Raps was the son of W. A. and Anna B. Steininger Raps who emigrated from Bavaria to New York, and then to Wisconsin. In 1865 the family moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee and farmed and ran a hotel. George was the fourth of their seven children and attended public schools in Racine and Union University in Tennessee, initially pursuing the study of medicine.
After two years in college, Raps left to begin working in business in Courtland, Lawrence County, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee until moving to Birmingham in 1882. He opened the George Raps & Co. Saloon in 1883, expanding it into one of the city's largest such establishments, which displayed his collection of curiosities, such as a pipe smoked by Sitting Bull's grandmother.
He developed the City Market at 19th Street and Avenue D in 1885, providing space for Birmingham Fire Station No. 2 which served the Southside. The company named their steam pumper, purchased in 1887, the "Nellie R. Raps" after his daughter. In return, he outfitted the company with new blue cashmere uniforms.
- Dubose, John Witherspoon (1887) Jefferson County and Birmingham, Alabama: Historical and Biographical Birmingham: Teeple & Smith, Publishers; Caldwell Printing Works.
- "It belonged to grandma" (September 25, 1889) The Weekly Age-Herald - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections