Cowan & Brookhouse Printers


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. (The two leftmost people pictured are Arthur A. Brookhouse – standing – and (now, the widow) Mrs. Carrie Cowan – seated behind him. George Bartley – Mrs. Cowan’s brother – is the gent posed standing at the desk to right of Brookhouse).

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.

The photos above were made by a photographer with Canadian Photo Co.; the photographer isn’t identified on the prints (nor by CVA), but they seem likely to have been made by gifted photographer, W. J. Moore

The first image looks like the ‘upstairs’ component of  (Harry) Cowan & (Arthur) Brookhouse printers and publishers.  It was made in ‘management-land’, where fingernails are unstained by printer’s ink and work surfaces are tidy and spotless. The second image, on the other hand, appears to be taken ‘downstairs’. 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 two photos were taken in the Labor Temple (note: the correct spelling of Labor in this case is the American spelling, rather than the Canadian, “labour”). The Labor Temple still stands 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 was 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 second photo).  It also looks likely (given the image below) that Cowan & Brookhouse printed The Independent (which appears to have been a labour organ, 1900-03).

CVA 677-828 - Jos. Niles, H. Geo. Bartley, and H. Cowan [standing outside office of] the Independent, 312 Homer Street 1900

CVA 677-828 – Jos. Niles, H. George. Bartley, and Harry Cowan [standing outside office of] the Independent, 312 Homer Street 1900.

Harry Cowan died in July, 1915 from complications associated with abdominal surgery. Cowan & Brookhouse continued to operate for a number of years after Cowan’s death, finally wrapping up by about 1925. Arthur Brookhouse continued to work at the printing business. He worked for various printing outfits as a composer (including Clarke & Stuart, A. H. Timms Printers, and The Sun). By 1945, he also edited The Shoulder Strap, the periodical of the B.C. Provincial Police. Brookhouse died in 1948.

It was thought, for awhile, that another local printing firm, Rose, Cowan & Latta, may have been an amalgam of Cowan & Brookhouse and Latta & Co. But there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that. The Cowan who hooked up with Rose and Latta was John Bruce Cowan; and there is nothing to suggest that John Bruce was a direct relation of Harry Cowan.


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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5 Responses to Cowan & Brookhouse Printers

  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!

    • mdm says:

      Hi – I’m sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve learned that there is no connection between Cowan & Brookhouse Printers and Rose, Cowan & Latta Printers. Thanks for raising this possibility, however. It motivated me to research C&B more thoroughly.

      • jmv says:

        Ha! Great work! In hindsight of course, I should have said “I wonder if… ” rather then “I believe”, as we can clearly tell, I didn’t actually have a clue!!

  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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