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  Postcard of Pryce Jones store at the 
corner of 1st Street West and 12th Avenue, Calgary.  

Enlarge image.Postcard of the northwest corner of 12th Avenue and First Street SW in Calgary showing the Pryce Jones department store.


Pryce Jones
by Jennifer Cook Bobrovitz

Reprinted from Calgary Real Estate News, February 11, 2000, with the permission of the author.

Albert Pryce Jones of the Welsh mail-order house Pryce Jones established a Canadian branch that operated in Calgary from 1911 to 1916. The department store spurred the construction of a new Hudson's Bay Company store in downtown Calgary although it closed when Pryce Jones enlisted as Commander of the 113th battalion of the Lethbridge Highlanders during the First World War.


  First Pryce Jones (Canada) Limited 
catalogue, 1911.  

Enlarge image.The first Pryce Jones (Canada) Limited Catalogue, February 1911, cover.


"Calgary's Valentine," the Pryce Jones department store, opened on Tuesday, February 14, 1911, in a new red brick building on the northwest corner of 12th Avenue and First Street SW. It was billed as a "Metropolitan Store for the Metropolis of the Last West." Management invited customers to participate in the store's success. "We have a mission to fill in Calgary and we plan with your assistance to make this store second to none, not even the huge metropolitan stores of the East. We believe the sublime optimism which is fostered and thrives only on the fenceless prairies of the West will aid us in doing this. We want your co-operation and patronage; in return we will give you good service, reasonable prices and the finest goods the world produces."

  Letter of introduction, Pryce Jones 
1911, inside front cover.  

Enlarge image.Letter of introduction from the first Pryce Jones catalogue, February 1911, inside front cover.


Calgary's Pryce Jones department store was the Canadian branch of a famous mail-order house established in Newtown, Wales, around 1851. Rumours of the company's Calgary plans surfaced in June 1910, when Albert Pryce Jones, who was visiting from Wales and staying at the Braemar Lodge, bought property on First Street SW and commissioned the local architectural firm of Hodgson and Bates to draft plans for a store. Two months later, local contractor George H. Archibald and Company were at work constructing the three-storey (plus basement) reinforced-concrete-and-brick structure. The project proceeded quickly and by November the local newspaper profiled the building as it neared completion.

  Umbrellas, Pryce Jones 1911.  

Enlarge image.Selection of umbrellas offered in the Pryce Jones catalogue of February 1911.


The store, open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays until 9:30 p.m., featured street-level display windows, glass showcases, mirrored pillars, solid quartered oak counters and fittings, and electric tungsten lamps with shades of brushed brass. It was an elegant emporium chock full of fine merchandise. Newspaper articles leading up to the grand opening described the layout of the store floor by floor:

Basement: groceries, candies, Venetian cut glass, crockery, hardware, china, leather goods, and the mail-order department.

Ground floor: silks, notions, laces, ribbons, hosiery, gloves, velvets, dress goods, tweeds, flannels, gents' furnishings, men's and boys' clothing, hats, caps, art, and needlework.

First floor: corsets, children's and babies' wear, perambulators, ladies' white wear and dresses, household linens, curtains, house furnishings, blankets, and rugs.

Top floor: carpets, linoleums, oil cloths, bedsteads, mattresses, pillows, carpet sweepers, general offices, dressmaking rooms, writing room, and the crowning glory, the Royal Welsh Tea Room, furnished in the Mission style, where an orchestra played daily from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and from 3:45 to 5:15 p.m.

  Woman's riding habit, Priyce Jones 
Spring Summer 1912, cover.  

Enlarge image.Woman's riding habit, Pryce Jones Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1912, inside front cover.

  Millinery selection, Pryce Jones 
Spring Summer 1912, inside back cover.  

Enlarge image.Millinery selection, Pryce Jones Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1912, inside back cover.


At the Valentine's Day opening, customers were treated to dainty edibles and "the most delightful concord of sweet sounds" from the orchestra playing in the third-floor Tea Room. Customers were encouraged to place mail orders with female clerks attired in white linen


  Pryce Jones Spring Summer 1912, 

Enlarge image.The cover of this Pryce Jones Spring/Summer Catalogue of 1912 claims that Pryce Jones is the pioneer of shopping by post.


With 100 employees, an established mail-order business and consumer goods of every description, Pryce Jones was a direct challenge to the mercantile supremacy enjoyed by the Hudson's Bay Company since they first supplied the Northwest Mounted Police at Fort Calgary in the mid-1870s. The Bay felt threatened. Less than a month after the Valentine's Day opening, the Bay bought property at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Second Street SW from Senator James Lougheed and, in 1912, started construction of a $1.5 million store to rival the upstart competition from the "old country."

With the booming economy and a rapidly growing population, Calgary seemed destined for unparalleled growth. Pryce Jones caught the wave. Work on an extension to their new store started in May and opened in December 1911. That same year they won the first prize gold medal at the Calgary Industrial Exhibition for best merchandise display for Alberta. In 1912, the company won gold in the Canadian category.

Although a primary focus of Pryce Jones was the mail-order catalogue business, it was not a new concept to Calgarians who were familiar with the catalogues published by the Toronto based Eaton's Company since 1884. But, when Pryce Jones published the Fall and Winter Catalogue for 1912-1913 featuring coloured lithographed images of the company's Calgary and Newtown, Wales, stores on the cover, it must have pleased local and area customers.

  Pryce Jones Fall Winter 1912-13, 

Enlarge image.The cover of the Pryce Jones Fall/Winter Catalogue for 1912-13 emphasizes the connection between the Canadian store and its Welsh parent company.


The index of the 176-page catalogue listed more than 307 items ranging from knitted flannelette underwear (75 cents), watch fobs ($1-$2.50), and hair barrettes (10 to 45 cents) to sheep-lined coats ($5-$8). Terms were strictly cash with the order; the prices quoted included delivery. "We guarantee every article you select to be absolutely as described, and if not satisfactory, you can return it at our expense and, we will, without question refund your money."

  Order form, Pryce Jones Spring Summer 

Enlarge image.Order form from the Pryce Jones Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1912.

  Index of goods, Pryce Jones Spring 
Summer 1912, p. 176.  

Enlarge image.Index of goods sold through the Pryce Jones Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1912, p. 176.



  Postcard of Pryce Jones store at the 
corner of 1st Street West and 12th Avenue, Calgary.  

Enlarge image.Postcard of the northwest corner of 12th Avenue and First Street SW in Calgary showing the Pryce Jones department store.


In February 1914, only three years after the spectacular Valentine's Day opening, Edmund McKay sent Bessie Lobban of Chatham, New Brunswick, a picture postcard of Calgary's Pryce Jones store. He wrote, "[T]his is a view of what used to be the largest store in Calgary but last August the Hudson Bay Company opened a much larger one. It is a splendid building - equal to the large stores in Boston."

McKay's card was prophetic. Challenged by the Bay and reeling from the economic fallout of the First World War, in the absence of managing director, Colonel A. W. Pryce Jones, who went overseas in the fall of 1916 as Commander of the 113th battalion of the Lethbridge Highlanders, Pryce Jones of Calgary closed its doors forever in 1916.

Unlike the company, the building survived and, around 1924, Lougheed (Senator James) and Taylor Limited renovated the old department store that had become known as First Street's "eyesore." As the Traders' Building, it housed commercial and retail tenants. After serving as the headquarters of Military District #13 during the Second World War, it was renovated again in the late 1940s to accommodate federal government offices including local branches of the National Employment Service and the Income Tax Department. More recently, the former Pryce Jones department store building was reincarnated as luxury condominium lofts called The Manhattan.

Like the building that will not succumb, the Hudson's Bay Company continues to reinvent itself and is the only surviving department store of the pre-1900 era still operating in Calgary.



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