A Consuming Passion

 
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Engraving
J. & M. Nichols Building
1852, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
8 x 9.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
M930.50.7.320
© McCord Museum
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Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , commercial (1771) , Engraving (1)
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Keys to History

A NEW SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

The growth and wealth of bourgeois customers sparked a revolution in trade: the advent of "warehouses", as the new commercial buildings that appeared on the streets of Montreal and other large Canadian cities between 1850 and 1880 were called. They were a new type of place for buying and selling (and a far cry from the warehouses of today). They transformed the shopping experience and increased the temptation to consume.

Warehouses, like the one illustrated here, differed from earlier shops in having much more floor space (now several storeys), elegant façades and larger windows. The big ground-floor show windows served many purposes: to let in more light, to display goods and catch the eye of passers-by.

References
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Lovell's Montreal Directory, 1852-53 to 1858-59.

  • What

    This engraving illustrates the façade of the J. & M. Nichols store. Built sometime before 1852, it is an early example of a warehouse. The very spare façade is almost totally glass; the architecture is in the neoclassical style.

  • Where

    The Nichols store was on the south side of Notre Dame Street West, near McGill Street-a prime location on one of Montreal's main shopping streets.

  • When

    J. & M. Nichols occupied the building from 1852 to 1858. During the same period, one of their competitors, Henry Morgan, built Colonial House on McGill.

  • Who

    Joseph and Moses Nichols imported and sold dry goods. It is clear from their display windows full of fabrics, shawls, bonnets and notions that their target clientèle was women.