The Process (and Some Findings)
A number of VAIW readers have asked me how I get and develop ideas for my posts. This post presents a pretty typical example, so indulge me as I trace the process:
- I began with an image (usually a City of Vancouver Archives photo, as in this case, but sometimes an illustration or postcard from another source). Images are nearly always the initial inspiration for my posts.
- I then try to verify the location in the city where the image was made. CVA claimed that the image shown above was made at 233 Abbott. But I found evidence (see later in this bullet) that Solomon’s store was actually at 221 Abbott. Solomon’s shop was, therefore, on the site of what would become, in 1907, the Winters Hotel building (rather than the Central City Mission, as CVA had averred; Province. 30 October 1907). I narrowed the year the photo was made to 1906 (from “ca1903?” maintained by CVA) by consulting local newspapers, where I found an ad in 1906 that was nearly identical to the “fire sale” sign posted over the entry to Solomon’s shop: “Three thousand dollars worth of mixed stock, consisting of clothing, boots & shoes, etc., slightly damaged by water, will sell positively at a great sacrifice. Property of H. Solomon & Co., 221 Abbott St” (Province. 28 February 1906).
- I began to track down who “H. Solomon” was. I started by looking for some mention of him in BC vital statistics. Here I found two death notices of men named “Harry Solomon”; one had an online-accessible death certificate while the other didn’t. The Solomon with a death certificate, I concluded, couldn’t be our guy, as he been residing in Vancouver for just three days. The other Harry Solomon (our man, I concluded) had lived to age 45, dying in August, 1925. This would put Harry in his mid-20s at the time of the conflict detailed below.
- It was disappointing not to find a death certificate online for Harry Solomon, but there were other avenues to explore for information on him. I turned to newspaper listings pertaining to Harry. There weren’t many, but this search led me to the entertaining story that follows.
- I found out more about Solomon in Census Canada records, notably that the death record for him in BC Vital Stats that showed his age at death in 1925 as 45 was probably wrong. The 1891 Census shows an H. Solomon born to F. and M. Solomon in Germany in 1868. He was the eldest of three kids. The thing that convinced me that this record was more accurate than the Vital Stats record was that Harry’s Dad (F. Solomon) had the occupation of “peddler” — not greatly different from Harry’s second hand shop proprietorship.
- The story below mentions a gent named Leonard Hornett. According to the news story, Hornett was in Vancouver visiting from his home in Red Deer, AB. Other newspaper clippings established that Hornett was actually a farmer from an unincorporated community near Red Deer called Hill End.
- I had a look in VPL’s Historical Photos and UBC’s Open Collections for anything that these institutions might have pertaining to Hornett, Solomon, or 221 Abbott Street; nothing much was gleaned from these latter searches.
How Solomon Schvindled Himself
On Friday, 2nd February 1906, Leonard Hornett, who was a resident of the Red Deer, Alberta area (specifically, the district of Hill End, where he farmed), was in Vancouver on a visit. He was out for a stroll along the streets of Gastown when he happened across a second hand shop on Abbott Street: H. Solomon’s store. Hornett saw a leather-lined shooting coat in the window that appealed to him.
I’ll allow the person who reported on this story for the World to take up the tale:
He went in and asked the young man behind the counter what was the price of the coat. He answered $3. “Here is your money,” said Mr. Hornett, and the bargain was concluded and the coat wrapped up. . . .
Mr. Hornett did not want [anything else] and started away. He had not got far [down the street] when the fun began. The people on Water street had a view of a man in a wild state of excitement tearing along the sidewalk, shouting a mixture of Yiddish and English as he ran, in wake of a peaceable old gentleman who did not look as if he would harm even an enemy unless forced to, much less steal anything. When the flying man reached the “old un”, he made a grab at the parcel he was carrying, shouting as he did so, “Vat a shame. Vat a shame. He would ruin me. Oh! my peautiful, peautiful goat.”
The old gentleman had hold of the string of the parcel and at the first [jerk] it did not break but after a short tug of war during which the air was filled with Yiddish expostulations and objurgations the string gave way and Mr. Solomon, for it was he, fled back to his store hugging the coat to his bosom like a long lost child. In a few moments he rushed out again and pushed $3 into the old gentleman’s pocket . . . . If Mr. Solomon expected Mr. Hornett to come back and raise his bid he was mistaken. Mr. Hornett told his troubles to Detective Waddell and had a warrant for theft sworn out against [Mr. Solomon]. . . .
Mr. Solomon took his place in the box and removing his hat after being sworn he leaned over and proceeded . . . . “You see it was shoost dis vay, chudge,” said Mr. Solomon solemnly and impressively. “I had to go out for a few minutes and I ask Mr. Kattlefat, he is my frent, chudge, not my glerk, to vatch the store for me. Ven I come pack I fount he had sold the peautiful goat dat I refused seven tollar for day before yesterday for tree tollar! I vent after the goat and give the man back his moneys.”
“What do you value the coat at?” asked the court.
“Eight tollars, your honour.”
“And a man with your accent and in your business refused $7 for it?” asked the magistrate, in a tone of sarcastic surprise.
When the laugh subsided the magistrate decided that Solomon was responsible for what his agent had done. The coat was Mr. Hornett’s property. The $3 belonged to Solomon.
“Here you are, lad,” said Mr. Hornett. “It’s been in my pocket ever since; thou might have had it before if thou’d liked.”Province. 5 February 1906.
The Hornetts and . . . Kattlefat?
Leonard Hornett Sr. and his wife, Sarah Stockbridge, emigrated to Canada from England in 1891. The couple retired from farming in Alberta in 1919 when they moved to Vancouver. Sarah died in 1931; he married a second time, to Edener Smith, in 1932. Leonard died in 1944. It was noted in local newspapers that at his death at age 93, he was BC’s oldest automobile driver (Province. 3 January 1944).
Hornett’s son, Leonard Jr. lived in Vancouver. It was likely Jr. whom Sr. was in town to see in 1906. Leonard Jr. was a job printer in partnership with. Mr. Bolam at that time. He married Beatrice Andrews in 1905 in Vancouver. Later, he worked for Keystone Press. He died in Vancouver in 1957 at the age of 79. Leonard Sr. and Sarah also had three daughters.
I wasn’t able to track down “Mr. Kattlefat” in the vital statistics records and there is no listing of “Kattlefat” in any local newspaper, except for the article quoted above. Chances are that either Harry Solomon wasn’t able to pronounce the name or the newspaper reporters didn’t hear/spell it correctly; the Province reporter had the “frent’s” name as “Candlewax”!