Previous Exhibit - Mary Sachs

In 2007 the Historical Society hosted an exhibit dedicated to one of Harrisburg's most famous twentieth-century community members: Mary Sachs, The Epitome of Style and Substance.

Three Mary Sachs Dresses and an Interior Store Photo
Three Mary Sachs Dresses and Interior Store Photo

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
Third Street Storefront and Man's Shop Suit

2007 was the second year in which the Society hosted a Mary Sachs exhibit, the first being shown in 1989. HSDC thanks all of those involved in the exhibit's success, especially the visitors who came to reminisce about their fond memories of Mary Sachs and her shops. Funding for the exhibit was generously provided by the Mary Sachs Trust.

About Mary Sachs

Mary Sachs was a Russian-born immigrant who was only four years old when she came to America in 1892 with her mother, Fanny Rhoads Sachs, and two siblings, Sarah and Emma. The family found husband and father Wolf Sachs in Renovo, a town in the lumber and coal region of northern Pennsylvania. Wolf Sachs was a peddler and shop owner who had immigrated four years before the rest of his family. Around 1900, the Sachs family moved to Baltimore where Lena, Esther, Morris, Yetta, and Hannah were born.

After spending a short time in Baltimore, Mary Sachs moved to Steelton where she worked first in a candy shop and then in an installment store where she was promoted and eventually made manager. After several moves, the rest of the Sachs family joined her in the Harrisburg area around 1916.

Mary began developing her knack for the retail trade at Kaufman's Department store on Harrisburg's Market Square. In 1910 she left Kaufman's for William Schleisner's highly respected women’s clothing store. Here she worked for eight years.

In 1918 Mary Sachs was introduced to Harry Lowengard. Mr. Lowengard operated a printing shop on Third Street. He loaned her seed money and rented to her the first floor of his building so she could open her own clothing store. Because of her small amount of capital, she carefully planned the layout of the store so that her limited stock was not kept on the floor. Instead, customers were seated in private booths and saleswomen presented them with individually selected garments. The store opened on September 6, 1918. With sales of over $200,000 in its first year, the shop quickly became one of Harrisburg's premier retail locations. Stores in Lancaster (1921) and Reading (1923) followed.

Mary Sachs Behind the Wheel of Her First Car
Mary Sachs Behind the Wheel of Her First Car

In 1920 Miss Sachs purchased the property at 208 North Third Street, the former home of Judge John H. Weiss. With cooperation from the Lowengard family who still owned the building at 210 North Third, she was able to add a shoe store and beauty shop as well as lingerie, cosmetic, and jewelry departments. Beginning in 1925, she traveled at least once a year to Europe with one of her sisters, Hannah or Yetta, to observe the latest trends in fashion. She also made weekly trips to New York to visit clothing manufacturers. Her decision not to deal with Harrisburg salesmen assured her customers that their dress would always be unique.

On the night of February 12, 1931, a fire started in the Harrisburg store’s beauty shop. The building was nearly a total loss, and Mary Sachs had little insurance. Yet, she overcame several financial hurdles to rebuild her store. She hired local architects Lawrie and Green to design the new façade. And after seeing the work of interior architect Eleanor LeMaire on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Mary Sachs hired her to design the inside. On March 26, 1932, the new building opened. It had 21 departments. Six years later two additional floors were added which made room for a nursery, children’s shoe shop, slipper shop, two Trousseaux rooms, a fitting and alteration room, and a shop for nurse and maid uniforms. There were over a dozen consulting rooms. By the 1950’s her shop had a doorman and valet parking. By 1954 the Harrisburg and Lancaster stores had a total of 175 employees, and the Harrisburg store boasted a home goods section, paper shop, and candy shop. A few doors down, Miss Sachs also operated the 212 Man's Shop, a clothing store previously owned by Allen Stuart.

Mary Sachs died on June 24, 1960. She was 72. On the following day, the Mary Sachs Shop and the 212 Man’s 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."

Mary's sister Hannah Sachs Cantor became president of the Mary Sachs Shop and the 212 Man’s Shop. Her sister Yetta Sachs Carpenter served as Secretary/Treasurer and continued to manage the Lancaster store, which was under her care since 1927. The Reading shop, which was not managed by a Sachs family member, had closed in 1942. The Harrisburg store celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1968. Weeks later, the business was sold to Hess' Department Store. Hess' operated the store until its closing on September 2, 1978.

Mary Sachs at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Founder's Wall in New York
Mary Sachs at the Albert
Einstein College of Medicine
Founder's Wall in New York

It did not take many years of business success for Mary Sachs to become a driving force behind charitable efforts in the Harrisburg area. Always mindful of philanthropic opportunities, she gave to countless organizations, from hospitals and the Boy Scouts to religious institutions and colleges. Throughout her lifetime Mary Sachs sought new ways to contribute to the community that was the cornerstone of her success. After meeting her at several charity events, Eleanor Roosevelt found in Mary Sachs "a philosophy that filled me with admiration." Since her death, the Mary Sachs Trust has continued Miss Sachs' honorable tradition of giving.