Goll and Frank Ghost Sign, Milwaukee, WI
A ghost sign that says "Goll & Frank Co., Wholesale Distributors, Notions and Furnishings", and something. Two young Germans, Julius Goll and August Frank, started Goll & Frank in 1852 in Milwaukee.
Frank, nicknamed the “Little Salesmen,” and Goll, described as “energetic, but modest and withdrawn,” according to family letters, got along fabulously. Both raised flowers, enjoyed reading and were exempted from the Civil War draft because of nearsightedness.
The two sold dry goods and hardware, such as linens, velvet ribbons, collars, gloves, men’s socks, combs, suspenders, silverware, teaspoons, purses and pocket books, according to an 1853 Goll & Frank advertisement. “Our supply of hardware and Yankee-notions is plentiful,” an 1852 ad read.
In Goll & Frank’s early years, business was booming. In a letter to his parents in 1853, Frank wrote, “Business is so good at present that I hardly know where my head is from 7 in the morning until 9 at night. I have to gulp my food down and there is hardly time to caress my wife, and child.”
By 1864, Goll & Frank had expanded to include customers from Minnesota and Iowa, and moved to the Water Street location. Twenty-eight years later, the building was almost destroyed by the “The Great Fire of 1892 in Milwaukee’s ‘Irish Third Ward,’ ” as a story by William Maher in a 1993 issue of The Irish Genealogical Quarterlywas titled.
The disaster displaced all of the Irish in the Third Ward, paving the way for Italians to settle there between 1900 and 1920, Maher wrote. According to the Third Ward’s website, the fire destroyed 440 buildings throughout 16 square blocks, leaving 1,900 people homeless and resulting in $60 million in damages by today’s standards.
Goll & Frank was rebuilt into a seven-story building in 1896 with a renaissance design, according to Historic Third Ward documents. In 1929, Julius’ son, company president Frederick Goll, renamed the firm Fred T. Goll & Sons when his sons Harry and Julius joined as partners. After Frederick died in 1931, the company became the J.H. Goll Co. in 1938. It is not known when the company went out of business.