Samuel L. 'Sandy' Frank

Clothing executive was fourth-generation family member to head A. Frank & Sons

  • Sandy Frank
Sandy Frank (LLOYD FOX, Baltimore Sun )
March 07, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Samuel L. "Sandy" Frank, a retired Baltimore clothing manufacturer executive and World War II veteran, died Feb. 28 from cancer at his Roland Park Place home.

The former longtime Mount Washington resident was 92.

The son of Henry Frank, who headed A. Frank & Sons, and Ruth Frank, Samuel Lewis Frank was born in Baltimore and spent his early years in a Eutaw Place home before moving in the 1930s with his family to Crossland Avenue in the Dumbarton neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore.

After graduating from City College in 1938, he earned a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College in 1942.

He enlisted in the Navy that year, and during the D-Day Invasion of June 6, 1944, commanded a Landing Craft Tank in the first wave that made a landing on Utah Beach.

"It was a lively experience," he told The Baltimore Sun in a 2004 interview. "Our boats had tanks on them, and we had to drop those tanks in the water so they could go on the beach before anyone else," he recalled in the interview. "Only the water was very rough and our tanks sank, dropped with the guys in them, except that the top guy got out."

Under heavy German fire from bunkers, Mr. Frank was ferrying men and materiel when his craft was hit by enemy fire.

"Then we got hit," he said in the interview. "Shells went through the boat. Nobody was killed on my boat. We managed to live through it."

He attained the rank of lieutenant and was discharged from the Navy in 1945.

Mr. Frank returned to Baltimore after the war and joined the family business, A. Frank & Son. His great-grandfather, Aaron Frank, who emigrated to Baltimore from Nuremberg, Germany, founded the business in 1865.

For the previous decade before establishing his own business on the second floor of an East Baltimore Street building, Mr. Frank had been engaged in the wholesale clothing business selling trimmings to men's clothing manufacturers.

"The sons were Samuel, Abraham, Frank and Meyer. Samuel was the real businessman, surpassing even his father," Mr. Frank said in a 2004 interview. "Trimmings are linings and pocketing, but not the shelf fabric itself, of the garment. All the other stuff that goes into the suit."

It was Samuel Frank who "helped his father really put the business on the map," Mr. Frank said in the interview.

In the early days of the business, they imported fabrics for linings for men's suits chiefly from Belgium and England, and as the company became more successful, moved in 1872 to a building site that is now occupied by the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

During the Civil War, Aaron Frank sold uniforms to the Army. Uniforms became a mainstay of the business, which for a time was relocated to Cumberland before moving back to the city.

Aaron Frank died in 1881. His son Samuel, who succeeded him, died in 1910.

Samuel's son, Henry S. Frank, then operated the business until his death in 1963, when his son, Samuel L. "Sandy" Frank headed its operations until liquidating A. Frank & Sons in 2005, and retiring.

After their building was destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, the business moved to the 300 block of W. Baltimore St., where they remained until 1955, when they relocated to West Redwood Street in the city's garment district.

A. Frank & Sons continued making deliveries by horse and wagon until 1933, being one of the last businesses in the city to convert to motor trucks.

"As a firm of converters, the company does none of its own manufacturing. It contracts with about 25 mills, chiefly in New England and the South to weave 'greige' goods," reported The Baltimore Sun when the company celebrated its 100th anniversary.

"After the material is woven it is shipped to drying and finishing plants, where it is dyed and given a finish specified by the Baltimore firm. The material is then ready to be used as linings, chiefly for men's clothing," reported the newspaper.

"The term greige (pronounced 'gray') denotes materials in the raw state as it comes off the loom. The term is derived from the French word grege, which carries the same meaning," reported The Sun.

When the material leaves the loom, it is white and after it is washed is then dyed and patterns may be printed on it. A variety of finishes may be applied such as a satin or heavy finish, or even textured.

The final move of the company, which was a major supplier to Jos. A. Bank clothiers, was to a building at 1501 Guilford Ave., where it remained until its closing.

In his 1989 book, "A Stitch in Time," Baltimore writer Philip Kahn Jr. noted that the business was "the oldest lining house in the U.S.A."

In the 2004 interview, Mr. Frank explained how as the fourth generation of Franks to run the business he had learned its intricacies.

"I had to learn everything about the business the hard way," he said. "By experience."

Mr. Frank, who had lived on Rogers Avenue, was involved in Democratic politics and active in many political campaigns.

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