Clarke & Stuart: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

In 1894, when Vancouver’s first bookseller, Seth Thorne Tilley, exited the bookselling business, he handed the baton to Harold Clarke and James Duff-Stuart.

The two were former clerks with Thomson Bros., one of Tilley’s main rivals in Vancouver. After purchasing the business, they renamed it Clarke & Stuart.

Initially they remained in Tilley’s location at 11 Cordova, but by 1896, they had moved to a new store across the street, at 28 Cordova, and that is where this photo was taken.

Clarke & Stuart’s store at 28 Cordova Street, Vancouver, c. 1898. Harold Clarke is at right and James Duff-Stuart is at left in the doorway (Vancouver Archives, AM54-54-: Bu N283.1).

Viewed at full size, the photo reveals so much detail, giving us more than just a fuzzy glimpse into booksellers and stationers of the past.

In the window at the right hang newspaper broadsheets and posters promoting Scaife’s Comparative and Synoptical Chart, the 19th-century version of an infographic. We can also see guitars and violins in that window, and wagons, a bicycle, and brooms out front.

In the left window we can see a sign advertising Tiger cards, Bicycle cards, and Capitol cards, and a string of what look like clipboards, perhaps notices of community goings-on. And are those baskets of some kind? And lightbulbs! And a row of leather-bound books lined up inside.

On each side of the door are what appear to be stands with books or greeting cards, and above the entrance hang lacrosse rackets. Inside, we can just make out a bank of filing cabinets. A banner above the door proclaims that pianos, organs, and typewriters can also be had here, along with, of course, books and stationery.

The faces of the two men—whom I believe to be Duff-Stuart (left) and Clarke (right)—and the woman, presumably a clerk, standing in the entrance are alert and intelligent, the woman’s expression especially welcoming. And the boy—a messenger or delivery boy?—at left looks like just the sort of chap to get things done quickly and well.

Don’t you wish you could step inside and buy a book?

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