Sunday, 25 July 2021

Guelph postcard producers: C. Anderson & Co.

The postcard below provides an interesting, though murky, view across St. George's Square, as it appeared around 1910. The caption, "Post Office and section of Wyndham st., Guelph, Canada", draws attention to the city's fancy and recently renovated post office, which appears to the left of Douglas Street.

As always, the Square is busy, with men and women walking around and through it. Horses with carts are coming and going. Someone is running away from the camera up Wyndham street—camera shy? A young man appears to be scooting through the square with his knee on a four-wheeled cart. Streetcar tracks bisect the space diagonally.

The alert viewer may note that the stamp is attached to the front of this postcard instead of the back as usual. It is also notable that the stamp is upside-down. The stamp's rotation may convey a message. In the "Language of stamps," an inverted stamp could be used to ask, "Do you remember me?" In other words, it was a subtle nag to the recipient that a card or letter was expected ASAP.

That this orientation was not an accident seems to be borne out by the message, sent to Miss Mary Elliott of Galt on 7 March 1910:

Dear Mollie. Have you been doing the Rip Van Winkle act lately[?] Haven’t heard for ages, poor Mrs. Fairley has been in the Hospital again this last month. Write soon. Helen Taylor
The postcard was printed by Warwick Bros. & Rutter, Toronto, for C. Anderson & Co., Guelph.

As fortune would have it, the C. Anderson store is visible in the postcard picture. At the right-hand edge lies Joseph Pequegnat's jewelery store. Immediately to its left, at 53 Wyndham street, is the storefront of C. Anderson & Co. The storefront can be better seen in the detail below.

C. Anderson & Co. was a popular bookstore that sold books, stationary, and "fancy goods." It was named after its founder and manager Christian Anderson. Besides being a highly successful Guelph merchant, Christian Anderson has the distinction of being one of the Royal City's few, early woman entrepreneurs.

Christian Anderson was born on 16 July 1855 to Alexander and Christian Anderson, somewhere in the vicinity of Guelph, and, clearly, named after her mother. Her father led a peripatetic life, which may account for the uncertainty of Christian's early whereabouts. He immigrated to Canada from Fyfeshire, Scotland with his parents and siblings around 1834 and settled on a farm in the Paisley Block near Guelph (Mercury, 11 Feb. 1889). As soon as he was able, he went into farming on his own account in "different localities." Then, his wanderings truly began:

Tiring of this he went into partnership with his brother Robert in the lumbering business, at what was known as Stumptown, in Halton Co., near Acton. After the partnership was dissolved he went to Georgetown and embarked in the grocery business which he carried on for a few years. About twenty years ago he removed to Guelph and taught in the public schools for about eight years. Giving this occupation up he went into the manufacture of brushes. He threw this business up also and went to Toronto, where he has since carried on a glassware agency.
He died in Toronto in 1889 but was buried in the Union (now Woodlawn) Cemetery at Guelph.

Ms. Anderson was educated in public schools in Georgetown and, later, Guelph, where the family located in 1868 (Mercury, 1 Oct. 1918). So, perhaps "Stumptown" was her place of birth. She seems not to have shared her father's wanderlust and remained in the Royal City for the rest of her life.

However, Ms. Anderson displayed independence. Upon graduating from public school, she entered the employ of T.J. Day, whose bookstore was a fixture at 29 Wyndham street since 1861. There she remained as a clerk for over 20 years. Evidently, she enjoyed the independence brought by her job and income and never married.

However, in 1898, she decided to set up shop for herself. It is unclear what led her to make this decision; much later, we are informed only that, "Miss Anderson was dissatisfied with working for another, so decided to branch out into business for herself" (Mercury, 28 Feb. 1948). Whatever the full story was, this move seems to speak further of Ms. Anderson's independent spirit. She was soon joined in the venture by her younger sister, Lydia, who also, as it happens, remained a spinster.

The 1908 Industrial number of the Mercury provides a fulsome description of C. Anderson & Co. in its early years:

The premises occupied comprise a large three-story building, located at 53 Wyndham street. On the first floor can be found every description of books, high-class stationary and the office. On the second floor is carried a comprehensive line of china toys and a variety of small articles. The third floor is devoted to stock. The store is thoroughly equipped, and employment is given to seven skilled and painstaking assistants. When we say to our readers, that at C. Anderson & Co’s. store they will one of the most complete and up-to-date establishments of this kind in the country, we have covered the ground. The individual members of the firm are C. Anderson and L. Anderson. C. Anderson, the manager of the concern, has had a wide experience in this line of business, having spent a number of years and thoroughly learned the business in T.J. Day’s store.
A contemporary advertisement for the bookstore, from the OAC Review (1909, v. 21, n. 5) of the nearby Ontario Agricultural College, shows that C. Anderson & Co. did a lot of business by supplying school needs for the College students.

The name "The Central Bookstore" suggested the importance of the shop and also its location in the middle of Guelph's downtown district.

In the Edwardian era, C. Anderson & Co. sold postcards, as did many bookstores. As suggested by the postcard above, they had a line of cards printed especially for them by Warwick Bros. & Rutter of Toronto. Warwick Bros. was one of largest publishers in Toronto and Canada at the time, and described as "The Big Kahuna" of postcard publishers in the nation by postcard researcher Mike Smith. The company was the first in Canada to print colour postcards domestically rather than having the work done in Germany or Britain as was the practise before.

It is quite likely that C. Anderson & Co. had a standing relationship with Warwick Bros. and so having them print up a special line was straightforward. Postmarks of cards in my collection range from 1910 to 1916, although it is likely that the store sold Warwick Bros. cards for some years earlier.

Some of this line of cards were printed in colour with a white bar across the front bottom, as was typical for Warwick Bros. cards of the time. These cards were from the publisher's own line of Guelph cards with the name of C. Anderson & Co. printed beneath the caption, as illustrated by the postcard featuring the old Heffernan street footbridge:

However, the majority of postcards in this line are printed in a murky, sepia tone like that of the first postcard above, probably to keep the cost of production down. What may be the first group in this line consists of postcards with hand-lettered captions. This group includes a series of views of Wyndham street, starting south of St. George's Square:

The Square itself is represented by the card already shown above:

The triptych is then completed with a view of Upper Wyndham Street, to the left of the old Post Office:

Some of the pictures were of scenes away from the downtown core. For example, this very murky view of the General Hospital is also included:

Anyone collecting this series of cards might assume that Guelph had a terrible smog problem!

What may be a later series is characterized by a clearer sepia tone and captions set in type. This group includes views of both of Guelph's new train stations that were opened in 1911. The first is the Grand Trunk (now Canadian National/VIA) station:

The baggage building east of the passenger area (since removed) can be seen at the right-hand end of the station's long roof.

The Canadian Pacific station built to replace the Priory is next:

Taken from the north side of the Speed River looking south over the Guelph Junction Railway tracks, the site is currently occupied by the Trafalgar Square apartments.

In addition to the commercial side of the stationary business, C. Anderson & Co. was involved in its professional organization. When the Booksellers’ and Stationers’ Association of the Province of Ontario was formed in 1907, C. Anderson & Co. was a charter member (Bookseller and stationer, v. 23, n. 2, p. 15). Charles Nelles, the owner of the City Book Store just a few doors down, was president of the Association, so Guelph was well represented in the local profession.

By the time the Company began to sell postcards, Christian and Lydia Anderson had settled into life at 76 Yarmouth Street. The 1911 Ontario Census lists Christian Anderson as the head of the household and describes the occupation of both women as "Stationer." Another woman, Kate Doerson, is listed as a "domestic," that is, a resident housekeeper.

By all indications, Christian and Lydia Anderson had achieved a comfortable, middle-class existence for themselves.

(76 Yarmouth street, courtesy of Google Street View.)

When the Anderson sisters lived there, the building was a single-storey cottage that had been built in the mid 1860s. The second floor was added after 1921.

Their brother Thomas Anderson worked as a press operator for the Kelso Printing Company, while brother Andrew worked for his sisters at the bookstore. A few years later, Andrew joined Thomas at Kelso.

By 1911, the Anderson sisters had set up a phone line for their store, with the three-digit number "256."

In the early morning of 1 October 1918, in her 64th year, Christian Anderson died at her home on Yarmouth street. Her obituary briefly describes her history in the stationary trade and, on a personal note, adds that she "was an active worker, for many years in Knox church, and was, for some time, a member of the choir, and teacher in the Sunday school" (Mercury, 1 Oct. 1918). After her funeral a couple of days later, the Mercury lists the pall bearers at the service (3 Oct. 1918):

The pall bearers were, W. Wood, of Warwick Bros. & Rutter, Toronto; W. Cunningham, of Buntin Gillies Co., Hamilton; F.G. Johnston, of H. Froude Co., Toronto, and R.E. Nelson, W. Macdonald, and A. Scott, of Guelph.
It is surely significant that representatives of three major Ontario publishers were present, including the company, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, that had printed the postcards for C. Anderson & Co. only a few years before.

After Christian's death, Lydia Anderson continued to run the business, apprently in much the same vein as before. An ad from the Mercury's Guelph Centennial edition (20 Jul. 1927) carries on the modest style of presentation from the previous decade—and even mentions postcards!

Lydia died in 1929. The business was run by the estate, probably the Andersons' little brother Andrew, until 1930, when the following announcement appeared in the Mercury (18 June):

We wish to announce the sale of the business of C. Anderson & Co., to Mr. Campbell Lamont, of Orangeville. In thanking our customers for the liberal patronage afforded us, we bespeak the same for Mr. Lamont. The business will be carried on under the same name.

Yours truly,
C. Anderson & Co
Per A.A. Anderson
Campbell Lamont was the husband of Janet Christian (Anderson), the daughter of Thomas, Christian and Lydia's brother. It seems fair to say that the business remained in the family! The Lamonts purchased the business from the estate, where Campbell then worked as manager and Janet as clerk. They moved in with Thomas at his house at 107 Palmer street.

(107 Palmer street; Courtesy of Google Street View.)

Although the business remained essentially the same, some changes were made (Mercury, 28 Feb. 1948):

In 1930 the new proprietors eliminated the counter system of sales, and instituted the self-serve system now in use, and is proving very effective. Under the present setup more goods can be displayed, and the entire floor space is open to the public to see and inspect the wide variety of articles for sale.
That half-century of activity has been a period of steady progress, and today they enjoy the patronage which covers and area, believed far in excess of any Guelph retail store. Besides serving all parts of Wellington County, considerable business is derived from Gray, Bruce, Huron and Dufferin Counties.
C. Anderson & Co. remained in business at the same location until 1958, an impressive 60-year run.

As noted above, women entrepreneurs (business owners) were unusual in Guelph and in Canada in general. It is difficult to say exactly how unusual. Most working women of the era were employees who worked for wages, stereotypically as typists, telephone operators, bookkeepers, and so on. However, the situation of women who owned businesses and derived income from their profits is less well studied.

Aston & Martino (2017) found that women played a significant role as entrepreneurs in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Although it is usually thought that women were squeezed out of business in this period compared with the pre-industrial era, this seems not to have been the case. English women continued to own and operate businesses successfully in that era. To what extent this is true in Canada generally and Ontario in particular is hard to say. The experience of the Anderson sisters demonstrates that it could be done.

Buddle (2020) has found that a significant number of women owned businesses in comtemporary British Columbia. These tended to be in areas where women might be employed as laborers, such as hotel keeping, food preparation, laundry, and so on. Although not married, the Anderson sisters would seem to fit with this model, as clerking in bookstores was a common occupation for working women. Indeed, their own business careers began as wage earners in the book and stationary trade.

Certainly, it would be interesting to know more about Christian and Lydia Anderson and their experiences as women entrepreneurs in the early 20th century. Also, it would be great to find pictures of them! Although descriptions of Guelph entrepreneurs of the era were often accompanied by drawings or photos, I have yet to find a representaiton of either Christian or Lydia Anderson.

Works consulted for this post include:

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