Foss family started lineage of Hannibal's noted Sonnenberg store
This photo of the Sonnenberg department store, following its remodel combining three store fronts to one in the mid 1920s, is from the Steve Chou collection.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In order to properly introduce a key pioneer Hannibal business family, first let’s venture back in time to Tuesday evening, Nov. 27, 1877.
Professor George A. Bluemm’s Hannibal Band provided the music for a party unlike any other in recent memory on Hannibal’s West End, in celebration of the marriage of Orinda K. Foss, the daughter of a prominent Hannibal stonemason, Detrick Foss, and John F. Meyer, an up-and-coming young Hannibal businessman who had called Hannibal home since 1852.
The reception venue was the National Hall, (owned by the bride’s father) on the second floor of a business building located on the south side of Market Street, just to the west of Glasscock street. (In 1919, the building at 1415 Market St., would be sold by the Foss family to Robert M. Lewis, founder of Lewis Cleaning Co.)
The 200 invited guests attended the ceremony at the Lutheran Church, located on the northeast corner of 11th and Lyon, then reassembled at the hall, located across the street from the Marion House hotel. (Mr. Foss also owned the Marion House.)
The Nov. 30, 1877 Hannibal Clipper reported:
“After a bountiful supper of rare viands, wines, bridal cakes, &c., the ball was opened by the charming bride and the gallant bridegroom to the select music of Prof. Bluemm’s band. Thus was it kept up sociably and stylishly till morning, and the old folks felt young and stepped around on the light fantastic toe, while the young folks wished it was their turn to act as principals in the smiling paradise of life, matrimony’s first joys.”
The bridegroom, John F. Meyer, a wagon-maker by trade, was co-owner, at the time, of (John H. ) Mangels & Meyer, a grocery concern located on the north side of Market Street near where it intersected with Lyon street. He later went into the milling business, purchasing a planing mill on Monroe Street in South Hannibal.
Orinda K. Foss Meyer’s brother, William C. Foss, and her sister’s husband, Frank W. Bunch, went into business together in 1892, opening a dry goods and notions business at 124 Market St.
In 1894, they moved the dry goods business, known as Bunch and Foss, to the notable address of 120 N. Main Street, in a nine-bay building known historically as the A.W. Lamb building.
Two years later, in 1897, Bunch and Foss left the business, and were replaced as owners by their brother-in-law, John F. Meyer, and his new businesses partner, Edmund Sonnenberg, a German-born man who had much retail experience in Hannibal. Sonnenberg and Meyer sold dry goods and carpets. They supplied the original linoleum flooring for the new Hannibal Court House in April 1903.
John F. Meyer’s oldest son, Archie F. Meyers, worked as a clerk in the store, while John operated his primary business, J.F. Meyer and Company, a planing mill on Monroe Street. (The planing mill burned in April 1899, and rather than rebuild, Mr. Meyer subsequently purchased and refitted the old Dubach mill on South Fourth Street and resumed operations.)
In October 1909, John F. Meyer suffered a fall at his planing mill, fracturing his hip, and he never fully recovered from the injuries. He died in November 1909, indirectly as a result of those injuries. He was considered to be a self-made man, rising in the ranks from that of a common laborer to one of Hannibal’s wealthy and influential citizens.
His son, Archie Meyer assumed his father’s partnership role in the Sonnenberg and Meyer dry goods business, still located on North Main Street.
In 1913, E.H. Sonnenberg and his son, C.H., purchased the Meyer interests and became the sole owners. The business was renamed Sonnenberg and Son. Circa 1920, they purchased the buildings at 116 and 118 North Main, and in 1922 the building at 120 North Main.
They transformed the three storefronts into one big store, consisting of 20,000 square feet, and increased their sales force from three to 49 people by 1925. The remodeling included the addition of a beauty shop and a rest room for women on the mezzanine floor.
Edmond H. Sonnenberg died in 1934, at the age of 75. Survivors included his wife and two children, Mrs. E. Drake and his previously named son, Carl Sonnenberg.
Carl continued to manage the company until Jan. 12, 1959, when he closed the store following an attempt by his employees to unionize.
Carl Sonnenberg died in 1974.
Sonnenberg’s advertised in the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post on March 28, 1925. Included in that ad were the names of the company’s employees.
Included among those workers was Miss Minnie Pabst (1893-1969), daughter of Christian Frederick Pabst and Mary Elizabeth Pabst. Miss Pabst worked in the knit underwear department, along with Miss Mayme Dwyer. Miss Pabst was later married to Joseph Minor.
Employees in 1925
Miss Minnie Pabst (1893-1969) worked at Sonnenberg’s and Son for some five years during the period of 1925-1930. She later married Joseph Minor. Photo courtesy of Heather Cottrell via Findagrave
Silk Department: Mr. F.C. Burkey
Woolen Goods: Mrs. Nettie Howard and Miss Sallie Glascock
Cotton Dress Goods: Mrs. Nola Jewett and Miss Erixina Branch
Pattern Department: Mrs. Mary Fancher
Domestic Department: Mr. Joseph E. Stone
Lace and Trimming: Mrs. Clinnie Seaton and Miss Mildred Rubison
Linen and White Goods: Mrs. Jessie Kearns and Miss Mable DuPuis
Toilet Articles and Umbrella: Miss Catherine Griffith
Leather Goods and Notions: Miss Frances Wilson
Glove Department: Miss Lolla Eddings
Neckwear and Ribbon Department, Miss Anna Hlasney
Handkerchief Department: Mrs. Floy Whipple
Hosiery Department: Miss Armida Fredricks and Miss Mary Virginia Jones
Silk and Muslin Underwear Department: Miss Anna Barclay and Miss Edith Gardner
Corset Department: Miss Margaret Dempsey
Knit Underwear Department: Miss Mayme Dwyer and Miss Minnie Pabst
Ready to Wear and Infants’ Department: Miss C.A. Robison, Mrs. Mary Phillips, Miss Mayme Catlett, Mrs. Sue Howell and Miss Mary Mitchell
Art Department: Miss Carrie Coss and Miss Zaidee Zinn
House Furnishing Department: Mr. Jas McIntyre, Mr. W.H. Etter, Mr. Glen Wilson, Miss Annie Groff and Mrs. Nora Smarr
Alteration Department: Miss Bell Cook, Mrs. Mary Hollenbeak, Mrs. Margette Lewis and Mrs. Ruby Thompson
Advertising and Display Manager: Mr. L.M. VanCoutren
Floor manager: Mr. T. Earl Green
Office Force: Mrs. Grace Holtz, Miss Leona Schroeder Miss Lillie Diegel, Miss June Kane and Miss Carrie Simmerlein
Stenographer, Miss Emma Schutze
Delivery: Mr. D.L. Fitzpatrick
Janitor: Mr. Nelson Queary
Note: In 1875, Professor Bluemm operated a music studio at 120 N. Main, the same building which was later occupied by the Foss, Meyer and Sonneberg families.
Pictured is a portion of the Sonnnenberg advertisement in the March 28, 1925 edition of the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post. (Newspaper from Mary Lou Montgomery’s collection)
Edmund H. Sonnenbereg. Steve Chou collection
Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com