Monday, July 27, 2015

The Merchants of Richmond, Quebec,

What Mr. Wales was selling in 1910. Hmm. Motoring suiting... Interesting. Also motor veils. I wondered what they were then I remember Natalie Wood's character in the Great Race.

As I write Threshold Girl, my story about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1910 era, based on the letters of  Tighsolas a 'main character' looms over my girlish tale, the TOWN of Richmond, itself. And that town is made up of tradesman and more importantly shop keepers. My tale is a tale of the new consumerism ushered in by the industrial age, as reflected in the social standing of the local merchants in this smallish town.

Seems to me, if you were a merchant in Richmond in the 1900-1910 era you were doing very well.
You were a community leader. (Since the Nicholsons left behind a number of invoices from 1900-1914 era, and talked a lot about the stores in their letters, I had a pretty good idea of who they were before I saw this Richmond Times Guaridan from 1910.


                        Edith and Flora Nicholson, In front of Tighsolas in Richmond, Quebec, 1910


Mr. Wales, whose store sold the above material, to thrifty, nimble-fingered women like Margaret Nicholson, was the town tycoon. He had the first auto and sometimes came around to take Margaret for a spin. His chauffeur drove. I guess she didn't buy from the Eaton's catalogue: no need to.

Another merchant, J.C. Sutherland, the owner of the pharmacy and a leader of St. Francis College posted a notice in the same paper where I found this ad for Wales, saying that H. Bedard was taking over his business. (Herbert Nicholson refers to 'the Bedard gang' so I think Bedard was Mayor.)

You see, in 1911, Sutherland was appointed Superintendant of Protestant Schools, a very lofty post, second only to the Minister of Education.

Young men of Richmond, Quebec, 1910 era.

Herb Nicholson remarks upon this appointment in a letter to his dad. He says it is a patronage appointment, in thanks for talking up the Liberal Party in his store. Maybe so, but Sutherland went on to have an illustrious career, and I suspect he helped Marion Nicholson along in her Union Career.

Shopkeepers had power. They had the power to Introduce new products to women customers. Crisco Shortening in 1915, was introduced by McCrae grocers. They had the power to chat up politics too, to the men.... And then the women, after the women got the vote in 1918.

Remember, there was no radio or television! "The local news" as Edith wryly refers to it, was passed around by mouth.


Anyway, this is just another link (an oblique one) between women's fashion and power. The men who sold material to women made money and had political clout.