Printers’ labor (or labour)?

CVA 677-504 - [Printing room] Cowan and Brookhouse Printing and Publishing [411 Dunsmuir Street] ca 1916

CVA 677-504 – Printing room. Cowan and Brookhouse Printing and Publishing, 411 Dunsmuir Street. ca 1916. Canadian Photo Company.

These photos from the City of Vancouver Archives struck me as appropriate for today’s post, for a couple of reasons.

First, these images are of high quality. They appear to have been made by a photographer with Canadian Photo Co.; the photographer isn’t identified on the prints (nor by CVA), but they seem likely to me to have been made by gifted photographer, W. J. Moore.¹.

The first image looks like the ‘downstairs’ component of  (Harry) Cowan & (Arthur) Brookhouse printers and publishers. The workers appear hot and sweaty, and are doing the hard, dirty work of a printing establishment in the early years of the 20th century.

The latter image, on the other hand, appears to be taken ‘upstairs’, in ‘management-land’, where fingernails are unstained by printer’s ink and work surfaces are tidy and spotless.

The photographer handled the little light available (especially downstairs) with great skill. Neither image is over-exposed nor under-exposed.

Second, today being Labour Day, it seems fitting to feature a business that was housed in the Labor Temple (note: the correct spelling of Labor in this case is the American spelling, rather than the Canadian, “labour”), still standing today at 411 Dunsmuir Street.

Past Tense has a good history of the Labor Temple, which had been known by the slightly less exalted name of Labor Hall when it resided in the former Homer Street Methodist Church. Why the name was changed from hall to temple isn’t clear.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 7.07.47 PM

Ad in BC Federationist

Cowan & Brookhouse printed B.C. Veterans Weekly and Vancouver Blighty, a periodical that served readers associated with local military hospitals (my thanks to L., of  Past Tense, who commented below, for his sharp eyes in identifying the Blighty in the first photo).  But what else it printed, I don’t know. The BC Federationist (a union periodical) had offices in the Temple, so it is possible that Cowan & Brookhouse may have printed for them. (The printer advertised in the Federationist.)

CVA 677-503 - Front office, Cowan and Brookhouse [Printing and Publishing], Labor Temple [411 Dunsmuir Street] ca 1919 Canadian Photo Co.

CVA 677-503 – Front office, Cowan and Brookhouse (Printing and Publishing). 411 Dunsmuir Street. ca 1919. Canadian Photo Company.


¹David Mattison’s Camera Workers site here notes that “W.F. McConnell managed the Canadian Photo Co. (1916-19__) along with William J. Moore (1916-1917)” and later remarks of Moore that “He operated under his own name from 1913-1915, then worked for the Canadian Photo Co. (1916-1917). He established a successful operation under his name around 1920. One of his specialties was taking panoramic photographs.”


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3 Responses to Printers’ labor (or labour)?

  1. jmv says:

    I do believe Cowan & Brookhouse became Rose, Cowan, & Latta. They printed many significant Vancouver related items, and I have a few of them myself. And we can even connect with a member of the Rose family if you like!

  2. laniwurm says:

    I believe the paper being printed is the “Vancouver Blightly,” a paper for the local military hospitals. According to this World clipping the paper debuted in 1917, and therefore the photo date of 1916 is incorrect.

    • mdm says:

      Many thanks! This is very helpful.

      I will be pursuing J’s lead (see comment above) about the merger of Cowan Brookhouse with Latta & Co. (of North Vancouver) to create the firm of Rose, Cowan & Latta. Stay tuned for more over the next several days!

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