By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
Harvey Bossenberry may not have been the earliest pioneer in Pincher Creek yet in the four decades that he resided in our community he made a definite impact. His arrival here in 1911 was some thirty-three years after the NWMP established the horse ranch in this area. Most locals remember him for his political activities but he also was a businessman who operated a men’s and boys’ clothing store popularly known as “The Haberdasher”.
FAMILY AND POLITICAL LIFE
Harvey Bossenberry was born December 15th, 1880 in Ontario. As a young adult, he attended the Stratford Business College in preparation for a lifelong career in operating a local business. Bossenberry and Mary Ravelle were united in marriage in 1904, and they had one daughter Irene. Some seven years later, the young family arrived in Pincher Creek. They built a house, now a two-story local landmark, down at the far west end of town. Situated just south of the old bridge crossing which accessed the old trail to Mountain Mill and Beaver Mines, properties in this isolated area of the community were noted for their large yards and gardens.
Ever the aspiring politician, Bossenberry soon became active in local social and political circles. Both Harvey and his wife May were active in the local United Church congregation. Harvey also was active in the Pincher Creek Agricultural Society and was its Secretary-Treasurer in 1931. During the First World War era he was elected as a Councilor for the Town of Pincher Creek. By 1920, he had stepped into the Mayor’s Chair, a position he held for a full nine years. Also active in provincial politics, he ran for a seat in the Alberta Legislature in the 1921 and 1926 elections but was defeated both times. Finally he was victorious in his third attempt, during the election of June 19th, 1930. He served as an opposition MLA for one term, during the last term of office of the United Farmers of Alberta administration. Bossenberry was defeated in the 1935 Provincial Election, when Social Credit swept to power.
THE HABERDASHER’S STOCK AND MARKETING
Bossenberry established his Pincher Creek business interests shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. Known as “The Haberdasher”, the name depicted the variety of stock to be found in his men’s and boys’ wear store. He sold everything from clothing, outdoor wear and boots to sewing and repair kits. Also an astute marketer, he knew well the importance of advertizing the wears for sale in his place of commerce. Display advertisements in the pages of The Pincher Creek Echo were common for The Haberdasher during the 1920s and 1930s. Ever eager to improve the slow sales found annually early in the year, one such ad in January 1927 offered consumers a ten per cent reduction in regular prices should they pay by cash rather than buy on credit. Later that same winter, Bossenberry rushed into action with a spring suit sale that featured “twentieth century tailoring”. The sale promoted suits or overcoats at a sale price of just 27 dollars.
A wide variety of clothing was sold through The Haberdasher. Sweaters sold from three dollars to seven and one-half dollars apiece and leather vests retailed from seven dollars to $13.50 each. Individual overalls were featured at just over two dollars and coveralls were just a little more expensive at up to $4.75 each. Price ranges for pants were from two to six dollars and shirts sold for up to three dollars. Canvas shoes sold for up to three dollars each while the prices for solid leather shoes ranged from three to ten dollars a pair. A pair of men’s elkola blucher shoes sold for four dollars and fifty cents.
Nearly a dozen years later, Bossenberry’s clothing sales and advertizing blitzes continued with much enthusiasm. In November 1938, just in time for the Christmas Season, dress coats sold for 25 dollars apiece, and mackinaw coats of high quality, some lined with fur collars, retailed for up to twelve and a half dollars. Other coats, in latest styles and in colours of brown, navy and black, could be purchased at twenty dollars apiece. A chrome bullet shaped sewing kit, measuring six centimeters by two centimeters, also was sold through the store. The store’s name and address were engraved on the kits which made them invaluable as promotional items. One such kit is an esteemed artifact in the collections of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.
A FRAME STORE IN AN IDEAL LOCATION
The Haberdasher was located on the north side of Main Street, immediately to the east of the first Hudson’s Bay Co. Store that had originated as the Schofield and Hyde General Store established in 1883. Two doors west of Bossenberry’s store was the King Edward Hotel. This location was ideal for such a commercial outlet, for two reasons. First of all, this was in the heart of Pincher Creek’s downtown core which featured high volume traffic during the 1920s and 1930s. Angel parking was featured on Main Street during that era which businessmen believed increased access to local stores. Secondly, being adjacent to the T intersection of Main Street and East Avenue meant that for Bossenberry himself, the store was just a short walk to Pincher Creek’s Town Hall, that two-story brick building constructed during the 1912 to 1915 period. As a Town Councilor and Mayor, the proximity of the store and municipal offices made it very convenient for this community spirited citizen to become active in both commercial and political spheres.
The store itself was housed in a one and a half story frame structure with the place of commerce being on the main floor. The smaller second floor was used for storage and occasionally for living quarters. An archival photo, possibly dating from the early 1940s and from the collections of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, shows that the name of “H Bossenberry” was painted brightly across the front of the store. A large wooden canopy extending out from the building and over the wooden boardwalk provided some pedestrian shelter from both inclement and sunny weather.
The Haberdasher was one of the many thriving businesses in Pincher Creek’s history.