21 Sep 2020


Lost Capitol Hill: Frank Frager Opens A Store

Julius Frager

Last week, I looked at the arrival of Frank Frager in the US and the murder of the man he had come here with. The murder remained unsolved and a year and a half afterward. The state of the case was summarized in an article along with other unsolved mysteries, and the newspaper opined that,

Gozman was from Russia, a land of intrigue, plot and counterplot. What his life had been in that country was not revealed, and certainly the theory that he had been connected with some of the many secret societies that exist under the ban of the Czar is neither unreasonable nor unlikely. Stranger things have happened. Members of such societies who have incurred the ill-will of their associates have been followed across continents and oceans, until a ghastly vengeance was wreaked upon them.

No evidence to back up this startling accusation was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Frager had moved on, both literally and figuratively. Almost immediately after the murder, he moved to the northwest quadrant of Washington, and within a few years, he married Celia, who had been born around the same time as Fritz in Russia, and emigrated a year before her husband. They had two children together, George and Julius, the former in 1905, the latter in 1907. (That’s Julius Frager in 1925 above, as a member of a baseball team) Two years after Julius’s birth, Fritz bought a home on M Street Southwest, between 3rd and 4-1/2 Street (Don’t bother looking for it today, the entire stretch was redeveloped in the 50s and 60s) and they would live here for the next ten years, during which Frager continued to work as a cabinet maker, eventually taking a job at the Navy Yard.

In 1913, a local wood dealer Martin Weigand would sponsor Frager for citizenship. Family history says that Frager also officially changed his name at this time, possibly from Freita – a name he is listed as in the 1910 census. He continued to work with wood, building cabinets for many local organizations, including the Smithsonian. However, he wanted more, and in order to start his own business, he needed more capital than cabinet building offered. He thus began selling ice cream cones on street corners.

George Frager’s son Edward standing in front of a Frager’s truck advertising their second location at 23rd and Pennsylvania Avenue (Frager Family)

In 1920, he had enough money saved to make a change that would dramatically change not only his life, but that of his sons – and would impact the neighborhood for the next 100 years. While in January he had still been at the Navy Yard, the Washington Evening Star of July 3 indicated that he had now opened a store at 1105 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. There was no great celebration of this fact, as you had to read deep into an Eveready battery advertisement to see the words “Frank Frager/1105 Pa. Ave. S.E.” to extract this information. In fact, over the next years, the only indication of Frager’s business was within advertisements for any number of other products: Paint, lacquer, enamel, varnish, cooking pots, caulk, and roofing tar.

In general, Fritz Frager remained firmly out of the limelight, but continued to supply locals with all their hardware needs.

Next week: The rest of the story.

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