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.