Kamloops · Vancouver

Bailey Bros.: Photographers and Booksellers, Part 1

Many Vancouver history buffs know Bailey Bros. as the scenic photographers who captured enduring images of a young city and of British Columbia in the late 1880s and early 1890s (1).

But fewer people know that the Baileys were also among Vancouver’s earliest booksellers and stationers.

Charles Bailey, the younger of the two brothers, was first to the city, arriving in 1887/88. Born in Creemore, Ontario, in June 1868, he was not yet twenty by the time he established himself in Vancouver (2).

In December 1888, he opened a studio at 227 Hastings Street, formerly home to the city’s post office. There, as C.S. Bailey & Co., he sold not only his photographic services and works, but also books, albums, periodicals, greeting cards, and other stationery (3).

Charles Bailey in front of his photography studio and bookstore at 227 Hastings Street, ca. 1888 (City of Vancouver Archives, AM54-S4-: BU P76)

In 1889, Charles teamed up with Hamilton George Neelands. Operating as Bailey & Neelands out of the same Hastings Street location, the two shot scenes of Vancouver and British Columbia that are now “among the most cherished images of the early city and province” (4). Charles’s prints were shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1889, the Toronto Industrial Exhibition in 1891, and the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (5).

In 1890, Bailey & Neelands moved to larger premises at 176 Cordova, between Cambie and Abbott (6). Not long after, Charles’s older brother William arrived in Vancouver, and Neelands left for Nelson, reportedly due to ill health. William joined Charles in the business, which they rechristened as Bailey Bros. (7)

Charles remained the principal photographer for that side of the enterprise, while William took more responsibility for the books and stationery side, having worked for nine years with stationer R.D. Richardson in Winnipeg prior to coming to Vancouver (8). “Both partners are men of youth, energy, and liberal experience,” reported Books and Notions, “and with these advantages they have assurance of success” (9).

In 1892, the business moved again, this time to 160 Cordova, “which they [fitted] up in excellent style” with intentions to carry “a larger stock of stationery than formerly” (10).

Cordova Street looking east from Cambie, 1893 (City of Vancouver Archives, AM54-S4-: Str P301). The Bailey Bros. store at 160 Cordova can be seen as the third building on the right when this photo is viewed at a larger size.
I found this Bailey Bros. label in an online copy of the 1896 Vancouver City Directory.

In September 1895, Charles and William incorporated Bailey Bros. Ltd. along with a third partner, their brother-in-law Joseph Coupland, who was married to their sister Mary Ann (11).

That same month, Charles married Jennie Johnstone, and the couple moved to Kamloops (12). Charles oversaw a branch of Bailey Bros. there, but over the coming months, newspapers reported that he was seriously ill with tuberculosis and frequently confined to his bed. Charles died of pneumonia on November 29, 1896, just one month after the birth of his only son and namesake, Charles Edward (13).

The Kamloops branch of Bailey Bros. was put up for sale in January 1897, but it seems there was a change of mind, as that store remained open under the management of Arthur Foster Lauder until 1901, when Smith Bros. & Vernon bought it out (14).

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, the firm moved to 138 Cordova the year of Charles’s death, and it would continue to grow and thrive under William’s leadership. I’ll pick up from here next time.


(1) Repositories of Bailey Bros. images include the City of Vancouver Archives, the Vancouver Public Library, and the Royal BC Museum and Archives. David Mattison has written and presented extensively about Bailey Bros., particularly Charles Bailey. See, for example, the summary of his presentation “An Artist of Rare Ability: The Life and Photographs of C.S. Bailey” to the Friends of BC Archives; his Camera Workers database entries; and Eyes of a City: Early Vancouver Photographers 1868–1900 (Vancouver: Vancouver City Archives, 1986).

(2) C.S. Bailey is listed in the “additional names” section of the 1888 Vancouver City Directory (R.T. William), indicating that he arrived not long before the March 1 publication date. Thanks to former Vancouver city archivist Major James Skitt Matthews for this detective work!

(3) Vancouver Daily World (December 21, 1888), 1.

(4) John Mackie, “This Week in History: 1889 Two Pioneer Vancouver Photographers Set Up Shop on Hastings Street,” Vancouver Sun (December 1, 2017).

(5) Martin Segger, “Mirrors of the Architectural Moment: Some Comments on the Use of Historical Photographs as Primary Sources in Architectural History,Material Cultural Review (1982).

(6) “Removal: Bailey & Neelands,” Vancouver Daily World (August 13, 1890), 1.

(7) Vancouver Daily World (December 12, 1890), 5.

(8) David Mattison, Camera Workers database.

(9) Books and Notions (February 1891), 12. Robert Dennis Richardson established the first stationery store in Winnipeg in 1878: Memorable Manitobans.

(10) Books and Notions (June 1892), 8.

(11) “Forty Years Ago,” Vancouver Sun (September 18, 1935), 6.

(12) “Bailey-Johnstone,” Vancouver Daily World (September 24, 1895), 4.

(13) Vancouver Daily World (November 30, 1896), 4; Vancouver Daily World (October 22, 1896), 8.

(14) Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory (1897–1901); Bookseller and Stationer (June 1901), 1.


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