“Destroy all previous catalogues” is printed on the second page of the Clarke & Stuart Co. General Catalogue No. 20, a recent addition to the Archives’ holdings. I, for one, am glad this directive was ignored, as catalogues of this nature give a glimpse into the daily working life of office workers of a particular time period.
Browsing through the products on offer, one can see how much office products and functions have changed, or on the other hand, how much office products and functions have remained essentially the same over the last several decades. There are items for sale which may amuse the reader, such as the rubber phone shoes on page 48, helping ensure the phone does not slip around on one’s desk. Or there are the steno cuffs on the same page “made from the finest clear celluloid, bound in different colors of Leatherette”, ensuring that the user’s blouse cuffs remain pristine, and free of ink or graphite stains. The paperclips, envelopes, file folders, pencils, sharpeners and rulers, by contrast, could be ordered from the catalogue for today’s workplace.
This particular catalogue doesn’t have a year printed on it, but the notice tucked inside the cover page states that “Publication of the Price List for this Catalogue has to be suspended owing to war restrictions and other factors beyond our control,” making it clear that the catalogue dates from the World War II time period.
Clarke & Stuart was a Vancouver-based company, established in 1894, by Harold Curtis Clarke, a New Brunswick native, and J. Duff Stuart, a Scotsman. The duo, both of whom had been working for the stationery firm Thomson Bros. prior to 1894, bought Tilley’s Book Shop, which was located at 11 Cordova Street, and transformed it into Clarke & Stuart Books & Stationery. An article from the Vancouver Daily World on July 13, 1894 described the company as a “jobbing house in books, stationery, office supplies, wrapping papers, paper bags, twines, sporting and fancy goods, etc., etc.,” as well as the “exclusive agent for the Mainland of British Columbia for the Heintzman piano, the Thomas organ, and the Smith Premier Typewriter,” and “dealers of smaller musical instruments, and sheet music.” This description adequately explains why such a variety of items can be seen in a photograph of their 28 Cordova Street premises from 1898. By the time this Catalogue No. 20 was produced, the musical section of the business no longer existed.
Near the end of World War II, on January 1, 1945, Clarke & Stuart was sold to the H.L. Willson Company, a stationery firm with its origins in Winnipeg. After the purchase, Clarke & Stuart became a division of the Willson Company, and remained so for the next thirty years. The last mention of Clarke & Stuart in the city directories is in 1975, eighty-one years after it was established.
In addition to Catalogue No. 20, the Archives’ holdings contain The Chatterer, a Christmas gift suggestion catalogue from 1926 from Clarke & Stuart, an advertisement in the form of an ink blotter from 1930, and several items printed by the company. All items can be viewed in our Reading Room.