Thanksgiving at Fox’s

Thanksgiving is generally a time for reflecting, with a sense of gratefulness, upon the good in life. For Beatrice Fox Auerbach, Thanksgiving was often a time to express her appreciation to her staff for their loyalty and hard work throughout the year. One example of this expression is seen in an issue of the employee newsletterGo-Getter, November 22, 1960, the Go-Getter, and exemplifies generosity of spirit that came to characterize Beatrice Fox Auerbach.

Although the year was “marked by increased expenses of operation and customer services with narrowed rewards,” the decrease in profits did not prevent Beatrice Fox Auerbach from bestowing upon her employees a generous end-of-year bonus. She indicated that the company, through her, still “wishes to express tangible recognition of [her employees’] devoted work.”

In keeping with her father’s long-standing tradition of providing exceedingly generous yearly bonuses, the 1960 was no exception. This year, Beatrice Fox Auerbach awarded all employees who worked at least 20 hours a week for the past five years or more, “a sum equivalent to such person’s salary for two full weeks.” Those individuals who had been with the company for between five years and three years were given “a sum equivalent to such person’s salary for one and one-half weeks.” One week’s salary was given to those employees who had been with the store between three years and one year and those employees who had worked there for at least six months were given a half and week’s salary. But Mrs. Auerbach didn’t forget those employees who had been at Fox’s for less than six months; they were given the sum of $7.50.

Bonuses were one expression of Beatrice Fox Auerbach’s generosity to her employees, but there were certainly many others, including her establishment of the Theresa Stern Fox Fund, which provided interest-free loans to her employees during times of crisis. More examples can be found among the many materials in the collection and I urge anyone who’s interested to come and check it out for themselves. To conclude this week’s entry, I’d just like to say, in the words of Beatrice Fox Auerbach, “my warmest Thanksgiving wishes to you and your family, as you celebrate the holiday together.”

The “Scary” Side of the Store

Happy Halloween, everybody! G. Fox Building “at Halloween”It looks like the G. Fox building once had a few bats in its belfry! (Not really, of course! Mrs. Auerbach wouldn’t stand for it!)

Since there really isn’t anything Halloween-related in the G. Fox & Co. materials in our collection, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about the aspect of this collection that really “scares” me off. There’s really nothing scary about these materials; it’s just that in the diverse range of items that form this collection, these documents are not among my favorites. That’s not to say that some of you might not find them irresistible, however! Just what are these items I have heretofore been somewhat afraid to talk about? Legal documents.

The majority of legal documents in the collection were created by Moses Fox. Some of the more interesting ones concern the agreement between him and his sister, Emma Fox Plaut, and sister-in-law, Sadie Fox, regarding the transfer of ownership of the store over to him. After his death, Gerson Fox had left shares of the store to each of his children, but by 1917, Moses Fox was the sole owner of the company. There are also materials relating to Moses Fox’s purchase of the Brown Thomson & Co., a store he (and later his daughter, Beatrice) continued to operate independently of his own department store.

While many of the legal materials help to document aspects of the company, a few of them are just downright bizarre. The ones I am specifically referring to are the patent assignments that Moses Fox had in his possession. What makes them so odd is that none of them are made out to Moses Fox himself, or anyone else in the Fox family. In fact, some of these patent assignments concern individuals from New Jersey and New York while others concern the Smyth Manufacturing Company of Hartford. Perhaps Moses Fox was involved in some way with the Smyth Manufacturing Company, but I have yet to find a connection.

I am sure a researcher will come in one day and be able to uncover all their hidden secrets, but I’m afraid these documents will just have to wait until such a person arrives because all their legalese leaves me with a slight case of the shivers.

Moses Fox’s Household Expenses

Beatrice Fox Auerbach’s father, Moses Fox, became president of G. Fox & Co. upon the death of his father, Gerson Fox. Like his father before him, Moses Fox was a pillar in the Hartford community. Very few materials concerning his private life have made it into our collection, probably because he was an extremely private man who shunned all personal publicity. We do, however, have some of his financial papers detailing his household expenses between 1928 and 1937 for his home on 1040 Prospect Ave in Hartford. These expense lists offer an interesting look into the private life of a man who was at once both well-known and not known.

The household expense lists do not cover the entire period between 1928 and 1937, but do offer fragments of his financial life. Moses was somewhat meticulous with his finances. He always itemizes his expenses by month, totals each month, and then provides totals for a set number of months. At the end of the list, under the total house expense for the given months, is a listing for what half the total expenses would be. I believe he does this because he and his wife, Theresa, shared their home with Beatrice and her daughters during this time period and Beatrice would have contributed the other half of the household expenses.

A typical month in 1935 finds the household expenses totaling about $1500. Of that, about $415 a month (sometimes slightly more) is spent on domestic help and there is almost always a line item of miscellaneous totaling exactly $400. Other expenses include repairs, which are often further broken down by the type of repair like plumbing, chimney cleaning, or awnings, garden & lawn, laundry, and other usual expenses like electricity, gas, telephone, and groceries. While it may be typical of the time, I thought it was interesting that “milk” was listed separately from “groceries” and often exceeded $50 a month.

I wonder how future researchers will use these lists and if the kind and amount of expenses will tell us anything about how the Fox family was affected by the Great Depression. I find them very interesting, as well as a wonderful source of information, and sincerely hope that other people will also be interested in them. Feel free to stop by the CHS and check them out!