Sanger, Alexander (1847–1925)

By: Natalie Ornish

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 31, 2017

Alexander Sanger, merchant, civic leader, and philanthropist, the fourth child of Elias and Babette (Mandelbaum Heller) Sanger, was born on May 8, 1847, in Obernbreit am Main in present-day Germany. Educated in public schools, Sanger was apprenticed at age thirteen to a dry goods business in his hometown; after two years he became private secretary and regular salesman for the establishment. In 1865 Sanger followed his older brothers to the United States, working first as a bookkeeper for Heller Brothers in Cincinnati. A few years later he was part of a group that bought out the company and established Ochs, Lehman, and Company. Sanger sold his interest and moved to Corsicana, Texas, in 1872 to join the family business, Sanger Brothers. He moved to Dallas later that year to open and manage a branch of the company. A pioneer of dry goods wholesaling and retailing in Texas, Sanger Brothers was at one time the largest wholesale house in its line in the Southwest, and for many years it was the premier department store of North Texas. From 1872 to 1902 Alexander Sanger took charge of the firm's wholesale business, assuming the retail responsibilities in 1902 and the office of company president on December 28, 1918. Sanger had a deep, personal concern for his employees, often keeping more help than necessary rather than retire elderly workers for whom there was no retirement plan. In 1910 he provided a night school at store expense for those of his employees who had not finished high school.

Despite his business success, Sanger's keenest interest was in civic affairs. In 1872 he helped to organize the first synagogue in Dallas. His Hebrew Benevolent Association grew to become Temple Emanu-El. Sanger had a key role in the political effort to entice the Texas and Pacific Railway to build through Dallas, providing an east-west route to supplement the existing north-south track built by the Houston and Texas Central. Sanger was chairman of the finance committee that raised funds by a bond issue to build the railroad. He served as city alderman from 1873 to 1874. Sanger made one of the first major donations toward the establishment of the Dallas Public Library and served as one of its directors. He helped organize the State Fair of Texas, serving as a director from its inception in 1886 until his death in 1925; he was president of the organization in 1894. He was also an officer of the Dallas Board of Trade and a charter member of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. He was instrumental in organizing the Dallas Volunteer Fire Department in 1873 and in obtaining for Dallas the services of city planner George E. Kessler. He was an active supporter of Southern Methodist University and also served as a regent for the University of Texas from 1911 to 1917. During World War I Sanger was active in the sales drives for Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps; he also served as chairman of the Dallas Food Conservation Board and as state merchant representative for the United States Food Administration. Sanger married Fannie Fechenbach (see SANGER, FANNIE F.) on May 11, 1879; they had one son, Elihu, who later became a vice president of the company. Sanger's granddaughter, Frances Sanger Mossiker, became an award-winning historical novelist. Alexander Sanger died in Dallas on September 13, 1925.

Dallas Daily Times Herald, September 13, 1925. Dallas Morning News, September 14, 1925. Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989). Leon Joseph Rosenberg, Sangers': Pioneer Texas Merchants (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1978).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Business
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
  • Jews
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Natalie Ornish, “Sanger, Alexander,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

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January 31, 2017

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