W. C. Stripling & Co.: Dry Goods and Whangdoodles

Wesley Capers Stripling was born in Carroll County, Georgia in 1859. His father William was a farmer.

stripling-1860During the Civil War in 1862 father William was killed at the Battle of Crampton’s Gap in Maryland, and young Wesley soon after went to work helping a farmer. But when Stripling was eighteen he moved from behind a plow to behind a counter: He and a cousin opened a general store. Stripling moved to Texas in 1884, operating a dry goods store first in Alvord, then Sunset, then Bowie. In 1893 he opened a “branch” store on Houston Street in Fort Worth, historian Oliver Knight wrote, after meeting William Monnig when both merchants were on a buying trip in Baltimore. In 1899 Stripling moved his family from Bowie to Fort Worth. (Bowie also sent us G. W. Haltom and Amon Carter.)

Although Stripling had moved his family to Fort Worth, he continued to operate his store in Bowie.

stripling ad 2-14-97 regMissing apostrophes notwithstanding, “If Stripling says its so—its so.” Ad is from the February 14, 1897 Fort Worth Register.

stripling whangdoodle 5-2-97 regA whangdoodle is a fanciful creature mentioned in a mock sermon (“Where the lion roareth and the whangdoodle mourneth for her first-born”) attributed to journalist William P. Brannan about 1856. Ad is from the May 2, 1897 Register.

stripling 1890s UTALThe Stripling store on Houston Street in the 1890s. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

stripling 96 cdHouston Street was a veritable mall of dry goods stores, as the 1896 city directory shows.

stripling evans hall UTALIn this costumed group photo taken on the stage at old Evans Hall, Mrs. and Mr. Stripling are numbered “14” and “15.” (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

stripling society 5-16-20 stThe Striplings lived in River Crest and were often in the society pages. Stripling was an early investor in—and a board member of—Amon Carter’s newspaper.

stripling bottleThe Stripling drug department had its own bottles.

stripling corset 6-30-01In the June 30, 1901 Dallas Morning News Stripling advertised the “correct corset for every occasion.”

stripling baseball 8-29-01 regIn 1901 employee baseball teams of the Stripling and Monnig stores played a benefit game at T&P Ball Park on the sprawling Texas & Pacific reservation south of downtown. Clip is from the August 29 Register.

stripling como 1910 UTALStripling employees attended a picnic at Lake Como in 1910. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

stripling addition 1909In 1909 the department store got a new home.

And in 1915 this addition was built.

stripling big ad 3-19-20 stThis full-page ad in the March 19, 1920 Star-Telegram featured a Universal combination range that “burns coal, wood or gas at the same time or individually.”

stripling schoolW. C. Stripling High School, designed by Wiley Clarkson, opened in 1927, became a junior high school ten years later when Arlington Heights High School opened.

Stripling’s, like most of the downtown department stores, offered customers the option of shopping by phone or mail via a “personal shopper.” Jane Alden would be happy to help.

stripling 1947 adFull-page ad in the Fort Worth Press on March 3, 1947. Stripling’s (“Fort Worth’s Quality Department Store”), like Monnig’s (“The Friendly Store”), was more upscale than down-home Leonard’s (“More Merchandise for Less Money”) and Leonard-owned Everybody’s (“The Store Where Everybody Saves”).

stripling 1960 adAd is from 1960.

stripling bag

stripling s-t obitstripling tributeWesley Capers Stripling died on February 9, 1934. Son Will K. took over the business. Clip is from the February 10 Star-Telegram.

stripling smith spreadW. D. Smith photos from Fort Worth in Pictures, 1940.

stripling demo TCC NE HRStripling’s much-expanded 1937 downtown store was demolished in 1979 to make way for the Worthington Hotel. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast Heritage Room.)

It was all over in less than twenty seconds as five hundred pounds of explosives leveled eighty-six years of history.

stripling malls 6-29-75 dmnThe Stripling company joined the mall movement after Katy Lake was drained to build Seminary South in 1962 and after Northeast Mall opened in Hurst in 1971.

Before he was sweatin’ to the oldies, Richard Simmons, twenty-three, was pitching cosmetics as “Coty’s Country Expert.” In 1971 he appeared at the Stripling’s in Northeast Mall.

In 1977 the Dunlap Company of Fort Worth bought Striplings’s, and in 1981 Dunlap bought the R. E. Cox stores and merged the two as Stripling-Cox. Clip is from the June 29, 1975 Dallas Morning News.

The Dunlap Company closed all of its stores in 2007. After 114 years the Stripling store name was gone. According to my research, that is the longest life of any retail name in Fort Worth history.

stripling tombstoneW. C. Stripling is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

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23 Responses to W. C. Stripling & Co.: Dry Goods and Whangdoodles

  1. Mary Lou Palmer-Gilbreath says:

    I was secretary to the clothes buyer on the second floor of Striplings April through August in 1959. I loved working there and always ate lunch in the cafeteria.

  2. Darlene Webb says:

    I was a student at TCU in 1972. I found bridesmaid dresses for my sister’s wedding at Striplings. I thought they had a staircase in the downtown store. I could always find shoes at Striplings downtown.

  3. Ann Bastable says:

    Loved this downtown store in the 50s and 60s. The tea room was a treat and I bought some of my trousseau there when I married in 1963. Then I continued to shop at stores on W. Berry and E Lancaster. I miss them.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Ann. The tea room apparently was very popular. And thank you for keeping the word trousseu alive!

  4. Linda says:

    I worked at Striplings downtown from about 1974-1975. I have wished I could see some more interior pictures of it. I know there are a few above and they are nice but they can’t be magnified and I wish there were more of them.
    Unless I’m crazy there was in the basement a kind of conveyor belt that took moved things around. The upper floors of the building were always mysterious to me, I would peer out into them sometimes when on the elevator but I didn’t have any business getting out and looking around. Just used for storage I suppose. Oh how I miss the chocolate covered cordial strawberries from the candy shop. They were divine.
    The British comedy “Are You Being Served” always reminds me of the store a bit.

  5. Noah Marquez says:

    I am a Stripling student and I believe that he was a good hard working man and that he should be remembered more .

  6. Bruce Holberg says:

    Great summary of Striplings department store. Thanks

  7. Nickiey says:

    Sorry!! You’re talking about Striplings! I was researching Monnigs and this article came up.

  8. Alan says:

    My wife’s grandma was an artist for them in the 1950s she has a lot of their ads! I was looking at them today it was so cool how they used to make them.

    • Nickiey says:

      I would LOVE to see them! I was just thinking that reading this article. I have a Monnig’s leather coat from the 50’s (maybe earlier) and thought maybe one of the young family members might want it…

    • Nickiey says:

      I would LOVE to see them! I was just thinking that reading this article. I have a Monnig’s leather coat from the 50’s (maybe earlier) and thought maybe one of the young family members might want it. How cool would it be to have an add (or copy) too?

  9. John Watkins says:

    My maternal grandparents lived on a ranch north of Fort Worth. Each Christmas season in the ’50s and early ’60s, my mother and one of her sisters would dress to the nines, pick up my grandmother, and drive her into town for shopping and lunch at Striplings. My grandmother loved those trips.

  10. Sarah J Biles says:

    In about 1967, after I first learned to drive, I loved to go with a girlfriend to Stripling’s downtown. We could park in the garage & eat lunch at the Pink Rooster. My friend always like to say we had pink tea at the Hot Rooster. That’s where we learned manners on how to eat out, & I loved their French Dip sandwiches. we thought we were very sophisticated.

    • hometown says:

      Great memory, Sarah. When my mother would carry out Saturday shopping raids on downtown, she would drag me into Stripling’s and Monnig’s with her when all I really wanted to do was go to Leonard’s for the toy, pet, and outdoor departments.

  11. Chris Bounds says:

    What a great historical overview . Thank you for that. I have fond, memories of going to Striplings downtown Fort Worth in the early 60’s with my brother and dad sometimes. As I recall it was at least every other weekend to get a haircut at Mr Craddoc’s barber shop. I’m not sure I have spelled his name right but I would really appreciate any information you may have about him and his life you could fill me in on. It’s just a fuzzy memory now but as I recall he was a very kind and genuine person. Thank you.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Chris. I can contribute only some cold facts to go with your personal memories of Walter Parker Craddock. He was born in 1890 in Texas. In 1900 his family was living in Fannin County. The 1910 census lists him as a farm worker in Hunt County. He moved to Fort Worth about 1916. In 1917 he listed himself at a barber on his draft registration card. In the 1920 census he and his wife Ida Mae and two children lived at 523 Samuels Avenue. He was a barber. In 1928 he was president of Journeyman Barbers of Fort Worth. The 1968 city directory lists him as a barber at Stripling’s. He and his wife lived at 1416 West Spurgeon Street near the seminary. He died in 1971. Ida Mae died in 1978. They are buried in Laurel Land Cemetery.

  12. Mike, you gave credit for my grandfather’s project, W. C. Stripling Jr. High, where I attended Jr. High in starting in the early 1960’s, but you missed out on giving credit for his architectural work on the Stripling building of 1937-1979 (pictured) and the Stripling parking garage (not pictured) in 1948. The 1937 building was constructed by T. S. Byrne, General Contractor, at a total job cost of $550,000.00. The Stripling building was one of my grandfather’s projects that my grandmother would remind me of every time we went to shop at the downtown Stripling. The work my grandfather did also extended to W.C.’s brother, W.K. Stripling. My grandfather designed a house at 1315 Hillcrest for W. K., who would also hire my grandfather in 1926 to design the new Panther Park on the north side of Main Street for the Fort Worth Baseball Club and the team that W. K. owned, the Fort Worth Cats. In 1929, Paul LaGrave, who was the team manager and a man who had worked his way up in the front office, passed away. W. K, in honor of Paul LaGrave, renamed Panther Park to LaGrave Field. My parents and grandparents were fans of the Cats and the first baseball game I ever attended was in the summer of 1948, before I was born the following October! Really enjoyed the article!

  13. John Olthoff says:

    I had pleasure of working for Monnig’s (started in downtown location in 1982) later worked in Arlington for Park Row store and switched to Stripling & Cox Lincoln Square. Every time I am downtown Fort Worth I miss the Monnig’s building (Sundance Square parking lot now), still remember Tandy Center when it was a going concern (ate lunch there just about everyday). Sad so many of the grand old places to shop are gone. thanks for a wlk down memory lane

  14. nancy brownlee says:

    Recently, I was talking to my sons and daughter-in-law about downtown shopping in Fort Worth, and the number of locally owned department stores – Stripling, Cox, Monnig’s, Washer Bros; my grandmother walked my feet down to hot little nubs, covering those stores. When I described how we were offered package delivery for bulky purchases- and how the packages sometimes made it home before we did- I don’t think they believed me.

    • hometown says:

      Oh, we were of sturdy stock, we Baby Boomers who had no fear of shoe leather and public transit. My father worked six days a week, and my mother did not drive, so she’d march me along with her as we rode the bus downtown to shop. How heavy my feet felt as we went from Monnig’s to Stripling’s back to Monnig’s as she bought uninteresting things (clothes, housewares), but how light my step became when at last we headed toward Leonard’s as she bought something for me (usually a turtle in the pet department).

  15. Linda Campbell says:

    I worked at Stripling’s Seminary South from about November 1966-January 1970. When I first started, people were still using the Fort Worth Charge-A-Plate. I have tried to find an image of the little plastic pouch with the small plates from the different Fort Worth stores in it but have not found one yet. I was lucky enough to get in on the end of the era of “home owned” department stores in Fort Worth. So much character as opposed to the national chains today.

  16. B. Engelhardt says:

    To Marion Watson: I believe you are referring to the Cox family rather than the Striplings. I was acquainted with both families and happened to be an employee of Stripling & Cox when Mr. Cox lost his battle with life. I enjoyed the store immensely right up until it closed and still have fond memories.

  17. marian watson says:

    Too bad that business was so bad at the end of his son’s life that he took his own life. I loved that store my mother bought clothes & shoes during WW2 with ration stamps there. I bought my first nice set of dishes in Striplings basement.
    Thank you for the reminder and pictures of the inside of the stored downtown. The elevator and the two water fountains and don’t forget the dining room on the first floor near the elevators.

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