top of page

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.


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.”

J.F. Meyer

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.

The store

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 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 Her collective works can be found at


 Recent Posts 
bottom of page