H. E. Lazarus and the Hotel Vancouver Cigar Stand

Hotel Vancouver (#2) Corona Cigar Box (inside), H. E. Lazarus, Proprietor. Note: Hotel Vancouver is misspelled here; it is spelled correctly on the other side of the lid. The gold-colored emblem seems to be a monogram of H. E. Lazarus. Photo courtesy Tom Carter, the owner of the box.

Hyman Edward Lazarus (1872-1961) came to Canada from London, England when he was about 30, arriving in Vancouver in about 1902. When he got here, he found work with a tobacco vendor named Solomon Blackson at 506 Granville. Lazarus remained with Blackson until 1909, when he started as the proprietor of the Hotel Vancouver Cigar Stand.

Lazarus married Miriam Robinson (d.1944) in 1904; he was 32 and she was 25. Together they had a family of a boy (Bernard Horace) and two girls (Louise and Minnie-Ray Nina). Miriam was very active in community organizations (indeed, I’d venture to say that her name more frequently appeared in local newspapers than did Hyman’s). She was at one time the president of the Alexandra Orphanage. She was a member of the ladies auxiliary that was responsible for erecting the first Crippled Children’s Hospital in the city in 1933 (at Manitoba and 59th; across the street from where Sexsmith Community Pre-School is today), and was active in the work of the Red Cross during WW1. Bernard became a manager at Miller and Coe, the tableware retailer on West Hastings Street (The Province, 7 Oct 1944). Minnie worked as a clerk for the City; Louise was a stenographer.

Lazarus’s Cigar Stand was on the NE corner of the ground floor of the old hotel, as shown below.

CVA 362-19 – Ground floor plan, Hotel Vancouver (#2) at Granville & Georgia Streets, 1916.

In the Victoria Daily Times in 1922, I found a piece that indicated that Lazarus was, in that year at least, also vending tobacco and newspapers at The Empress Hotel. Presumably, he had employees either in Vancouver or Victoria (or both) whom he trusted to carry on the business when he was away (Victoria Daily Times Feb 7 1922). According to his obituary, he also operated cigar/news stands in the Banff Springs Hotel and at the Lake Louise Hotel (Vancouver Sun 19 Jan 1961). However, I was unable to find any supporting evidence of this claim. (It may be a mistake to put too much faith in the ‘facts’ in H. E. Lazarus’s obituary in the Sun. His wife was shown, incorrectly, as “Marion Robertson” instead of, correctly, as “Miriam Robinson”!)

At his Hotel Vancouver Stand, Lazarus sold cigars and other tobacco products, as well as newspapers and magazines and tickets to local performances being held at such locations at Vancouver theatres. He also sold postcards, at least some of which were published by him of B.C. scenes, including this one of the city of Vancouver ca 1910 taken by photographers Bullen & Lamb.

Vancouver Daily World 20 May 1922.

The tobacco business seems to have been kind to Lazarus. In 1922, he purchased a Lexington automobile. I had initially assumed that this must have been a very high-end car (as I hadn’t heard of the maker before). But upon consulting classic car expert, Peter Findlay, I learned differently:

The Lexington Motor Company in Indiana was a subsidiary of the United States Automotive Corporation. It was what we call an “assembled car”, meaning that the company purchased all the components from other manufacturers and assembled them all into a car on their premises.

For 1922, Lexington cut prices in an effort to boost sales. It didn’t work, as the company was bought by the Auburn Automobile Company in 1926. The 1922 price for Lazarus’s Lexington was $1745 at the factory, probably around $2000 in Vancouver. This puts it somewhere in the middle. The Lexington and others like it would be considered a nice family car. Many of them would not survive for 10 more years. It might be like buying a basic Chev or Buick sedan these days.

Peter Findlay, email sent May 30, 2022

Even if the Lexington wasn’t a high-end vehicle, Lazarus certainly seemed to be doing well enough at his Cigar Stand(s) that he could afford a $2000 vehicle in the early 1920s. Whether he could afford to keep it into the depression years a decade into his future (or if his Lexington even survived that long), I don’t know.

Lazarus retired from the Hotel Vancouver Cigar Stand in 1928.

His replacement at the Cigar Stand was one Charles William Dixon. He met with a mysterious death just before he began working at Lazarus’s former business. Dixon hailed from Victoria and he disappeared almost without a trace upon arriving in Vancouver in February 1929. Only a coat and hat bearing Dixon’s initials were found on the centre span of the Connaught Bridge (aka Cambie Street Bridge). It was assumed, therefore, that he must have drowned in False Creek. But there was no further sign of Dixon until a decomposing body was found in the Fraser River near Marpole in early April 1929. A distinctive ring worn on the left hand was the means by which Dixon was identified (The Province 7 April 1929).

Very peculiar.

Lazarus’s retirement from the Hotel Cigar Stand wasn’t the conclusion of Lazarus’s career in the tobacco business. He established a tobacco retail shop at 605 West Hastings, after leaving the hotel. This business seemed to fizzle by the early 1930s (with the onset of the Great Depression).

In a 1940 Sun retrospective on the old Hotel Vancouver, H. E. Lazarus was fondly recalled:

For twenty years kindly Hyman E. Lazarus conducted the cigar stand in the old hotel. Lazarus was a great artist, he knew the vagaries of his clientele. Lazarus studied the likes and dislikes of his customers and while the bulk of his trade demanded the quality of the “Corona de Corona,” retailing at four-bits [50 cents each], Lazarus had ever the same kindly smile as he served the lobby lizards a “stinkdoro” for a nickel….Today he lovingly hovers over a real Havana cigar like a tea-taster. Lazarus knows Havana; ’tis a dying art, few like him are left.

Vancouver Sun 16 March 1940

H. E. Lazarus died in 1961 when he was 88.

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2 Responses to H. E. Lazarus and the Hotel Vancouver Cigar Stand

  1. lhhouben says:

    Absolutely fascinating! I love the image of the floor plan of the Hotel Vancouver. That’s really neat!

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