The Library, of course, has very few dusty corners, but we did recently discover, at the back of a rare cobwebby shelf, a copy of a mail order catalogue, still in its original envelope, dating from March 1905.
H. Samuels, the well-known high street jeweller, was founded in 1862, when Harriet Smith took over her father-in-law’s Liverpool-based clockmaking business and moved it to Manchester. From here she and her son developed a retail and mail order jewellery business, with stores throughout Lancashire and beyond.
The cover depicts the ‘Main Depot’ on Market Street which seems to have been an extensive site, with the warehouse and offices at Marsden Square and Palace Street. The catalogue also includes scenes from the watchmaking factory and the order and despatch section.
H. Samuels offered an astonishingly wide range of personal and household effects, ranging from watches and jewellery to gold and silver toothpicks, electroplated fern pots, ‘violins, mandolines, and autoharps’.
Included in the catalogue is a charming little ‘standard ring size card for measuring exact size of finger’ and a page of ‘lucky’ wedding rings (we wonder what kind of benefits these might deliver – a long and happy marriage? A short and happy marriage? A mother-in-law who kept her opinions to herself…?
However, the main business was clearly considered to be their ‘world famous watches’, with great numbers of ‘testimonials’ and ‘tributes’ from satisfied customers. These include a slightly unsettling explanation for the late running of trains from a signalman in Croydon, who declares ‘so firm has been my confidence in the watch that I have kept trains standing for time, even against the wishes of their guards’.