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Hochschild-Kohn collection

Identifier: MS 2721


This collection consists of correspondence, subject files, minutes, and account books from this Baltimore, Maryland department store. Records detail construction, employee policies, promotional activities, and store sales and profits, 1896-1981.


  • 1896-1981


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Historical Note

A partnership of Max Hochschild, Benno Kohn, and his brother Louis B. Kohn formed Hochschild-Kohn & Company in 1897, in a store at Howard and Lexington Streets in downtown Baltimore. The company prospered, and in 1912 a building at 208 N. Howard Street was purchased. When incorporated in 1922, Hochschild-Kohn was Baltimore's largest department store. Space needs led to the purchase of most of the block at Howard, Franklin, Park and Centre Streets in 1923, but financial difficulties and Max Hochschild's retirement as president led to its abandonment. Benno Kohn died in 1929. Management then consisted of Irving Kohn (Louis' son) president; Walter Sondheim and Walter Kohn, vice-presidents. Although financed by corporate stock, Hochschild-Kohn was still run as a partnership. At that time plans for a new building at Howard and Franklin Streets were abandoned, and the Lexington Street building was leased, improved, and connected to the Howard and Lexington Street property.

During the Depression, Hochschild-Kohn lost more in sales percentages than the aggregate sales lost by other Baltimore--sales were down almost fifty percent from 1930 in the Depression's worst year. Management also suffered from discord between Irving and Walter Kohn, who retired in 1935. Management then consisted of Irving Kohn, Walter Sondheim, and Martin Kohn. After illness caused Walter Sondheim to be less active in 1943, and Irving Kohn's death in 1945, Martin B. Kohn became president of the store. Louis Kohn II and Walter Sondheim, Jr. were his vice-presidents.

Martin B. Kohn's management pioneered the suburban expansion of downtown department stores with the opening of Hochschild-Kohn's Edmonson Village store. Later expansion included stores at Belvedere Avenue in Baltimore and at Harundale Mall south of the city. The Hochschild-Kohn Company went out of business in 1983.


5.83 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Louis B. Kohn, II, 1983.

Scope and Contents

Records of the Hochschild-Kohn Company include subject files, management policy, manuals and reports, staff policy manuals, and financial records that span from the store's beginning in 1897 to the early 1980's.

Subject files are the most varied of the records, and have been kept largely as arranged by the company. Topics include the construction, renovation, and finance of new buildings, working conditions, customer and employee relations, and advertisement.

While the subjects are too numerous to list here (refer to the container list for a specific enumeration), items of particular interest include the in-store newsletters The Better Service Bulletin for employees and for customers, The Exposition Gazette. Advertising files hold newspaper and streetcar ad contracts, and promotion schemes. The anniversary folder describes periodic celebrations of Hochschild-Kohn's anniversary, including songs, speeches, and employee awards. Construction files have contracts, specifications, and finance reports in detail, particularly concerning the proposed store on the block at Howard, Franklin, Park and Centre streets. Employee Relations includes letters from employees showing appreciation to Hochschild-Kohn and requesting loans. Early ledgers detail expenses for elevators, advertising, and utilities; another records sales. Legal concerns were liability suits, ground rents, taxes, leases, sales and work contracts, and patent disputes and licenses.

The store's war years in World War I, World War II and the Korean War are all on record. Files from World War I detail policy letters on retail sales in Baltimore from the Retail Merchants Association. More extensive records from World War II detail war raid preparation procedures. Soldiers in both wars, former employees, wrote to Hochschild-Kohn requesting loans, jobs on return to Baltimore, and describing camp life. From the Korean War, the Office of Price Stablization files detail company policies on government price controls.

Information on race relations can be found throughout the collection, as jobs in the store were almost explicitly divided along color lines---whites were in sales positions (women sold clothing; men sold furniture), while blacks were janitors, elevator operators, and restroom attendants until the 1960's. Of particular interest, however, are the letters for and against the integration of the downtown store's tea room in 1960; the first of its kind to integrate in Baltimore. Letters against are bitter and explicit in their rationalizations. Almost ten times as many customers wrote in support of the new policy, apparently a financially successful policy.

Finally, a 1952 booklet A Visit to Hochschild, Kohn's Department Storenwas written and illustrated by a class of elementary school teachers at Johns Hopkins University describing their store tour.

Management policies and reports span 1944-1965. Store policy manuals are indexed compilations of policy bulletins on working conditions, employee discounts, the employee honor roll, mark-downs and sales, and banking procedures. The 1950 manual is an ordered version of the above manual, with a table of contents on Operating Structure, General Policy, Merchandising Policies, Publicity Policies, Customer Service Policies, and Personnel Policies.

The 1949 manual of an annual store superintendents' meeting of representatives from nineteen retail stores in the United States and Canada describes procedures used by Hochschild-Kohn in areas of supply, delivery, personnel training, managing, alterations, etc. The Frederick Atkins Group also prepared the 1961 study of the growth potential and structure of furniture sales. An undated theft and fraud protection manual gives tips to sales staff and outlines training procedures for store detectives.

The remainder of this section consists of reports. The Inventory of Ideas shows results from a standardized survey on employee morale by position, interpreting the results according to age, race and sex. Results are compared to U.S. averages (figures below the national average are in red; above,in black). A 1964 report on selling and merchandising gives sales results, payroll expenses, and proposed cost reductions in an attempt to gauge the maximum staff sales hours at the least expense. This attempt at staff restructure continues in a report on workrooms and branch stores.

Staff policy manuals are often similar to management manuals although they cover an earlier period. Information includes worker regulations, such as passes to leave the building, personal habits, hours, and the highly-structured seasonal dress code. Also, a 1975 emergency procedure manual addresses the possibility of civil disorder.

Minutes of the employee's organization, the House of Representatives, cover 1920-1951 and provide an unusually specific account of working conditions and management relations. Management referred to the "Store Family"; meetings were attended by an executive officer. These records show debates about customer service, equal treatment of employees, one dress code, and the organization of the workplace.

Financial records complete the collection. Account books provide a daily summary of charges and purchases around the turn of the century and a record of profit and loss by department for 1945-1946 and 1955, and of expenses for 1952-1956. Annual gross sales by department (departments are coded by numbers) are included with summarized expenses.

A detailed insurance record for 1906-1930 lists amounts paid for coverage on delivery vehicles, as well as monthly charges, local bank accounts, and expenses such as merchandise and salaries of Hochschild-Kohn's executives. The Maryland Trust Company account book gives the monthly bank balance, drafts, and payments to the bank.

The last box of the collection is restricted until 20 December 1988. These records show net sales, gross margins, direct and payroll expenses, and annual net profit by department. From 1947 on there are yearly summaries of sales and profits as well as developments such as new buildings, the installation of a computer system, and redecorating.

A scrapbook, circa 1970, primarily holds newsclippings of special events.


Guide to the Hochschild-Kohn collection
Under Revision
Susan Weinandy
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-03-17: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States