New Westminster

Henry Morey: Kicking off a Century+ of Bookselling, Part 1

When twenty-three-year-old Henry Morey established H. Morey & Company in New Westminster in 1886, little did he know that he was starting a bookselling and stationery enterprise that would, through a series of owners, last for more than a century.

“Little did [Morey] know that he was starting a bookselling and stationery enterprise that would, through a series of owners, last for more than a century.”

A Musical Youth

Born in New Westminster in December 1862, Henry was the only son of Jonathan and Frances Morey. Jonathan was a sergeant in the Royal Engineers, arriving in New Westminster in 1859 and later serving as the city’s police chief. The family also included four daughters.

In his youth, Henry Morey went to Leipzig, Germany, to study music, having “exhibited a marked talent in music” and a “fine tenor voice” (1). “It is no secret that this young man has given proof of more than common musical talent, and we believe one of the objects of his visit is to put himself in a position to pursue musical studies to the best advantage,” praised the local newspaper when Morey departed for Europe (2).

Henry Morey, 1889. In addition to being a bookseller and stationer, Morey was known for his musical talents. He is pictured here as a member of the Hyack military band. (New Westminster Archives IHP8138)
Entering the Printing and Book Trade

After he returned to New Westminster, Morey joined the Mainland Guardian as a printing apprentice (3).

Then, in 1886, the young man established himself in the business that would define the rest of his working life: H. Morey & Company, bookseller, stationer, and job printer. John Slater Hainsworth was listed initially as a printer, and then as a partner, in the enterprise (4).

H. Morey & Co.’s ad in the Daily British Columbian (November 29, 1889, p. 1).

By 1889, the company was at 77 Columbia Street and seemed to be thriving:

“H. Morey & Co. claim, with considerable grounds for justification, to have the largest stock of toys in the city…Albums are one of Morey & Co’s extra strong displays; they are in wonderful variety. In hand painted cards, plush goods, smoker’s sets, tea sets and fancy stationery, papetries, the house makes a grand showing. Those inclined to athletics and ‘the manly’ can here get a natty little pair of swinging clubs or a fine set of boxing gloves…Individual cups and saucers finely decorated…also presentation volumes of Shakespeare, Dante, and other great works….One of their special lines in particular is musical instruments of which they have an immense variety at modest prices” (5).

But just as we’ve seen with several other early BC booksellers (like Seth Tilley in Vancouver and John Ferguson in Victoria), fire soon became Henry Morey’s worst nightmare, levelling his store and forcing him to start all over again. I’ll pick up from there next time.

Notes

(1) British Columbia from the Earliest Times to the Present: Biographical, Vol. 4 (Vancouver, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914), 503; Henry Morey obituary, Vancouver Sun (May 16, 1936): 1.

(2) British Columbian (May 2, 1885): 3.

(3) Morey obituary, Vancouver Sun.

(4) British Columbia Directory (Victoria: E. Mallandaine and R.T. Williams, 1887), 180. Hainsworth was listed as a partner by 1899, but it’s unclear when he took on an ownership interest.

(5) British Columbian (December 23, 1889): 1.

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