Select Sachs Miscellany

Here are some Sachs stories and accounts over the years:

Sachs Coming to America

Most Sachs coming to America came from German speaking lands.  The table below shows the numbers that were recorded.

Per cent
From German-speaking lands *
From Russian lands
From Poland
* Listed as Germany, Prussia, Bavaria and Hesse.

Saks 34th Street and Saks Fifth Avenue

Andrew Saks, a native of Baltimore, opened his first shop in Washington DC in 1867 and built an operation that spread to other cities.  In the 1890's he came to New York to investigate opening a store there.  At that time the principal shopping district was below 23rd Street, with the most elite stores on Broadway and the middle-market stores on Sixth Avenue.

It was fairly clear that high-end stores would move north on Fifth Avenue and the natural conclusion was that the middle-market stores would gradually migrate up Sixth Avenue.  Macy's acted on this premise in 1901 when it announced its store at the northwest corner of 34th Street and Broadway at Herald Square. Andrew Saks followed later in 1901 just to the south on Broadway and Sixth Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Streets.

The construction of Pennsylvania Station in 1910 confirmed Herald Square's status as mass not class.  After Andrew Saks died in 1912, his son Horace took over and responded to a different vision.  Swank shops had continued to move up Fifth Avenue, but Sixth Avenue - in the perpetual shadow of the Sixth Avenue El - had effectively reached a standstill on 34th Street.

To raise cash to build a new store between 49th and 50th Street on Fifth Avenue, Horace Saks sold the entire company to his competitor, Bernard F. Gimbel.  The result was Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks' operation but Gimbel's money.  Instead of closing the old Saks, Gimbels restyled it "Saks - 34th Street" and built a second-floor bridge connecting the two buildings.  Although now jointly owned, the two stores operated as separate businesses.

What began in 1924 as a gap between Saks 34th Street and Saks Fifth Avenue eventually became a gulch. In 1938 Fortune described Saks Fifth Avenue's merchandise and clientele as completely unlike "the anthill bargain basement tables on Herald Square."

Solomon Sachs in New York

Solomon Sachs arrived in New York from Russia in 1906 at the age of 24.  He operated in Manhattan a business called "Sol's Belts."  In 1909 he married Ida Miller who had been born in Manhattan of Russian immigrants and they had a son named Aaron who became a doctor in Brooklyn.   Sadly, in 1914 at the age of just 32, Solomon died of tubercolosis. 

Solly and Albie Sachs

Albie Sachs was born into a fervently political Jewish family.  His father Solly was a renowned trade unionist who fought against racism in South Africa.  I had a father who was in the news a lot.  My emotions were mixed. It was mainly pride," Albie said. 

Solly, who had separated from his wife when Albie was young, was fairly remote.  "In many ways he was the guy behind the newspaper I saw the top of his head sticking out and his knees underneath." 

During the second world war, Sachs received a postcard from his father: "'Dear Albert, congratulations on your sixth birthday.  May you grow up to be a soldier in the fight for liberation.' Now that's fantastic.  But it's heavy. 

While Solly made his home in Johannesburg, Albie and his mother lived in Cape Town where his mother was secretary to Moses Kotane, the leader of the Communist Party and the ANC.  Unlike any white South Africans of his generation, Albie Sachs grew up seeing black and white adults interact as equals.  Later Albie became like his father a fervent campaigner against apartheid.

Marilyn Sachs' Childhood

Marilyn Sachs, the author of more than thirty books for children and young adults, helped launch the trend of realistic fiction for young readers with her first book, Amy Moves In, in 1964.

Her own childhood provided the framework for many of her stories.  Born in New York City, she grew up in an apartment on Jennings Street in the east Bronx.  Sachs once recalled that although the street had no trees, flowers or birds, it did have plenty of children.  Because there was not much traffic on Jennings Street, neighborhood children would gather to play outdoor games.  Although most families that lived on the street - including Sachs' own - were poor, the author remembered this time of her life fondly and has documented it in her books.

As she once remarked: "Amy Moves In, my first book, probably comes closer to describing my life on Jennings Street than any of my other books."

Mary Sachs in Harrisburg

In 2007 the Dauphin County Historical Society hosted an exhibit dedicated to one of Harrisburg's most famous 20th century community members, Mary Sachs, the Epitome of Style and Substance.

The exhibit featured select Mary Sachs clothing and accessories donated or loaned to the Society by local residents who never forgot the uniqueness of the Mary Sachs retailing experience.  Also on display was a large-scale photograph reproduction of the Mary Sachs Harrisburg storefront as it existed after World War II, as well as photographs documenting her lifelong commitment to family and community.

Mary Sachs was a Russian-born immigrant who was only four years old when she came to America in 1892. She began developing her knack for the retail trade at Kaufman's department store on Harrisburg's Market Square.  In 1918 Mary Sachs was introduced to Harry Lowengard.  He loaned her seed money and rented to her the first floor of his building so that she could open her own clothing store.  The store opened in September 1918.  With sales of over $200,000 in its first year, the shop quickly became one of Harrisburg's premier retail locations.

Mary Sachs died on June 24, 1960 at the age of 72.  On the following day, the Mary Sachs Shop and the 212 Mans Shop closed in observance of her death.  An advertisement read: "It is with profound sorrow that we make known the passing of our beloved founder Mary Sachs."

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