W. F. Herre: Victoria Bookstore and…Gambling Den?

Appearing in Victoria at almost the same time as William Kierski, W. F. Herre’s “book and paper stand” was located on Yates Street between Wharf and Government (1). A Jewish Frenchman who came to Victoria after first operating a book store in San Francisco (2), he announced his presence in Victoria on August 3, 1858:

(Victoria Gazette, August 3, 1858)

While researching Herre (whose first name I have yet to discover), I came across this amusing newspaper report from May 22, 1860:

A case was called on in the Police Court yesterday morning, which attracted a great crowd thither. It seems that Sergeant Carey has had the bookstore of W. F. Herre, on Yates Street, under his surveillance for some time, suspecting that gambling was being carried on in the rear apartments. On Sunday night last, Carey, in company with officers Dillon, Andrews, Whalen, and Druren, went to the rear of the house, and having peeped through the blinds, discovered a party of men playing cards. The posse then proceeded to the front door and demanded admittance, which being denied, the door was broken open and the following named parties arrested: W. F. Herre, proprietor of the house; N. Koshland, E. Marks, Hennry Barr, and E. Vaenberg. (3)

Herre was charged with keeping a gambling house and fined £20 (4).

Herre’s sideline business was also reported in the San Francisco papers: “Herre…vends newspapers and periodicals ostensibly,” the article read, “but privately he has a very nice little back room, where, in spite of the law and the excessively obnoxious penalty attached thereto, gentlemen have been known to lay down more than they took up cards” (5).


(1) Victoria Gazette, August 3, 1858; First Victoria Directory (Victoria: Edward Mallandaine & Co., 1860), 72.

(2) Madge Wolfenden, “Books and Libraries in Fur Trading and Colonial Days,” British Columbia Historical Quarterly 11, no. 3 (July 1947): 163; Cyril Edel Leonoff, Pioneers, Pedlars, and Prayer Shawls (Victoria, Sono Nis Press, 1978), 17; Daily Alta California (April 15, 1855): 1.

(3) “Interesting Case,” Daily Colonist (May 22, 1860): 1.

(4) Ibid.

(5) “Victoria, Vancouver Island,” Daily Alta California (March 22, 1862): 1.

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