Sunday, August 7, 2016

Howe Brothers, Inc. – THE Place to Shop in Carrollton

Today, in the third and final post about the Howe family businesses in Carrollton, Kentucky, we focus on Howe Brothers, Inc., purveyors of household goods and fashionable clothing for men and women.

In this fading, out-of-focus image, circa 1910, Robert J. Howe stands with three women who could be store employees or Howe family members.

The immigrant John Howe launched the store, possibly in the late 1870s, and his sons had a hand in management or day-to-day operations. While first-born son William Ficklin Howe was more focused on the family's woolen mill and pants factory, his younger brothers John Irvin Howe, Robert James Howe (father of Sarah, the scrapbooker), and Joseph Brown Howe were running the store. The youngest son, George Thompson Howe, apparently had a role at the store, too, before he died in 1881 at 21 years of age.

By 1900, only Robert's and Joseph's names were on the store's letterhead. John died about 1891 at age 37, and George died in 1881 when he was only 21 years old. On 4 May 1900, William or Joseph used the store stationery to write to his son John. (Males named John, Robert, Joseph, George, and Robert are plentiful in the Howe family, and I'm still sorting them out.) In the letter, the writer chats about family news and mentions that business is going well:
We have had a fine trade at the store all the week. Were very busy yesterday.

Apparently, Robert and Joseph shared responsibility as buyers, traveling to wholesalers to select the goods that would be sold at the store. Clippings, letters, and Sarah's notes frequently mention her father's trips to markets in New York and other cities. One example is this society column from a newspaper (below).

Joseph was the "veteran retailer" featured in the Carrollton Democrat article below. While Sarah (as usual) did not record the date of this clipping, the article's content helps set the publication year as 1927. Joseph Brown Howe was born 7 March 1857; the article appears to have been published a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday. (The last line of the article's left column is missing from the scrapbook.)

Joseph, who died in 1929, said in the interview: "There were five boys in that store, and I'm the only one left." Joseph was in the middle of the birth order among the seven Howe siblings to reach adulthood. He outlived all four of his brothers and one of his sisters. His sister Sarah Varena "Sallie" Howe died in 1950 at 87 years of age.

Robert and Joseph also wrote the Howe Brothers ads published in the Carrollton Democrat and possibly in other papers in the northern Kentucky-southern Ohio area. Sarah called her father's writing style "refined" and "sophisticated." She  preferred it over the "flamboyant" ads written by her Uncle Joe.
The two ads posted below illustrate Sarah's point. Robert wrote the first ad. Sarah proudly noted at the bottom: "Papa wrote this one." Elsewhere on the page, she wrote, "One of Papa's advertisements, nothing sensational, just dignified statement."

The next was the work of Sarah's Uncle Joe, who perhaps was the more outgoing of the two and more prone to a "hard sell" approach.

In 1893, when Sarah was 10 years old, she tried her own hand at writing ads for Howe Brothers, taking liberties with popular nursery rhymes. She commented that she knew they weren't as good as her father's, and she had little hope they would be published. I suppose she was right about that. I've found no clippings to indicate that her work was published in the local paper. Here are a few samples of her work:

I have yet to discover how long the Howe Brothers store was in business, but I'm confident it was still there in 1910. When I learn more, I'll update this post. This ends the posts about the Howe family businesses – at least for now. The next post will return to Sarah's adventures, profiles and pictures of relatives, and other scrapbook treasures. This is the 14th post in this blog, and I'm still in the third scrapbook. Just 69 more to explore!

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