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Topekans and Kansans know and call Henry A. Auerbach a great merchant. He had been in business in that city more than a quarter of a century. He possesses and exercises those qualities which are most intimately associated with a prosperous mercantile career. He is a man of fixed and unbending integrity, of almost phenomenal energy and those who have followed his work say that three factors have been important in the results he had gained. First he and his partner each thoroughly learned the business from the bottom up. Second, each partner worked many hours while others, less ambitious, were resting. The third factor throughout their history had been honest representation in every phase of their business.
Although of foreign birth, Henry A, Auerbach is wholly American in thought, sttitude and sympathies. In fact it was only the accident of birth that made him a native of Germany, since he had lived in this country since the first year of his life and had completely adapted himself to the atmosphere, thought and enstoms of his adopted land.
He was born at Nordstettin, Wuertemberg, Germany, June 17, 1866. In the following year his parents, Abram and Esther (Rothschild) Auerbach, emigrated to America on board a sailing vessel. His parents lived in Davenport, Iowa, where his father died in 1874. In 1875 the widowed mother removed to Chicago, and in 1896 to Kansas City, Missouri, where she died in 1906.
In these various American cities Henry A. Auerbach attended public school. At the age of fourteen he began employment as an errand boy with the firm of E. Rothschild & Brothers in Chicago. One dollar a week was his wages. Much had been said in recent times about the vocational training that might be gained by a system of a boy attending school part of the day and working in some business establishment the remaining hours. Mr. Auerbach put that principle into practice more than forty years ago. He worked with Bothschild & Brothers in the afternoon and in the morning he attended the old Bryant & Stratton Business College. That was his routine for a year and a half.
His next promotion was as index clerk in the office at four dollars a week. Later he was made shipping clerk in the store of Callahan & Company, the old established house of law book publishers at Chicago. He remained with that firm two years. Returning to the Rothschild house as cashier at ten dollars a week, he was gradually advanced until at the age of sixteen he was given the western ledger of customers in addition to other work and was gradually increased in pay to twenty-five dollars a week. At nineteen he was assistant credit man receiving a salary of fifteen hundred dollars a year, was advanced to eighteen hundred dollars at twenty, and at the age of twenty-one was receiving an annual income of two thousands dollar a year besides five hundred dollars annually for his work as confidential clerk to one of the proprietors. These facts and figures are stated for two purposes, to indieate the steps by which Mr. Auerbach climbed to a high and responsible position while most boys of that age are still working in the routine, and also as an incentive to younger men of this generation proving what youth and energy coupled with sound sbility may attain.
For several years after reaching his majority Mr. Auerbach had business interests of his own at Bessemer, Michigan, and Fairfield, Iowa. These ventures were rather disastrons, though not through any fault of Mr. Auerbach, since he did not reside in either of these towns and had only his capital invested.
From the age of fifteen Mr. Auerbach’s closest chum and friend was Henry A. Guettel, who subsequently became his brother-in-law. These two men had joined their capital and established a business at Fairfield, Iowa, which was conducted from 1887 to 1888. Both of them kept their home in Chicago, and the lack of personal supervision was largely the cause of their business failure.
In 1888 these partners left Chicago and came to Topeka. Topeka had really been the scene of Mr. Auerbach’s upward rise as a merchant. When the partners arrived in Topeka they had practically no capital and were in fact in debt. They opened a general clothing store largely on borrowed capital. The partners worked turn about in traveling around the country in a wagon, selling goods and getting acquainted with their customers. The other partner in the meantime remained in the store at Topeka. In this way they gradually built up a wide acquaintance and laid the foundation of the extensive trade which now for fully a quarter of a century had been enjoyed by this prominent mercantile house. Successful merchandising had its proper reward, and theirs is now one of the largest and most successful retail establishments in the west. Long since every debt of the partners was paid, and not only have they kept their commercial rating Al but the good will which goes with their business is worth more than the capital invested in many similar concerns. They have always held to the maxim of truthful advertising and representation of goods, and furthermore have injected a tremendous energy into the workings of their business. It is quite well known around Topeka that each of the partners have frequently worked eighteen out of the twenty-four hours a day. Their firm gives employment to about sixty people, and they have branch stores at Kansas City, St. Joseph and Emporia. These partners are now among the largest tax payers in Topeka.
Mr. Auerbach is a life member of the Kansas State Historical Society and also belongs to the Topeka Commercial Club. In 1901 he married Miss Rosine Deutsch, a daughter of Capt. Albert B. Deutsch of Carthage, Missouri. Captain Deutsch served as a quartcrmaster in the Second Missouri Regiment during the Spanish-American war. For five years he lived in Topeka, and died in that city April 19, 1916. He had for thirty-nine years been a prominent banker and merchant at Carthage, Missouri, Captain Deutsch was an exceptionally lovable character, a gentleman in all the word implies, and was universally respected. His widow is still living in Topeka and both Mrs. Deutsch and her daughter Mrs. Auerbach are known for their wide but unostentatious charitable work in this city. Mr. and Mrs. Auerbach have one daughter, Ruth Aline.