox’s.
      Tony Murtha

  11. Did Beatrice or any other family member collect fine or decorative arts? If so, are these purchases documented in the archive?

    • Hi Samantha,
      Thank you for your question. Beatrice Fox Auerbach probably did have some fine or decorative arts pieces at her home on 1040 Prospect Avenue, however, those items were not donated to the Connecticut Historical Society. Some of them may have been kept at the house when it was donated in the 1970s to the University of Hartford, in which case the art may have been auctioned off after the University sold the home several years later. Mrs. Auerbach also donated a large collection of books and other materials (including wedding dresses, I believe) to the Wadsworth Atheneum so you may want to check with them.

      The materials in the Connecticut Historical Society do not contain any references to purchases of fine or decorative arts, however.

      Again, thanks for the question. And thanks for visiting our blog!

      Regards,
      Cyndi

  12. I have a G. Fox medallion the size of a Manhole Cover that was made to celebrate 100 years. I know the Historical Society has one and there were for made.

    Can anyone tell me were they were displayed in the building and how much it will be worth today?

    • I worked at the store from 1965 to 1974 and often to forayed into areas most employees didn’t even know about. One of these areas was a storeroom above the credit/adjustment office where a veritable ton of old, old paper records were kept (many of these records come up on eBay from time to time as they were purchased at the auction when the building was sold). At the north end of this storage area was a small (4′ x 3′??) door. Beyond that door was the area directly above the Credit Office and in that area there were stored both all of the medallions you speak of and the old aluminum truck signs that had been placed above the windshields of all of the delivery trucks and had since been replaced by decals. There were two sizes of medallion: small (the 11 5/8″ Cyndi mentions) and large (perhaps half again as large. There were many more small than large and one had been hand-colored. Mr. Koopman (one of Mrs. A’s two sons-in-law) gave me permission to remove one of the small ones which I still have at home. These medallions were used during the 1947 centennial, but I also am unsure as to their placement. I also suspect they were place around the store. In all of my years combing through eBay, I have only seen one medallion come up for auction – I cannot recall the final price.
      Tony Murtha

  13. Dear Hinds,
    Thank you for your comment. The medallion we have is kept off-site so the information we have on it cannot be verified. According to our information, the medallion or plaque is 11 5/8 inches in diameter.

    Unfortunately, we do not know much about the item, including its use during the centennial celebration. My guess would be that they were displayed somewhere in the store, perhaps at the entrances.

    If you do find out more information about the medallion, we would love to know about it.

    As for its worth, it is our policy not to provide any kind of monetary appraisals on items, however, there are several appraisers in the area and I’m sure one of them would be happy to provide you with that sort of information. I would be happy to recommend the names of some appraisers if you are interested.

    Thanks again for the comment!

    Cyndi

  14. I recieved from my Father when he passed away a pair of scisors and a letter opener that dates back to 1968 i a nice pouch must haven to someone for their servive any comments would be app

    • Mr. Allen,
      It would appear that your father was a member of the Moses Fox Club, created to honor those employees with more than 25 years service. Each year there was a different gift. There should find your father’s initials and the date inscribed on one of the pieces. You have a wonderful memento of a great store!

  15. Cindi,

    Thanks for maintaining this blog regarding discoveries in the G. Fox archive. My memories of the store range from the Children’s department, the Toy department which I think was on the 11th floor (with a giant stuffed Giraffe) and Santa at Christmas) and “The Connecticut Room” display. I would love to know more about The Connecticut Room which was a very innovative way to market Colonial furniture. Thanks for your help.

    • Observation: The Connecticut Room has the formal restaurant on the second floor; the Connecticut House on the ninth floor is what you speak of.
      Tony Murtha

  16. I loved Fox’s (as we used to call it) – what a great store. I too have memorie of the 11th floor toy department and a giant stuffed Giraffe! As I grew older and became a hippie fashionista, I shopped in a section called “The Warehouse” – very groovy indeed.
    I bought a wine colored wool mini dress with little gold coins dangling from the sleeves and a Mickey Mouse T Shirt! -While The Beatles Abbey Road played over the sound system. Half the area was done in black-light – and gave everything an other-worldly glow.
    The clothes at that time were moderately expensive but well-made and of high quality materials. I just hate the paper thin throw away stuff being sold today – totally boring!!!!
    G. Fox meant quality and from an early age – G Fox taught me the difference.
    Thanks for this site! -and for remembering that Giraffe on the 11th floor.

  17. I have a tin milk can handed down from my grandmother(15″ high) with lid and handle and has a brass label that says G Fox& co Hartford. Any infomation on age,use and value would be very much appreciated.

  18. I have in my possesion a book produced by G. Fox in 1947 called “A Century in Connecticut” celabrating the state’s bicentenial. I am searching for the artist/illustrater’s name that did the pictures in that book. I have such fond memories of shopping with my mom at G. Fox. My father worked in the advetising dept. for a time in the 40’s and did some modeling for ads.

  19. My family was originally from New Haven,Ct. I have a card table from G. Fox (label underside still in place) which was given to me when my aunt died. It is still beautiful and is still used. I know my aunt received it in the 1930’s but would like to know more about the maker and design. Are there any pictures in your collections of furnitur.

    • Unfortunately, we do not have photographs of individual pieces of furniture, so I cannot tell you any more about the card table. As an aside, I recently purchased a pair of twin beds with G. Fox labels on them. Perhaps additional research in the archives here would help uncover who the supplier were for furniture and other items they sold.

  20. Hello, I have a kitchen table; that has a lable tacked under it saying
    “G. Fox & Co.
    1847 Hartfod”

    I was wondering if they placed this lable on all of their items at the store? Does this add value to my table set? Thanks,
    Kyle

  21. Hello im looking to purchase the Tonka g fox metro van or the tonka semi truck in any condition im a toy collector and would love to have one in my collection im from the area….thanks J

  22. I actually Believe posting, “G. Fox & Co. Collection Highlights Connecticut Historical Society Manuscripts Blog” ended up being really
    good! Icould not agree along with you even more!

    At last seems like Iidentified a blog website worthy of checking out.

    Regards, Lona

    • I purchased a kitchen table with 2 chairs and a matching smaller table from an estate sale in New Britain. They have the G. Fox & Co lable underneath.I wonder what the smaller table was used for? Where can I find more information on them?

      • Good question. I would think a search of the Hartford Courant for ads from G. Fox might be your best bet. A picture of the set might put it into context better. All I could offer would be a “best guess” about the smaller table’s purpose.

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