William Thalhimer (1809-1883)

Wolff Thalheimer, later known as William Thalhimer, opened a one-room dry goods store in Richmond, Virginia, in 1842. By the time of his death at age seventy-three, Thalhimer had survived bankruptcy to establish a family-owned business that would remain in operation for the next 150 years, managed almost exclusively by family.

Updated: July 21, 2014

Introduction

Wolff Thalheimer, later known as William Thalhimer (born July 26,1809, in Thairenbach, Grand Duchy of Baden; died March 24, 1883, in Richmond, Virginia), opened a one-room dry goods store in Richmond, Virginia, in 1842. By the time of his death at age seventy-three, Thalhimer had survived bankruptcy to establish a family-owned business that would remain in operation for the next 150 years, managed almost exclusively by family. When Thalhimers rang up its last sale in 1992, it was no longer a single store but instead a chain of some twenty-six stores throughout the American Southeast. The Thalhimer family name would leave its mark on the retail landscape of Richmond as well as on the city’s religious and civic life. Two of Thalhimer’s descendants in particular are widely regarded for both their retail leadership and for the critical roles they played in human rights efforts. Grandson William B. Thalhimer Sr. (1888-1969) helmed Thalhimers at the same time that he was also busy working behind the scenes to rescue a group of young German Jews from the Holocaust. Great-grandson William B. Thalhimer Jr. (1914-2005) was recognized locally by black leaders and nationally by President John F. Kennedy for helping advance the cause of civil rights at a time when to do so was quite unpopular in the South. In all, William Thalhimer and his descendants left a lasting economic, cultural, and humanitarian legacy in Richmond and throughout the American Southeast.

While the story of the early department store merchants has been preserved through a number of general books on retail history, a few authors have taken the steps to preserve and research their family's personal and retail history in greater detail. Such books are an invaluable contribution to retail history since they present information, as well as a viewpoint, not available to the public. Stanley Marcus wrote about his family’s Neiman Marcus stores in the 1974 book Minding the Store. Hans J. Sternberg wrote about his family’s Goudchaux’s and Maison Blanche stores in the 2009 book We Were Merchants. Those interested in the history of Thalhimers can thank Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the founder, who penned the definitive volume on this store’s history, Finding Thalhimers, in 2010. Smartt wrote her master’s thesis on the store’s history and turned it into a book, and her research was a critical reference in compiling this essay.

Family and Ethnic Background

Wolff Thalheimer was born to Goëtz Thalheimer, a Jewish peddler of wax and honey, and his wife, Malke, in Thairenbach, a small village near Heidelberg in the rural Grand Duchy of Baden, on July 26, 1809. The Thalheimers already had five daughters when Wolff was born. A seventh child, a daughter named Gütel, later joined the family as well.[1]

At the time of his birth, Baden had a majority Catholic population, but also contained a substantial number of Protestants and a small Jewish minority (approximately one to two percent of the population) that tended to be concentrated in rural, agricultural villages in the southern part of the country.[2] In 1781, liberal ruler Karl Friedrich had issued an Edict of Toleration that permitted Jews in Baden to establish schools, attend universities, and engage in business dealings with non-Jews. The Edict gave Jews in Baden civil rights equivalent to those possessed by Christians, but not citizenship. Public pressure on Jews to acquire trade skills and basic German-language education led to the growth of Jewish primary and secondary schools throughout the country in the early decades of the nineteenth century. While the Christian majority sought to normalize the civil status of Jews within the society of Baden, Jews continued to face legal discrimination and were subject to a variety of special taxes, property ownership prohibitions, and commercial restrictions.[3]

At age six, Wolff Thalheimer attended school at the local synagogue in Thairenbach, and a teacher impressed with his “sharp mind and perseverance” suggested that his parents send him away for higher education. He attended a Protestant normal school in Karlsruhe, the capital of Baden and a major center of Jewish settlement, and after two years graduated with a teaching certificate. During his free time, Wolff earned extra income working in a store and acquired skills that he later put to good use in the United States. After he earned his teaching certificate, Wolff was accepted to a Protestant teachers’ training college, where he was pleased to hear of their plans to build a Jewish seminary. However, the teachers’ training college did not open the Jewish seminary after the Grand Duchy of Baden vetoed the plan for fear that such a school would draw too many Jews to the area. Since his teaching certificate qualified him to teach only fellow Jews under the laws of Baden, twenty-one-year-old Thalheimer went to Feudenheim, a community near Mannheim, and obtained a job teaching at its sole Jewish school. There, he experienced little support for his career or for the school.[4]

Thalheimer’s mother, Malke, died in 1839, and by the summer of 1840 Thalheimer had decided to immigrate to America in search of new opportunities.[5] Sailing from Le Havre, France, with his pregnant sister, Gütel, and her boyfriend, Abram Schmidt,[6] Thalheimer boarded the ship Lorena in August 1840 and arrived in New Orleans six weeks later.[7] There the three adopted anglicized versions of their names: Wolff became William Thalheimer, Gütel became Henrietta Thalheimer, and Abram became Abraham Smith.[8] New Orleans was an important transshipment point for German immigrants. Some stayed in the city but most – like the Thalheimers and Schmidt – transferred to steamboats and continued up the Mississippi River system to Midwestern towns such as St. Louis and Cincinnati. The Thalheimers arrived in New Orleans at the beginning of a major peak in German immigration through (and sometimes to) the port city. During the 1840s, approximately two thousand to four thousand Germans per year passed through New Orleans and the yearly rate peaked at approximately thirty-five thousand in 1853 before declining as new railroad lines linked East Coast ports with the Midwest, which led many shipping firms to redirect traffic away from the southern port.[9]

Business Development

According to company and family lore, it was something of a fluke that Thalheimer ended up in Richmond. Thalheimer and three other future merchants left New Orleans intending to travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but because of their “broken English” they ended up in the similar-sounding town of Petersburg, Virginia, some twenty-three miles south of Richmond.[10]

Eventually Thalheimer made his way north to Richmond, which was an area known for its population of German Jews. Richmond would prove to be a good fit for Thalheimer. According to an early history of the city, in 1790 there were 171 white males over the age of twenty-one living in Richmond. Since twenty-nine of these men were Jewish, “they formed at least one-sixth of the population. A rather heavy proportion that. Not only was the Jewish community of Richmond large in numbers, but in energy and intellect it ranked with the best.”[11] As with many Jewish entrepreneurs of the era, Thalheimer began his business career by selling his wares from a horse-drawn cart.[12] It was by peddling his goods that Thalheimer was able to learn English and save enough money to start his own “brick and mortar” business.[13]

In 1842, Thalheimer paid ten dollars for a business license (approximately $285 in 2011$) and opened a small dry goods store.[14] While the term “dry goods store” is rarely used today, one department store historian has noted, “Dry goods stores take their name from shops run by New England merchants, many of whom were shipowners and direct importers in colonial times. Their two chief imports were rum and bolts of calico, which were traditionally carried on opposite sides of the store — a ‘wet goods’ side containing the rum and a ‘dry goods’ side holding the calico. ‘Wet goods’ disappeared from the language, though the taste for same certainly didn’t abate, but stores that sell piece goods, and even some small town department stores, are still occasionally called dry goods stores.”[15]

Thalheimer was certainly not alone in his desire to open a dry goods store. Numerous immigrants pursued the retail trade after they arrived in the U.S. In 1842, Bavarian immigrant Adam Gimbel opened a trading post in Indiana that would eventually become a chain including the famous Gimbels stores of Milwaukee and New York.[16] Simon Lazarus, an immigrant from the German lands, founded F. & R. Lazarus & Company in Columbus, Ohio, in 1851. Lazarus also served as the first rabbi of Temple Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in Columbus.[17] As a young boy, Morris Rich of Hungary joined his brother on a ship bound for New York, and in 1867 he founded Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta, Georgia.[18] Similarly, the German-Jewish immigrant Isidore Newman went to New Orleans in 1853 and founded the Maison Blanche Department Store there in 1897.[19]

In 1845, Thalheimer invited Abraham Smith, who had by this time married Henrietta and was now his brother-in-law, to join him in the dry goods business. The two applied jointly for a license for a store at 11 East Main Street in Richmond, although a year later Abraham left the partnership to start his own business.[20]

Like Thalheimer and his family, most Jews in Richmond participated in the retail trade before the Civil War. In 1845, Jews comprised twenty-five percent of the city’s retail merchants. By 1855, the Richmond city directory would list more than one hundred Jewish retailers.[21]

According to family legend, a simple misspelling is the reason “Thalheimer” became “Thalhimer.” One day William, who still spelled his name “Thalheimer” at the time, hired a man to paint a sign outside the store. “Unfamiliar with the German name Thalheimer, the painter misspelled it by eliminating the first, silent ‘e.’ William began to argue with the painter, a much larger man than he, over the cost of repainting the sign. Finally, lacking enough money to repaint the sign and fearing a bigger fight, he decided to change the spelling of his name instead. That was the day he became William Thalhimer.”[22]

The year 1845 was important in Thalhimer’s life because in this year the thirty-six-year-old businessman wed twenty-eight-year-old Mary Millhiser (originally Mühlhäuser, 1817-1876), who was herself a German-Jewish immigrant from the Kingdom of Bavaria and member of a Richmond family of merchants.[23] Following the marriage, Thalhimer was able to return to teaching in addition to shopkeeping, “as his young bride, displaying both a remarkable talent for retailing and an astute business acumen, handled the buying and selling in the store.”[24] In a move that would characterize the Thalhimers’ retail strategy throughout their lives, and those of subsequent generations, the couple stocked and sold goods to “humble farm workers with little spending money.” The newlyweds “worked tirelessly selling shirts, underwear, stockings, socks, neckwear, scarves, suspenders, and straw hats, learning English one customer at a time.”[25]

William and Mary Thalhimer soon started a family and eventually had five sons — Gustavus, Charles, Jacob, Isaac, and Moses — and two daughters, Amelia and Bettie.

The family lived above the business, and when son Gustavus was a toddler he visited the eighteen-by-sixty-foot store and “watched his father cut denim for jumpers and overalls while his mother greeted customers by name, showing them to the fabrics and notions they sought. The Thalhimers often worked twelve and thirteen-hour workdays, staying as late into the evening as customers desired to shop.”[26] Attention to personal service and customer satisfaction were important features of the early department stores.

Wanting his children to have the same educational opportunities that he had been afforded in Baden, Thalhimer enrolled his children in Temple Beth Ahabah. Founded in 1846, this was the first Jewish school in Richmond.[27]

Thalhimer and his family were also known for their participation in the German-Jewish cultural life of Richmond. In 1852, William Thalhimer was one of the managers for the city’s annual Hebrew Ball.[28] In 1872, Isaac became the secretary of the Richmond Junior Literary Society.[29] When the Mercantile Club was founded in 1872, Gustavus Thalhimer served as secretary and treasurer.[30] He also served as a Sunday school teacher at Beth Shalome.[31] In 1879, Charles Thalhimer served on the committee to raise funds for a larger house of worship for Temple Beth Ahabah.[32] The funds were successfully raised, and in 1880 William Thalhimer acted as reader at the dedication of the new synagogue.[33] In 1905, Charles was a trustee for the congregation.[34] Florence Thalhimer, Isaac’s daughter, was one of the forty-one founding members of the Richmond Section, Council of Jewish Women when it formed in 1905 and served as the organization’s first vice president.[35]

Like many of his peers, William Thalhimer was a slave owner, yet he was criticized publicly for showing kindness to a house slave whose infants died during the winter by letting them be buried temporarily on his property. The Daily Dispatch of July 19, 1854, under the heading “STRANGE AFFAIR,” noted that Thalhimer had been summoned before the mayor to be fined for allowing two bodies to be buried at his home, an action that was in violation of a city ordinance. “The evidence proved,” according to the newspaper account, “that in February last, a servant woman belonging to the accused lost two infants, which were buried in her master’s back-yard. Officer Tyler, on examining the premises Monday afternoon, found a part of two human skulls, three leg bones, and one or two rib bones, which had been buried in the yard. Thalheimer did not pretend to deny that the negro children had been interred in his back-yard, but stated that at the time of their burial the ground was covered with snow, and that the husband of his negro womon (sic) deposited them there, to be removed when the weather moderated; and he thought they had been taken away.” The following day the paper reported that Thalhimer was fined ten dollars and costs (approximately $276 in 2011$) for having permitted the burial of the black children. “The yard in which these bodies were deposited is probably not more than thirty feet square and being in a thickly settled neighborhood, it is a little astonishing that Mr. T. should have permitted such an outrage against public propriety to occur upon his premises,” the paper reported.[36]

Thalhimer’s Jewish faith played an important role in his life in the United States, much as it had done in the German lands. Once established in business, he became known not only as a merchant but also as a Jewish leader in the community, even serving a year in the pulpit of Sephardic congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome while the congregation searched for an official leader. Thalhimer was thanked for his service with the gift of a sterling silver Kiddush cup, which he prized.[37] The K. K. Beth Shalome congregation would eventually merge with offshoot Ashkenazic Reform Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond.[38] William and Mary Thalhimer’s family members have a long history of service to Congregation Beth Ahabah, and presidents of the congregation have included Moses Millhiser, Mary’s brother (1867-1898); Isaac Thalhimer, their son (1923-1931); Charles Millhiser II, Mary’s nephew (1950-1953); and William B. Thalhimer Jr., their great-grandson (1955-1958).[39]

Like many southern merchants, Thalhimer found it difficult to stay in business during the Civil War. The North’s naval blockade of southern ports meant shortages of goods in the South, which resulted in bare shelves for Thalhimer and his fellow merchants. “The northern blockade provided a major obstacle for merchants, but William somehow found ways around it. In August 1862, he took out an ad in the Richmond Times boasting, ‘New goods run the blockade!’ allowing his shoppers to find ‘much-desired goods’ at his store.”[40] The war also affected the family on a more personal level, as one of William’s sons fought with the Confederate Army. Gustavus Thalhimer “entered the Confederate service when sixteen years of age (and) was with McAnerny’s Battalion,” a local Virginia infantry regiment consisting of clerks from the Confederate government and youth under eighteen.[41] He may have participated in a number of military engagements involving the defense of Richmond from northern raids in 1864 and 1865. Fortunately, Gustavus survived his tour of duty .

Another member of Thalhimer’s family, nephew Wilhelm Flegenheimer of Baden, played a noteworthy role in the Civil War as well. Flegenheimer arrived at Thalhimer’s home in Richmond in 1851, and “became a graphic artist and calligrapher. His most famous work was the secession declaration of the state of Virginia.” [42]

Thalhimer’s store in the Shockoe Slip commercial district was damaged in the Great Conflagration of April 1865, in which Confederate soldiers evacuating Richmond set fire to tobacco warehouses along the James River waterfront, with the fire spreading and destroying much of the commercial district. Because funds were scarce in the South at that time, Thalhimer got in touch with friends in New York and obtained a loan to help him rebuild. The loan enabled the business to survive. Less than a month later, Thalhimer had relocated his store north to 231 Broad Street and he continued to shift the location eastward along Broad Street over the next two decades. In 1870, a newspaper advertisement noted the store’s address as 315 Broad Street and a year later another advertisement indicated that he had moved the business to 601 East Broad Street, the heart of a growing retail district just blocks from the Virginia State Capitol. By 1875, Thalhimer seems to have relocated the store to 501 East Broad Street, though it would eventually return to the 601 East Broad Street location in the 1920s. The relocation of the store to Broad Street on the bluffs above the James River kept Thalhimer’s business out of the Shockoe Slip flood zone.[43] However, the firm’s troubles weren’t over, and problems with creditors would threaten to destroy Thalhimer’s business venture.

The April 11, 1873, edition of the Daily State Journal carried a notice that William Thalhimer & Sons had been “adjudged bankrupts [sic.] on the petition of their creditors” by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The firm was forbidden to transfer or sell any property prior to a meeting of creditors in May 1873.[44] No additional information appeared in the press on the matter until January 1874, when the Daily State Journal reported that Thalhimer and his son Charles had been named in a bankruptcy listing “in the matter of Paton & Co., vs. William Thalhimer and Charles Thalhimer individually and of the firm of William Thalhimer & Sons.”[45] The store owners “owed Paton one thousand thirty-nine dollars and ninety-six cents [approximately $21,000 in 2011$] and were unable to repay it.”[46] The founder’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, who wrote her Master’s thesis on the family business, said in a 2010 magazine interview that this bankruptcy “was not a story that was passed down (in the family). I didn’t realize there had been any failure.”[47] The bankruptcy predated the 1873 financial panic that began in September when banking house Jay Cooke & Company failed, so the panic itself was not the cause of Thalhimer’s crisis. It’s possible that the slowing retail economy prior to the panic, or perhaps a bad business decision on the part of William Thalhimer or his son Charles, may have been to blame for the bankruptcy.

Thalhimer managed to recover from the bankruptcy, partly because his fellow businessman and brother-in-law, Moses Millhiser, bought his stock and enabled Thalhimer to restore his business and pay his creditors.[48] When his wife, Mary Thalhimer, died in 1876, Thalhimer began preparing to turn over full control of the store to his sons. All five of the Thalhimer sons had worked in the store, but it was Isaac and Moses who most displayed an interest in running the firm in the future.[49]

It wasn’t until 1880 that Thalhimer decided it was time for the family to live away from the store. He bought a home in foreclosure at 400 East Clay Street, about four blocks from his Broad Street shop. The home stood among those of other German-Jewish families in Richmond.[50]

Thalhimer died at his home on March 24, 1883, following a brief illness. He had continued to work at the store he founded, almost until his last day. The local newspaper reported, “He was at the store on Thursday acting as cashier, and was able to discharge his duties, though feeling unwell, but on Friday morning was very sick, and grew rapidly worse, his disease assuming a malignant character somewhat like inflammation of the bowels.” The newspaper’s account of his death paid tribute to his education and his faith. “Mr. Thalhimer’s fine educational training and his eminence for Talmudic research made him a leader among his people. For a considerable time he occupied the position of reader and minister at the Portuguese synagogue (House of Peace), and in an interval, but for a shorter period, filled the same position at the Eleventh Street synagogue (House of Love). His faith in the religion of his fathers was as firm and unshaken as the granite hills, and he died in the peace which a well-ordered life and faithful service of God assures.”[51]

Thalhimer was buried at the Hebrew Cemetery in Richmond. William and Mary Thalhimer were memorialized by their descendants in the form of a stained glass window at Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond. The window depicts King Solomon’s Temple and its courtyard.[52]

Isaac Thalhimer oversees change from dry goods to department store

Following Thalhimer’s death, his sons continued to operate the store as Thalhimer Brothers, but Charles and eventually Moses sold their interests in the business to Isaac. He became president of the company at a time when mass-produced goods were entering the market. Although some customers saw mass-produced goods as inferior, Isaac decided to take advantage of the new opportunity and began to sell what were called “ready-to-wear” (as opposed to custom-made) clothes at Thalhimers.[53] Retail historian Jan Whitaker has described ready-to-wear women’s clothing as “the engine that would transform the old-fashioned dry goods emporium into the modern department store and propel it through much of its long life.”[54]

Such goods were proudly offered at Thalhimers in 1910, with a nearly full-page newspaper ad proclaiming, “We Sell More Ready-to-Wear Garments Than Any Other Store in Richmond.”[55] Such sales are believed to have boosted the garment industry as stores guided manufacturers in delivering the styles of clothing desired by customers.[56]

In 1911, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the Thalhimers’ Broad Street establishment would more than double in size. It was “the largest real estate deal of this year,” the paper trumpeted, and Isaac and Moses Thalhimer, the “far famed Broad Street merchants,” had purchased stores on Fifth Street, between Broad and Grace, as well as twenty-seven feet on Grace Street where a local doctor’s office and home currently stood. “There is no secret as to what the Thalhimers are going to do with this property, upon which they have had their eyes for quite a long time. They are simply going to tear down the buildings now on the ground and erect an addition to their present store that will give them more than double the floor space and facilities they now have.” Improvements to the store were already underway in the building on Broad Street, including devoting the second floor entirely to ready-to-wear garments.[57]

During World War I, Thalhimers showed its patriotism by joining with other merchants to sponsor advertising encouraging thrift on the home front. A January 6, 1918, advertisement in the Richmond Times-Dispatch was addressed, “To You Women of Richmond” as an effort to get women to purchase U.S. Thrift Stamps and U.S. War Savings Stamps. “If You Can’t Fight ‘Over There,’ You Can At Least Save Over Here,” the ad proclaimed. “There is no longer excuse for any man, woman or child to refrain from taking a definite stand in supporting the Government. Thrift Stamps and War Savings Certificates are designed to encourage THRIFT, and in so doing to make available the sum of two billion dollars to aid in the support of our soldiers at the front. Whether you are a woman in the home, a girl in the office, store, factory or mill, Your Duty is Plain. Every Dollar Saved Over Here Means a Life Saved Over There. Everybody Can Save at Least 5¢ a Day! Do Your Duty Now! TO-DAY!!” The ad was “patriotically contributed” by the Woman’s Committee of the Richmond War Savings Campaign in cooperation with local businesses including Thalhimer Brothers, Miller & Rhoads, The Cohen Company, J.B. Mosby & Company, E.B. Taylor Company, and R.L. Christian & Company.

By the 1920s, Thalhimers was promoting its “Ready to Wear” fashions by mailing postcards from the store’s Berlin buying offices back home to customers in Richmond. With postcards addressed to “Dear Madam” and showing a street view of Berlin, Thalhimers assured customers that “all this lovely merchandise which we are buying in Europe” would soon be available to them. Among those signing the cards was “Miss Jenny Mitchell, Buyer, Ready to Wear.”

Isaac and Moses would also be responsible, in a sense, for creating some of the store’s greatest competition in the future. They had purchased a nearby piece of Richmond property with an eye to expand, but they decided instead to move to another block and sold that particular property to retailers Linton Miller and Webster Rhoads.[58] In 1885 the two men opened Miller and Rhoads, which would one day become Thalhimers’ chief competitor. As Louise Thomas, the first female officer of Thalhimers, later noted, “The two stores did not cater to the same customers. Miller & Rhoads aimed for the more affluent customer while Thalhimers appealed to the masses.”[59]

Indeed, low prices and that “appeal to the masses” were constant hallmarks of Thalhimers, as seen in its advertising. In 1895, an ad read, “One Thing’s Certain, and that is — when people buy GOOD HOSIERY at any Hosiery counter they’re pretty apt to continue purchasing at that particular place so long as that buying satisfaction lasts. We’re not only patronized by new faces attracted by our low prices for Good Hosiery, but by patrons who have been our patrons for years and years past. That air of contentment is plainly seen on the faces of Hosiery buyers here — and where the sign: ‘MONEY BACK IF YOU WANT IT’ confronts you so conspicuously there’s nothing left but a ready resolution to purchase. SEE THE POINT?”[60] A 1904 ad boasted several hundred remnants of “Black and Colored Silks at less than one-half price.”[61] And on May 31, 1908, the Times-Dispatch advertised June White Days at Thalhimers with an ad boasting, “Here’s the ‘real’ event for the thrifty.”[62]

William B. Thalhimer Sr. grows store, rescues youth from Nazi Germany

Isaac’s son, William, was the next Thalhimer to take an interest in leading the store, but first he gained retail experience with another merchant, Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago. When he returned, he displayed ambition and a bit of ruthlessness that would come to characterize his leadership style. William B. Thalhimer Sr. did not like that his Uncle Moses, “a piddler” and a mere “trimmings buyer,” was still working at the store and issued an ultimatum to his father: either Moses would leave or William Sr. would leave. When Isaac talked to his brother, Moses willingly left “without a struggle.”[63] A Thalhimer Brothers newspaper ad in 1917 told readers that William Sr. was entering the family business, offering only a hint of what had gone on behind the scenes to make this possible. “We desire to announce the retirement of Mr. Moses Thalhimer from the firm of Thalhimer Brothers. On April 2, 1917, his entire interest and good-will was acquired by the senior member of the firm, Isaac Thalhimer, and his son, William B. Thalhimer.”[64]

William Sr. promptly decided it was time to grow the store, whose sales volume had grown in excess of $400,000 (approximately $5.4 million in 2011$). Isaac and William Sr. incorporated Thalhimer Brothers, which now had two hundred employees, on February 2, 1922. They privately floated common and preferred stock, with Isaac receiving the majority of the preferred stock and an annual dividend, and William receiving all the common stock, which paid no dividend but gave him complete control in running the new corporation. This arrangement ensured that he would maintain control of Thalhimers after his father’s passing. William Sr.’s sisters and their husbands would play no role in operating the store but would receive nice dividends from the firm’s earnings. His family would later call this action “the shrewdest business decision William Sr. would make over the course of his career.”[65] (Later, believing his sisters were “a drain on store profits,” William Sr. would cut off their store discount and annual payouts from their father’s stock. “He was willing to risk his relationships with his sisters to maintain the integrity of the family business.”[66])

It was also in 1922 that the store moved to its new space on Broad Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, and sales hit the one million dollar mark (approximately $13.4 million in 2011$) for the first time in company history. In another sign of progress, Thalhimers replaced its horse and wagon delivery system with a fleet of cars with uniformed drivers.[67] Changes at Thalhimers reflected broader shifts in the American retail environment. Whereas stores in days past had conducted customer transactions by placing money in baskets using an overhead pulley system, Thalhimers joined other department stores in using the newest technology, a pneumatic pipe system similar to that later used by bank drive-through windows, to conduct transactions. A vacuum would whisk the customer’s cash or credit information away to the office where it was handled by another member of the staff. Such systems were considered “engineering marvels of the age.”[68]

Isaac Thalhimer died November 2, 1930, at his home, and the store closed the following day in memory of its leader. During the 1930s, the company purchased more property next to the store and again expanded their offerings, with William Sr. now able to create specialty departments on each floor. There was a Homemaker Floor with appliances and cookware, a Fashion Floor with both ready-to-wear and designer garments, and Thrift Lane for the budget-minded.[69]

It was a personal trip in 1930, not a business trip, however, that would set a new trajectory for William Sr.’s life and, in a very real sense, alter the course of history. He decided to take his family on a tour of Europe, where they dined, shopped, and visited some of the world’s best-known department stores. “Meeting with the heads of these stores, William Sr. not only learned about business trends but became aware of something far more disturbing. He began to sense a growing instability and fear within the European Jewish community, noting the presence of brown-shirted Nazi party members in Germany. Something evil lurked beneath the surface of this pleasant vacation.”[70]

From 1933 life was growing dangerous for Germany’s Jews, some of whom hoped that the United States might provide a refuge for them. William Sr. was involved locally as well as nationally with organizations that aimed to help these refugees, and he was a board member of the American Jewish Committee. He attended committee meetings in New York where he served with men including Fred Lazarus Jr. of F. & R. Lazarus department store in Columbus, Ohio, and philanthropist William Rosenwald of Sears, Roebuck & Co. It was through his work with such groups that William Sr. became acquainted with Dr. Curt Bondy, a social psychologist who had been stripped of his credentials by the Nazis. Bondy was head of the Gross Breesen Agricultural Training Institute in Germany. This new program was designed to train Jewish youth in agriculture, the hope being that this knowledge would help them be viewed as acceptable immigrants and enable them to get out of Germany.[71]

William Sr. offered to buy a farm in rural Burkeville, Virginia, where some of the refugees could live to practice their newfound skills and prepare to assimilate into American culture. Morton Thalhimer, his cousin and friend, was a real estate broker who worked with him on finding a property for the relocation effort. In April of 1938 William Sr. purchased the 1,518-acre Hyde Farmlands, which at one time had been a successful tobacco and cotton farm, for $15,000 (approximately $239,000 in 2011$).[72]  He was ready for the resettlement project to begin, and in June the first Gross Breesen student arrived. In trying to help get these Gross Breesen youth into the United States, Bondy had emphasized that they were some of the most outstanding youth in the German-Jewish community, coming as they did from middle- to upper-class families where education and culture were valued.[73]

Yet getting the students to America was no easy matter. “In the 1930s, immigrants to the United States had to travel an arduous journey; it is a wonder that any completed it. (William Sr.’s) great-grandfather came to this country in the ‘first wave’ of large German immigration in the early 1840s. Compared to immigration in the 1930s, the 1840s immigration was uncomplicated and unobstructed.”[74] And while William Sr. believed in America as a place for refugees, “his idealism was gradually shredded” as he personally experienced the roadblocks for these German Jews who wanted to immigrate to the United States.[75]

These bureaucratic roadblocks were quite well-known, and as late as the summer of 1941 the hold-ups were still the order of the day. Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “A policy is now being pursued in the State Department which makes it all but impossible to give refuge in America to many worthy persons who are the victims of Fascist cruelty in Europe. Of course, this is not openly avowed by those responsible for it. The method which is being used, however, is to make immigration impossible by erecting a wall of bureaucratic measures….” Einstein said he hoped Mrs. Roosevelt would bring this matter to the attention of her “heavily burdened husband.”[76]

While the first Gross Breesener arrived at Hyde Farmlands in June 1938, getting other students there must have become ever more urgent to William Sr. after he heard about Kristallnacht, the series of attacks by Nazis on Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues on November 9 and 10. During Kristallnacht, students and staff at Gross Breesen were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the concentration camp at Buchenwald. All the Gross Breeseners were ultimately freed, thanks in part to the diplomatic efforts of William Thalhimer Sr.

Ultimately, twenty-one of the twenty-five students originally chosen for the Hyde Farmlands project made it to Virginia,[77] about thirty immigrants total including the staff. Although the plan was for Hyde Farmlands to be self-sustaining, the facility never achieved the goal. By the winter of 1940-1941, William Sr., who had suffered for years from heart problems, was again experiencing ill health and had to reconsider the project at Hyde Farmlands, ultimately deciding it must be closed. Some of the Hyde Farmlands students became farm workers, and others enlisted in the war effort after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In a final accounting of the project, it was revealed that William Sr. personally gave about $30,000 of his own money (approximately $479,000 in 2011$) to what came to be known as The Virginia Plan.[78]

William Sr.’s great-granddaughter interviewed some of the Hyde Farmlanders during a reunion at the property in 2004. She said that every time someone began to tell a story about her great-grandfather, she expected him to seem “valiant and heroic. But in their stories, he was the same unyielding businessman who kicked his uncle out of the family business and snubbed his sisters. He was not a saint, but he did a saintly thing.” One of the students attending the reunion, George Landecker, told her, “There is no doubt that your great-grandfather’s action was our escape route out of Germany. He saved our lives.”[79]

The project at Hyde Farmlands was not the only way that Thalhimers supported wartime efforts during World War II. Like many stores, Thalhimers sold bonds for the U.S. government. William B. Thalhimer Jr. said, “We were also named supplier for the Pinks and provided thousands of uniforms for all Second Lieutenants in the Quarter Master Corps. We had weekend events at the 'Parking Lot Canteen' created in (Thalhimers’) parking lot. There were parties with dancing — it was all chaperoned. It was very popular with the Fort Lee boys. We encouraged everyone to live within their allotted coupons and cooperate with U.S. government rules.”[80]

While the project at Hyde Farmlands was clearly the philanthropy for which William Sr. was best known, in 1942 he also created an exhibit of Virginia wildlife habitats at Maymont, an estate that was originally home to the Dooleys, one of Richmond’s most prominent families. In 1959, more permanent wildlife and outdoor habitat exhibits were created at Maymont through funds of the Thalhimer-Virginia Wildlife Foundation.[81] Charities nationwide can thank William Sr. since he is said to have helped convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make charitable gifts tax-deductible on income tax forms.[82]

William B. Thalhimer Jr. adds new stores, integrates Thalhimers

Next to rise in the family business was William B. Thalhimer Jr. He wanted to follow his father’s example and learn the retail trade outside the family business. While William Sr. had learned the retail trade at Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago, William Jr. got a job at Stern’s in New York before returning to join the firm in 1934 as an Art Needlework Buyer. At the time, the store saw about five million dollars in sales annually (approximately $84 million in 2011$).[83] William Jr. also served in World War II, achieving the rank of captain in the Marine Corps. By 1950, he was Thalhimers’ president.[84]

It was William Jr.’s idea for the store to grow by opening other branches, and the store raised cash by offering public stock for the first time. Thalhimers began its expansion by acquiring the Sosnik department store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. When the two stores merged in 1949, the business became known as Sosnik’s-Thalhimers, then simply Thalhimers when Morris Sosnik retired in 1953.[85] In 1955 Thalhimers acquired L. Herman’s in Danville, Virginia, a store that would continue operations in downtown Danville for the next thirty-five years.[86]

Progress and the expansion of Thalhimers brought new opportunities to William Jr. In his new role as one of the youngest corporate presidents in the nation, William Jr. was friends with fellow businessmen such as Richard S. Reynolds of the Reynolds Metals company, which made aluminum products. Reynolds offered to cover the store’s exterior in anodized aluminum, keeping the store warm in winter and cool in summer, and William Jr. gave the go-ahead.[87] In 1955 a great unveiling revealed the store had become “the first aluminum-clad department store in America.”[88]

For some Richmond residents, it wasn’t what happened to the outside of the store but what was happening on the inside of the store that mattered most. Black students demanding an end to segregation protested at Thalhimers and other Richmond stores, and William Jr. ultimately made the decision to integrate Thalhimers despite resistance from other area department store owners.

Department store restaurants, mainly in the South, were the target of sit-ins by black students protesting segregation, and Thalhimers was no exception. Most of the protests occurred in 1960 following a February 1 sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Similar protests, where black patrons refused to move from their seats until they were served, took place that year at Thalhimer’s and Miller & Rhoads in Richmond, at Rich’s and Davison-Paxon in Atlanta, at Burdine’s in Miami, at Gus Blass and Pfeiffer’s in Little Rock, and at Goldsmith’s in Memphis.”[89]

On February 20, 1960, a group of black students from the private Virginia Union University entered Thalhimers and tried to get seats at all four eating establishments, including the Richmond Room. All four dining rooms closed immediately.[90] The same thing happened at the Richmond Woolworth’s.[91] Two days later, on February 22, thirty-four Virginia Union students were arrested and charged with trespassing for refusing to leave Thalhimers after being denied service.[92]

At the February 22 sit-in, “seventy-five people attempted to enter the Richmond Room, a tea room on the fourth floor. Others went to the lunch counter on the first floor. Refused service and asked to leave, they remained, some of them holding textbooks and notebooks, a few holding small American flags. The counter was closed for a while, though the Richmond Room remained open for white guests, while store officials called for city magistrates and again requested that the students leave.” Seventeen students were arrested at the tea room, and seventeen more were arrested at the lunch counter.[93] These sit-in protests were followed by picketing and boycotts by black customers, who had been allowed to shop at the store but not eat there.

William Jr. met with his Miller and Rhoads counterpart, Web Rhoads Jr., in the back seat of an automobile parked in the fourth floor parking garage the two stores owned jointly. “We discussed what we were doing to see if we could coordinate and do it together. After all, most of our business was done with the white community and we didn’t want to do anything to run against the grain,” William Jr. said in an interview years later. The year of the boycott, Thalhimers’ sales dropped 3.9 percent, the only year in company history that witnessed both decreased sales and earnings.[94]

William Jr. finally decided to integrate the store. In a 2003 interview he said, “Judgment and instinct told me that integration was the right thing. People are people under God. We didn’t decide to be Jewish. No one decides to be black or white.”[95] A year after the sit-ins, Thalhimers was serving customers without regard to race, and “the Thalhimers Thirty-Four had achieved their objective in desegregating those facilities.”[96]

Just two years later, in 1963, William Jr. received a telegram from President John F. Kennedy inviting him to the White House for a meeting with business leaders to discuss civil rights issues. The president personally called William Jr. and said he wanted to hear about what was going on in Richmond. William Jr.’s granddaughter argued that by being the first major retailer in Richmond to integrate his whole store, he may have allowed his city to escape some of the violence and rioting that occurred elsewhere in the nation in the 1960s.[97]

Following the integration of the Richmond flagship store, Thalhimers continued to grow during the sixties. Some sixteen new stores were opened, and Thalhimers responded to its customers’ “flight to suburbia” by locating these stores in new suburban shopping malls.[98]

In 1971, William Jr. received the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, which noted his service to a wide array of causes and organizations. These included the Crippled Children’s Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, the University of Richmond, Temple Beth Ahabah, the Richmond Area Community Chest, the Jewish Community Center, and the Richmond Retail Merchants Association. He also served as a chairman of Radio Free Europe and the United Negro College Fund, was the 1964 recipient of the Richmond Jewish Community Council’s Distinguished Service Award, and served as a co-chairman of the Richmond chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.[99]

By 1976, the store had reached the once-unimaginable milestone of $100 million in annual sales (approximately $395 million in 2011$), and just nine years later the store reached $250 million in sales (approximately $523 million in 2011$).[100] In 1978, Thalhimers merged with Carter Hawley Hale, a Los Angeles company whose stores included Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia, and The Broadway in Los Angeles. In 1984 William Jr. stepped down as president of the store, staying on as chairman of the board. In a move away from the tradition of keeping leadership within the Thalhimer family, a non-family member was named president for the first time. Carter Hawley Hale sold the store to May Department Stores in 1990, and William Jr. announced his retirement at the end of that year. In 1992, the twenty-six Thalhimers stores located across the South became Hecht’s stores.

How and why did this happen to Thalhimers and countless other department stores across the nation? Louise Thomas, the first female officer at Thalhimers, noted in her memoir that while the automobile originally brought the customers to town, eventually it also took the customers out of town once suburban life became attractive, along with its new shopping centers and strip malls. “Department stores were losing downtown traffic to the shopping centers when the store principals decided that their future role was to anchor large suburban malls.… Unquestionably, the success of the malls led to the deterioration of the expansive and the expensive downtown stores that offered wide assortments and unbelievable service. No one wanted to see them disappear, but, economically, they were no longer feasible.”[101]

Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt also said that changing tastes had affected how the country preferred to shop. “Americans no longer wanted to get dressed up and spend a whole day shopping, preferring convenience and low prices over personalized customer service and hand-selected merchandise. After twenty years in business, discount stores including Target, Walmart, and Kmart had grown to be major retail players [taking business away from suburban branches of the major department store chains]. Mergers and acquisitions continued to gobble up department store chains and homogenize operations, many stores losing their character and homegrown appeal.”[102]

In a newscast on January 22, 1992, the Richmond CBS affiliate featured video of the downtown Richmond store’s closing and interviewed Gordon Robinson, an African-American man who had worked as an interior decorator at Thalhimers for forty-four years. Robinson said, “Even though I’m retired now, my heart is still heavy, you know, to see this has happened to Thalhimers.”[103] The store was demolished in 2004 to make way for a new performing arts center. The story of Thalhimers, however, was far from over.

Conclusion

Department store founders all have their place in retail history, yet not all department store founders could claim that the business they founded went on to play such an important role in promoting human rights and saving lives. Wolff Thalheimer’s descendants can indeed make this claim. The German-Jewish teacher found opportunity lacking in his homeland and immigrated to America and founded a business that would last for 150 years. Along the way, the store and family’s name would be associated with saving the lives of young German Jews, and later with helping pave the way for integration in the South. The Thalhimer name continues to be associated with causes important in Virginia and beyond.

In 2000, Elizabeth Thalhimer and her mother, Sallie Thalhimer, wrote and illustrated a memoir and cookbook, Our Snow Bear Scrapbook: Memories and Recipes from Thalhimers. In addition to recording for posterity the recipes for the store’s legendary Six Layer Chocolate Cake and Chicken Salad, the book had artwork featuring the popular Snow Bear character used in store Christmas promotions. Profits from the book generated funds for the arts-in-education programs of Theatre IV, a nonprofit, professional touring children’s theatre.[104] Nostalgia for the store and its bakery obviously remains strong, since at Christmas of 2013 Stevens Jewelers in Richmond was selling a series of sterling silver and fourteen karat gold charms commemorating landmarks of Richmond, including Thalhimers. One of the charms depicted a Thalhimers shopping bag accompanied by a checkered box representing the black and white boxes that once held goods from the Thalhimers bakery.[105]

In 2004, the “Richmond 34” held a ceremony to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the sit-in at Thalhimers. One of the original protestors who had been arrested at the store, Elizabeth Johnson Rice, was on hand and gave the Thalhimer family engraved plaques honoring Thalhimers’ effort to integrate during a time of great social unrest.[106]

In 2006, members of the Thalhimer family traveled to Thairnbach, Germany, where they presented copies of books about Richmond and Virginia. They also visited the cemetery in Waibstadt where their ancestors are buried. Although they did not find the graves they sought at this time, they commemorated the visit by leaving stones that came from the Hebrew Cemetery in Richmond. The Thalhimers established a relationship with Dr. Roland Flade, who later discovered the nearby graves the family had sought, those of Goëtz and Malke Thalheimer. Flade photographed and made rubbings of the graves and collected two bags of dirt from the site. He sent the mementos to Richmond so family members were able to sprinkle the dirt on William Thalhimer’s grave in Richmond’s Hebrew Cemetery.[107]

In March 2013, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources listed Hyde Park, the Hyde Farmlands property, on its Virginia Landmarks Register and also forwarded the listing to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination referred to Hyde Park as a former tobacco plantation that “was purchased in 1938 by Richmond department store owner William B. Thalhimer to create a training farm for Jewish students of the German agricultural Gross Breesen Institute who sought escape from Nazi Germany.”[108]

In December 2013, the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York featured the Hyde Farmlands story in its exhibit “Against the Odds: American Jews & the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 1933-1941.” The exhibit tells of the American Jews who volunteered to help these refugees, and among those featured is William Thalhimer Sr., himself the grandson of a German-Jewish immigrant whose legacy continues to influence the present.[109]

Notes

[1] Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, Finding Thalhimers (Manakin-Sabot, VA: Dementi Milestone Publishing, 2010), 11-13.

[2] Alice Goldstein, “Urbanization in Baden, Germany: Focus on the Jews, 1825-1925,” Social Science History 8, no. 1 (Winter 1984): 43-66, here 44.

[3] Ibid., 47-48.

[4] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 14-17; Goldstein, 47. One retail historian claims that Thalhimer was a history professor at the University of Heidelberg before coming to America, but a family member has said the university has no records to support this claim.

[5] “Malke Thalheimer,” accessed online at http://www.geni.com (accessed November 15, 2013).

[6] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 19.

[7] New Orleans, Passenger List Quarterly Abstracts, 1820-1875, provided in association with The National Archives, accessed online at http://www.ancestry.com (accessed November 26, 2013).

[8] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 25.

[9] Richard Campanella, Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before the Storm (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2006), 248.

[10] Louise Thomas, Dear Emily: A Memoir, My Life in the Fine Stores (Kernersville, NC: Running Angel Books, 2011), 183; Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 246.

[11] Herbert Tobias Ezekiel and Gaston Lichtenstein, The History of the Jews of Richmond from 1769 to 1917 (Richmond, VA: Herbert T. Ezekiel, 1917), 35.

[12]A Guide to the William Blum Thalhimer, Jr. Corporate and Family Archives, 1862-1992,” Virginia Historical Society, Company History (accessed November 21, 2013).

[13] Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, “Thalhimers Department Store: Story, History, and Theory,” Master’s thesis (Virginia Commonwealth University, 2005), 11.

[14] This and all subsequent purchasing power calculations are based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index series available on MeasuringWorth.

[15] Robert Hendrickson, The Grand Emporiums, (New York, NY: Stein and Day, 1979), 30.

[16] Hendrickson, Grand Emporiums, 71-72.

[17] Ibid., 73-74.

[18] Celestine Sibley, Dear Store: An Affectionate Portrait of Rich’s (Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers, 1967), 27.

[19] Hans J. Sternberg, We Were Merchants (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2009), 85.

[20] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 26-27.

[21] The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities, “Richmond, Virginia” (accessed November 21, 2013).

[22] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 27.

[23] William B. Thalhimer III, Millhiser Families: 160 Years in America, bound booklet, compiled April 1997, Leo Baeck Institute (accessed December 5, 2013).

[24] Ibid.

[25] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 28.

[26] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 29.

[27] Congregation Beth Ahabah (accessed March 4, 2014).

[28] [Richmond, VA] Daily Dispatch, February 18, 1852.

[29] Ezekiel and Lichtenstein, History of the Jews of Richmond, 232.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., 257.

[32] Ibid., 264.

[33] Ibid., 265.

[34] Ibid., 279.

[35] Ibid., 234.

[36] [Richmond, VA] Daily Dispatch, July 19 and 20, 1854.

[37] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 31.

[38] Congregation Beth Ahabah (accessed March 4, 2014).

[39] Claire Millhiser Rosenbaum, Congregation Beth Ahabah (Richmond, VA: privately published, 2011), 44.

[40] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 46.

[41] Ezekiel and Lichtenstein, History of the Jews of Richmond, 187; “Virginia Civil War Confederate Infantry Units,” FamilySearch (accessed February 27, 2014).

[42] Andrea Mehrländer, The Germans of Charleston, Richmond and New Orleans during the Civil War Period, 1850-1870 (Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 2011), 26.

[43] The store’s various locations throughout the 1870s and 1880s are somewhat difficult to pin down. It appears that Thalhimer moved the store a number of times during these two decades. “A Guide to the William Blum Thalhimer, Jr. Corporate and Family Archives, 1862-1992,” Virginia Historical Society, Company History (accessed November 21, 2013); Smartt,Finding Thalhimers, 57 and 78; [Richmond] Commercial Bulletin, May 13, 1865, n.p.; Daily State Journal, December 15, 1871, n.p;

[44] Daily State Journal, April 11, 1873, n.p.

[45] [Alexandria, VA] Daily State Journal, January 27, 1874.

[46] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 58.

[47] Bill Glose, “Where Richmond Shopped for 150 Years,” Virginia Living, December 2010 issue.

[48] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 58.

[49]A Guide to the William Blum Thalhimer, Jr. Corporate and Family Archives, 1862-1992,” Virginia Historical Society, Company History (accessed November 21, 2013).

[50] Smartt, “Thalhimers Department Store: Story, History, and Theory,” 13.

[51] The Daily Dispatch, March 25, 1883.

[52] Claire Millhiser Rosenbaum, Congregation Beth Ahabah (Richmond, VA: privately published, 2011), 36-37.

[53]A Guide to the William Blum Thalhimer, Jr. Corporate and Family Archives, 1862-1992,” Virginia Historical Society, Company History (accessed November 21, 2013).

[54] Jan Whitaker, Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2006), 53.

[55] Times Dispatch, April 10, 1910.

[56] Whitaker, Service and Style, 54.

[57] Times Dispatch, February 19, 1911.

[58] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 77.

[59] Louise Thomas, Dear Emily, 184.

[60] Richmond Dispatch, Oct. 10, 1895.

[61] Times Dispatch, April 15, 1904.

[62] Times Dispatch, May 31, 1908.

[63] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 75.

[64] Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 15, 1917.

[65] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 76-77.

[66] Ibid., 94.

[67] Ibid., 78.

[68] Hendrickson, The Grand Emporiums, 57.

[69]A Guide to the William Blum Thalhimer, Jr. Corporate and Family Archives, 1862-1992,” Virginia Historical Society, Company History (accessed November 21, 2013).

[70] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 96.

[71] Robert H. Gillette, The Virginia Plan: William B. Thalhimer & A Rescue from Nazi Germany (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011), 18.

[72] Gillette, The Virginia Plan, 26.

[73] Ibid., 34.

[74] Ibid., 38.

[75] Ibid.

[76] “Against the Odds” exhibit,  Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York, N.Y., Artifact Explorations, letter from Professor Albert Einstein to Eleanor Roosevelt, July 26, 1941, (accessed November 15, 2013).

[77] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 113.

[78] Gillette, The Virginia Plan, 182.

[79] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 119.

[80] Smartt, “Thalhimers Department Store,” 23.

[81] Project for Public Spaces (accessed March 4, 2014).

[82] Jewish Virtual Library, “Richmond” (accessed March 4, 2014).

[83] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 202.

[84]A Guide to the William Blum Thalhimer, Jr. Corporate and Family Archives, 1862-1992,” Virginia Historical Society, Company History (accessed November 21, 2013).

[85] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form (accessed December 5, 2013).

[86] Danville Historical Society (accessed  December 5, 2013).

[87] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 143.

[88] Mirro-Krome Card by H.S. Crocker Co., Inc., San Francisco, Calif., undated postcard.

[89] Whitaker, Service and Style, 231.

[90] Peter Wallenstein, Blue Laws and Black Codes: Conflict, Courts, and Change in Twentieth-Century Virginia (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2004), Location 2599 of 6815 in ebook.

[91] Earle Dunford and George Bryson, Under the Clock: The Story of Miller & Rhoads (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008), 97.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Wallenstein, Blue Laws and Black Codes, Location 2616 of 6815.

[94] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 158-161.

[95] Ibid., 162.

[96] Wallenstein, Blue Laws and Black Codes, Location 2820 of 6815.

[97] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 165.

[98]A Guide to the William Blum Thalhimer, Jr. Corporate and Family Archives, 1862-1992,” Virginia Historical Society, Company History (accessed November 21, 2013).

[100] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 189-190.

[101] Thomas, Dear Emily, 236.

[102] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 205.

[103]  “1992 - January 22 - Thalhimers closes its doors,” YouTube video, 51. Posted by “CBS6WTVR,” August 16, 2013. (accessed March 4, 2014).

[104] Theatre IV (accessed March 4, 2014).

[105]Richmond Charms,” Stevens Jewels (accessed March 4, 2014).

[106] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 169.

[107] Smartt, Finding Thalhimers, 229-237.

[108] Virginia Landmarks Register (accessed March 4, 2014).

[109] Museum of Jewish History, “Against The Odds: About The Exhibition,” (accessed March 4, 2014).

 

Cite this Entry

APA Style

"William Thalhimer." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved February 23, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship: http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=207

Chicago Style

McRae, Angela. "William Thalhimer." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. Last modified July 21, 2014. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=207

MLA Style

"William Thalhimer," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 23 Feb 2018 <http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=207>

William Thalhimer, 1859

  • Grave of William Thalhimer at the Hebrew Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
  • Thalhimer family plot at the Hebrew Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
  • Irving May, William B. Thalhimer Jr., and Morris Sosnik attending store opening, 1959
  • William B. Thalhimer Jr., Alexander Parker, and Ellen Janus  attending Thalhimer Career Shop Opening, n.d.

See more images »

TOP