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Henry Morgan Store

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by Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca

Henry Morgan was born in Saline, Scotland. He received his basic education then available before taking a job with a wholesale dry goods firm in the city of Glasgow. In 1844, after gaining sound knowledge of the textile business and having saved a small amount of money, 23 year old Henry Morgan decided to emigrate. He arrived in Montreal in May of 1844, and almost immediately made contact with David Smith, another expatriate Scot. In January 1845, Smith & Morgan was born, selling draperies, curtains, fabrics, household linens and a variety of woollen goods.

Henry Morgan Store “Colonial House“-1913
Henry Morgan Store “Colonial House“-1913

The partnership with Smith ended in 1850. At Henry’s request, his brother James emigrated to Montreal in 1852 and took over the responsibilities in the store. The family business, now called Henry Morgan & Company, had begun. Henry Morgan then hired a representative in London where he could choose from a variety of goods available from the many textile importers and manufacturers’ representatives. Within a few years, Morgan’s was one of the largest stores of its kind in Montreal.

In 1866 he opened what became the first department store in Canada, a four storey building on St. James Street at Victoria Square. At that time the store was known as “Colonial House”, emphasizing its connections to Britain and a name that would remain in use until the mid 1930s. Morgan came up with the idea for window displays, often changing the products in order to catch the eye of passers-by. By this time the business had been transformed from specializing in dry goods into a department store, which employed over 150 clerks selling ready-made apparel, furnishings, china, etc. In 1891, Morgan opened his large new ultra-modern department store on St Catherine Street. Henry Morgan’s new building was designed in the classic Richardsonian Romanesque style by the American architect John Pearce Hill, who imported the red sandstone from the Heyton quarries,

The Bay “Henry Morgan Store”- 2015
The Bay “Henry Morgan Store”- 2015

Northumberland, England. that was used throughout on the four-storey façade of the building. There were two elevators, and the building was heated by steam. It has two 23 feet wide entrances, and seven 22 feet wide by 18 feet high show windows. Unnoticed by most are four brass friction plates still found at eye level at the St. Catherine St. entrance. The plates are identified in English only with the word “matches”, and were used by patrons striking their wooden matches as they lit up their cigarettes as they stepped from the store onto the street.

By 1910, curtains, toys, silverware, trunks and valises, pictures and framing, sporting goods, sewing machines, electrical goods, and confectionery could all be obtained as well as motor boats, marine hardware, baseball equipment, sewing machines, Kodak cameras, baby carriages, china, camping equipment, and hardwood flooring.

Henry Morgan and Co. remained a private family business through four generations until 1960, when an agreement was reached between Henry Morgan & Company Ltd. and Hudson’s Bay Company, whereby the two became a single entity. In 1964, the stores in Ontario were converted into a new name “The Bay”. The Quebec stores were converted in 1972. The Morgan’s flagship store in downtown Montreal has been a Bay store ever since Morgan’s was absorbed into The Bay, but its name stayed Morgan’s until 1972, when it also was changed to “The Bay”. Today, it remains as one of Montreal’s most important shopping venues under the Hudson’s Bay brand name.

Source: Canadian Museum of History / HBC / Montreal Daily Star 11 Jan.1890 /

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