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Of John Peart and Samuel Kelly
The penciled signature was difficult to read at first – it was upside down and I was hunched over in the deepest, darkest corner of the crawlspace straddling awkwardly teetering mounds of rusted sheet metal – but it was definitely there: J. Peart, St. Catharines, Ont. Cool!
So just who was J. Peart, and how did his signature come to be on the inside of some of the original Craigdarroch metalwork?
As usual, directory searches can be somewhat challenging especially when it comes to names spellings: “Peart” can show up as Peart, Pearl, or Pearce depending on the year and/or enumerator. However, with some continuity established, it looks like our target suspect was a John Peart who first appears in the Victoria directory in 1890. Occupation is “tinsmith”, and his employer is S. L. Kelly & Co.
Typical of many Victoria trades during the late 1880’s, business seemed to be booming and S. L. Kelly & Co was no exception. They boasted their highest employee roster during the years 1889 – 1890 with as many as five tin or coppersmiths, a bookkeeper, and a salesman. All in addition to the boss, Mr. Samuel Leon Kelly, himself a seasoned smith.
In fact, Samuel Kelly had set up his first shop in Victoria (on lower Yates Street between Waddington and Oriental Alleys) in 1863. He was a purveyor of iron, stoves, and tinware, but of the three it was the tinsmithing that would stay with him his entire life.
John Peart remained under the Kelly employ through 1891 and then disappears from the local directory lists. Off to greener pastures perhaps, or back to Ontario? An 1891 listing states an additional occupation as “plumber” and there was a “John Peart and Son” plumbing enterprise in St. Catharines that carried on well into the 1970’s. Connection maybe, don’t know yet.
S. L. Kelly & Co would slog it out until the end though. Along the way there would be an interest and shared business venue with the British Columbia Ice Company (are we smelling the beginnings of “HVAC” here? Stoves = Heating, Tinsmithing = Ventilating ducts, Ice = Cooling?). By 1892 the tinsmithing side of the venture was back down to only three employees, and over the next two years one of those, John Orr, would try to make a go of his own stove and tinsmith business on lower Store Street. It lasted for nearly ten years, but by 1903 he as well was no longer listed in Victoria directories.
Samuel Leon finally hung up his hammer and in 1902 listed himself as “retired”. He was living, along with his son Samuel Benjamin (still a tinner), at the home of Gildo Kelly, printer, on Superior Street.
Samuel Sr. died in 1909 at 87 years of age. Samuel Jr. moved to Vancouver, presumably to be with younger brother Alex, who had stuck with the ice business. And of our Mr. J. Peart from St. Catharines, well, I still don’t know what happened to him yet. But he put his hand to some beautiful sheet metal for Craigdarroch, and his signature is still going strong.
Research and photos by Frank Tosczak, Restoration Manager at Craigdarroch Castle
UPDATE: December 6, 2012
Since posting this article, we’ve had contact with John Peart’s family members. This has proven very fortuitous as we now have a photo from 1887 of employees outside S. L. Kelly & Co., John’s employer in Victoria.
Many thanks to LeRoy McFarlane for this photo and the one of John Peart and his dog “Pete” at the family’s store in St. Catharines Ontario!
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