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 remarkably modern-looking 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. 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.

Life Span of Major Fort Worth Retailers

Stripling’s 114 years (1893-2007)
Washer Brothers 106 years (1882-1988)
Ellison’s 104 years (1888-1992)
Monnig’s 99 years (1889-1988)
R. E. Cox 74 years (1933-2007)
The Fair 73 years (1890-1963)
Meacham’s 69 years (1905-1974)
Leonard’s 56 years (1918-1974)
Sanger’s 36 years (1875-1880, 1896, 1917-1930, 1970-1987)

If You Shopped ’til You Dropped, You Were Ready for Betty

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