Bazaar Firms and Small-scale Trades, Calcutta, 19th Century

BlackTownBazaar Leading to Chitpore Road of 1819-JamesFraser
কলকাতার ঘরোয়া ব্যবসা-বাণিজ্য, ঊনবিংশ শতাব্দী
The retail sector was divided mainly between the modern firms based on the British model of the partnership company and the bazaar firms where the traditional Indian trade practices being followed, disregarding the overwhelming  developmental trend of modern retailing trade in the port city of Calcutta. The bazaar sector of the city’s markets includes small scale trade. There was a large-scale involvement of the native population in this sector. Nearly a third of the inhabitants of Calcutta are engaged in manufactures, and nearly a fourth in trade, while personal service accounts for a sixth. Assuming that a man does not begin to work until fifteen years of age, it would appear that no less than 96 per cent, of the males above that age are actual workers ; the corresponding proportion in the case of women is only 32. The industrial population is most numerous in the areas of Colootolla, Moocheepara, Jorasanko, Bhawanipur, Intally, and Beniapukur.  Jorasanko, Burra Bazar, and Jorabagan wards have the greatest number of persons engaged in business of commerce. The professional element is strongest in Burtolha in the north, and in Bhawanipur in the south of the city.

groceryshop
মুদিখানা

Calcutta itself contains but few factories, only three jute-mills and two jute-presses lying within its limits. In the outskirts of the city, however, several smaller industrial concerns are situated, including 63 oil-mills chiefly worked by cattle, 24 flour-mills, 2 rice-mills, 16 iron foundries, and 12 tanneries, which employ less than 13,000 persons all told.

(c) British Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
কুমোরশালা

The chief home industries are pottery and brasswork. Calcutta exports little of its own manufactures.
Calcutta came into existence as a trading town, because its position enabled merchants to tap the rich tratific of the valley of the Ganges. The luxurious courts of the Mughal rulers had fostered the manufacture at Dacca and Murshidabad of beautiful silks and muslins, which were eagerly bought up in Europe. The saltpetre of Bihar was in great demand in England for the manufacture of gunpowder during the French wars; and rice, sesame oil, cotton cloths, sugar, clarified butter, lac, pepper, ginger, myrabolans, and tassar silk werealso in request. Bengal produced all these articles, and Calcutta was the only seaport from which they could be exported.

(c) Asian Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
কাঁসারিশালা

The racial division within the retail trade was obviously a major distingui-shing factor in retailing in such a colonial city. All European shopkeepers shared to some extent the elite status of the ruling power and the special privileges which British trades¬men won for themselves in trade. The existence of an almost exclusively Indian bazaar sector also affected the development of the elite European retail trade. There were goods and services which were offered very cheaply by the bazaar firms that their equivalents were not marketed by elite shops. For instance, fresh food was marketed through the bazaar and Calcutta possessed no European greengrocers or butchers. The effect of the bazaar competition was noted by a visitor to Calcutta as early as 1840: “European tradesmen must be very industrious and methodical and produce excellent workmanship for everyone of them has a host of would-be native rivals in the bazaars.”  He added that “even in the streets where Europeans are numerous there are many native dealers; these dealers are very content with a small profit and can live comfortably a whole year on a sum which would not support the European shopkeepers more than a few days.”  In the early days, the European shopkeeper had the advantage of easier access to prized imported goods (even of a prosaic nature) but by the mid-19th century the bazaar was dealing with a wide range of imported manufactured goods. Consequently the European shops became even more exclusive: they did not deal in “cheap lines:” they stressed the quality of their goods and services. See Furedy

(c) Asian Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
কামারশালা

In respect of internal trade, the principal articles which make up the imports to Calcutta are :—from Bengal, raw and manufactured jute, rice coal, linseed, opium, tea, grain and pulses, hides and skins, silk, and indigo ; from the United Provinces, opium, oilseeds, grain and pulses, hides and skins, and wrought brass ; from Assam, tea, oilseeds, grain and pulses, and lime. In 1901-2 the imports from Bengal were valued at nearly 49 crores.
For More See
The painting featured at the top represents a view in the Lal Bazaar leading to the Chitpore Road, by James Baillie Fraser in 1826. – The Native Shop in Calcutta Bazar, a chromolithograph reproduction of a painting by William Simpson, 1867 – Above representations of the three local trade shops of potters, brassware-makers, and blacksmiths, are paintings by Arthur William Devis in early 19th century

Refreshments Room, Eaden Gardens, Calcutta, c1870

RefreshmentRooms-EadenGardens
ইডেন গার্ডেনে চা ঘর, কলকাতা, c১৮৭০
Calcutta is admirably served in the matter of “lungs”, There is no part which is not provided with a park or open space. The pride of Calcutta is its Maidan, an. extensive plain in the heart of the city covering about 1200 acres. The Eden Gardens are situated at the north-west extremity of the Maidan, bounded on the north by Auckland Road and on the west by Strand Road. They were laid out in about 1840, around an avenue of trees known as “Respondentia Walk”, then the fashionable promenade of Calcutta society, and named after Lord Auckland’s sisters, the Misses Eden, who designed and directed their general lay-out.
There are several gates to the Gardens, but by whichever one the visitor enters, he is led to sylvan surroundings far removed from the noise and bustle of the city. Pathways wind past multi-coloured flower-beds, tropical palms and murmuring fountains, adorned with dolphins and cherubs that add to the beauty of the scene; while rustic benches in shady arbours by the water-side, welcome those who seek rest in this haven of loveliness. See more What is more, there was a cute garden’s Refreshment Rooms with hatched roof and bamboo wall, as depicted by the artist Alfred Brooks in his painting above. Eden Gardens were formally opened to the public and for many years they were a fashionable evening meeting-place in Calcutta. The gardens are also home to the Calcutta Cricket Club.
Lithograph of the Refreshment rooms at Eden Gardens in Calcutta by Vincent Robert Alfred Brooks (1814-85) one of ‘Eight views of Calcutta’ published in London c.1870. Courtesy: British Library

Ice House, Calcutta, c1833

Ice_House_Calcutta_by_Frederick_Fiebig_1851
বরফ ঘর, কলকাতা, c১৮৩৩
In May 1833, Daniel Wilson, Calcutta’s Lord Bishop, wrote to his family in England: “The weather is perfectly suffocating. None can pity us but those who know our sufferings”. The The British East Indian Company looked for means to get regular supply of ice for the European community in all seasons. Every winter, ‘Hooghly ice’ regularly arrived in the city in large quantities from Chinsurah, about 40 kms away. But this was filthy ice, more like slush, made by freezing water in shallow pits. This was not the kind of ice what the Company wanted for Calcutta. The demand was satisfactorily met through the venture of Frederick Tudor, a Boston merchant, of transportation of this extremely fragile commodity from the US on his specially equipped ship, Tuscany. The ice that Tuscany brought was sparkling clean Massachusetts ice. Calcutta’s British residents raised enough money to set up an ice house to preserve the precious cargo. At four annas a pound, Massachusetts ice was cheaper than the Chinsurah slush. The ‘frozen water’ trade, as it was then called, flourished. Ships carrying ice arrived at regular intervals—from a modest 100 tonnes in 1833, the trade increased to almost 3,000 tonnes in 1847. The price of ice also came down to about two annas per pound. Often, ships bringing ice would get delayed. Ice was rationed and one had to produce a doctor’s certificate to get it.
Over a period of 20 years, Frederick Tudor made a profit of US $220,000 just from Calcutta and went on to become the ‘ice king’. Ice continued to be exported to India packing ice into the hold of shipfor another fifty years with ice-houses in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras as well.But in 1862, the world was introduced to ice-making machines and one in particular met the fancy of the colonial state: Siebe’s Ether Ice-machine. In 1878, with the formation of the Bengal Ice Company, India’s first ice factory, followed by the Crystal Ice Company, sounded the death knell for the American ice trade. The two companies soon amalgamated under the style of the present Calcutta Ice Association, Ltd. See more The ice houses at Calcutta and Bombay no longer exist.
This view of Ice House, Calcutta, is from a hand-coloured photographic print by Frederick Fiebig, dated 1851. Courtesy of the British Library, London.

Old Customs House, Tank Square, Calcutta, c1758


হলওয়েল সাহেবের বাড়ি, কলকাতা কাস্টমসের আদি কার্যালয়। ট্যাঙ্ক স্কোয়ার, কলকাতা,  c১৭৫৮
Sir Richard Bacher, after being appointed on 3rd March, 1758, as the Sea and Land Customs Master, felt the need for an office in some convenient place. It was the site where Mr.John Zephaniah Holwell’s house adjacent to the old ditch stood that Sir Bacher identified for his purpose. Mr. Holwell sold his property to the Company for Rs.9,500/-, for using as Custom House. Thus, the Custom House initially functioned from Holwell’s house in Calcutta. The godowns and warehouses adjacent were also being used for storage of goods brought through riverine route. Holwell’s house being an old construction was found as not suitable for the functioning of the Custom House. Owing to incessant rains in the monsoon, the old construction gave way to seepage and leakage at many points. The building was, therefore, sold off for Rs.8,051/- only in 1760. The Custom House thereafter temporarily functioned from a dwelling house till it was decided on the 8th September, 1766, that the apartments occupied by the Fort Major in the old Fort would stand appropriated for use of the Custom House Master.Custom House Wharf
Evacuation of all militaries from the Fort area was completed in the beginning of 1767 with a view to converting the Fort premises into a Custom House. A number of warehouses and other buildings were erected inside the old Fort. From 1770, the old Fort steadily dipped into the Hooghly river. The Custom House at the extreme southern side of the old Fort disappeared in due course into the river. The southern side of the old Fort with a long narrow furrow on the ground was connected with a canal by which the boats could enter into the Custom House and the ships could be repaired without having the need for going all the way to Bombay.
The painting describing Custom House Wharf by Artist/Maker, D’Oyly. Courtesy: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. See

 

Baptist Mission Press, Circular Road, Calcutta, 1818

baptistMissionPress_Calcutta-x
ব্যাপটিস্ট মিশন প্রেস, সার্কুলার রোড, কলকাতা, ১৮১৮
In 1800, William Carey established a Mission Press in Serampore for the initial purpose of publishing scripture translations. In 1817, W. H. Pearce, who had trained at The Clarendon Press, Oxford, came to Serampore and associated himself with William Ward, the Serampore printer and colleague of William Carey and Joshua Marshman. In 1818, the Baptist Mission Press opened in Calcutta, as Pearce sought to parallel Ward’s work in Serampore. After fifteen years of dual operation, the two presses joined together in a common purpose in 1837.
Between the work of the Serampore Press and the Baptist Mission Press in Calcutta, the complete Bible was printed in Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, and Chinese. In addition to Bible translations, a wide range of subjects including science, education, and literature appeared from these presses. They produced literature from some thirty languages of India, including Telugu from South India and Pushtu in Afghanistan, appeared in native fonts at these mission presses. In the early 1970s, the Baptist Missionary Society closed down the press and sold the land. The metal type created during the work of the Serampore Trio was melted down. Newspapers in the Indian languages first appeared from the Serampore Mission Press in 1818. Also in 1818, Carey and his colleagues began publication of the Friend of India, an English newspaper that continued until 1875. Eventually, Friend of India was incorporated in 1897 into Statesman and Friend of India, a contemporary daily newspaper in India. See

Baptist Mission Press was a letterpress printers. That means the process was still basically the same as that used by Gutenberg and Caxton. It requires great skill to take metal type, ink it, and transfer the image onto paper. A lot of type was set by hand compositors, working back to front, placing individual pieces of type, spacers and leading to fill out the meta a catalogue entitled ”

The date and photographer’s name of the above photo of the BMP building are not known. Many interesting pictorials of BMP can be seen online in the booklet, ‘The Carey Exhibition of Early Printing and Fine Printing at the National Library Calcutta‘ dated 195l.

Army and Navy Store – Recent View , Chowringhee Road, Calcutta, 2008

armyNavyStore
আর্মি অ্যান্ড নেভি বিভাগীয় পণ্যালয়ের সাম্প্রতিক চিত্র, চৌরঙ্গি, কলকাতা, ২০০৮
Formed in London in 1871 as the Army and Navy Co-operative Society by a group of military officers to supply consumer goods at the most reasonable prices, the Society grew steadily and received many requests to serve the needs of homesick military personnel and civil servants in India wanting something from ‘Home’. The first Indian Army and Navy Store was opened in Bombay in 1891. The Calcutta branch opened to great fanfare in 1901. “At its height — between 1890 and 1940 — the Army and Navy Stores was more than a mere emporium: it was a key cog in the machinery of the Empire. The two greatest jewels in the Stores’ crown were the enormous branches in Calcutta and Bombay, which functioned as travel agents, bankers, caterers, undertakers, and insurance brokers, as well as purveyors of the pith helmets, thunder-boxes, plum puddings, and all the other myriad things listed in the Army and Navy’s catalogue, which ran to more than a thousand pages. This catalogue was the bible of the British Raj. Kipling’s Mrs. Vansuythen and Mrs. Hauksbee would have been unable to function without it.” See The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by John Richardson. Now known as the Kanak Building.

Photograph of the building taken by DBH Ker in 2008

Hall and Anderson Store, Chowringhee, Calcutta, c1925

hall and anderson's premisesx
হল অ্যান্ড অ্যান্ডারসনের বিভাগীয় বিপণি, চৌরঙ্গি, কলকাতা, c১৯২৫
Hall & Anderson, a departmental store happened to be the first retail enterprise in Calcutta established by William Anderson and P. N. Hall, whose partnership started in 1894 in a humble shop in Esplanade East. Then they had moved to the old premises of Whiteway Laidlaw & Co.
Next they purchased land and buildings in the block on the corner of Chowringhee and Park Street. At first the store which Hall and Anderson built was more a conglomerate than a single shop. Numbers 8 and 10 Park Street were originally used for workshops. This whole complex was demolished in 1925 and the large building which we know today was opened in October 1925, being heralded as “the finest departmental store in India”. It had half a million square feet of floor space.
As was the case with other European retail businesses in Calcutta, they dealt only in imported or custom made goods. Hall and Anderson, in their later years, spent half the year in Europe selecting stock and came to Calcutta only for the cool season. The shop’s ads insisted that it stocked “the very latest from the English and Continental markets.” They were trend-setters in certain aspects of the retail trade. For instance, they were the first to introduce kitchenware and ironmongery as a department. Among the custom-made goods the furniture department was the most important. Hall and Anderson used good Burmese teak and Indian mahogany. Much of the initial ma¬king was subcontracted to Indian carpenters and cabinetmakers with the finishing being done in the Hall and Anderson workshops. The shop carried a large range of carpets including Indian carpets from Benares, Kashmir, Mirzapore and Ellora, as well as the usual Axminsters and Wiltons.
Hall and Anderson were quick to exploit the value payable post which, besides allowing them to trade over vast distances, also greatly reduced the risks of unpaid accounts of distant customers. Their postal department grew to be very large indeed. Orders came from all parts of India and from South-East Asia, Aden and Mesopotamia.
Hall and Anderson employed Indians but generally not as salesmen. They were, however, willing to train Bengalis and Anglo-Indians. More usually, they recruited young men from Britain, like Mr. Huggett who was in charge of the hardware and crockery department until 1946 and became manager of the store after the British partners sold the business to Sahan Lai Jajodia in that year. Source “Hall & Anderson by Christine Furedy.”
Photograph by Bourne and Sephard, c1925

Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co., Chowringhee Road, Calcutta, 1905

whitewayLaidelaw-ipo-ed
হোয়াইটওয়ে, লেডল কোম্পানির বিভাগীয় বিলাস বিপণি, চৌরঙ্গি রোড, কলকাতা, ১৯০৫
Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co was ‘the’ colonial emporium or department store in India and became a household name throughout the East. The emporium picked up a nickname, ‘Right-away & Paid-for’ because of its ‘no credit’ policy. It was founded in Calcutta by two eponymous Scotsmen in 1882 and had branches in Bombay, Madras, Lahore and Simla as well as further afield in Colombo, Burma, the Straits Settlements and in Shanghai. This elaborate, ‘wedding-cake’ structure was purpose-built by Calcutta-based contractors Mackintosh Burn & Co as the headquarters of Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co; its architecture, sheer size and prominent corner position were intended to attract buyers to enter its doors. The ground floor and the first floor were occupied by the department store itself. Given the size of the building, the floor space was huge. The second and third floors accommodated offices and apartments; the offices were known as Victoria Chambers. As shown in the picture postcard here, there was also a nice Tea Room in this famous Calcutta departmental store that once rivaled Harrod’s, Macy’s and Mitsukoshi. In his excellent book, “Plain Tales From the Raj”, Charles Allen records the recollections of Norman Watney who remembered that:
The Whiteway, Laidlaw & Co.’s departmental stores in Calcutta was considered the poshest and classiest department store this side of the Suez. His view was not shared by some other city buyers, however, who thinks, “Whiteaway’s had acquired the distinction of being solely for those with small purses and had a large clientele of junior officers. Others in a more senior position used to go down the road about a quarter of a mile away to the Army & Navy Stores.”
Image Source: Vintage British Indian B/W Picture Postcard, Calcutta, Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co. Ltd Building. Street Scene. Clock Tower. dated 1905 (ID: 89431) Image Source: Tea Room of Whiteway Laidlaw & Co.

Steuart and Company : House, Manufactory and Bazar, Tank Square, 1795

Steuart and Company Coachworks,1795স্টুয়ার্ট কোম্পানির দপ্তর, কারখানা, লালবাজার, কলকাতা, ১৭৯৫
Aquatint depicting buildings in Calcutta, published by Francis Jukes in 1795 as part of King George III’s Topographical Collection. This aquatint, engraved by Francis Jukes, was based on an original drawing made for James Steuart, who was head of a firm of coachmakers in Calcutta. The premises of his firm, Steuart and Company, are seen here, located behind the Old Court House where they remained from 1783 to 1907. The Old Court House was knocked down in 1792, allowing the artist to capture a clear view down the Old Court House Street. As there were few suitable roads, the demand for coaches was relatively low. Instead, the company made palanquins and even elephant harnesses. It has been suggested that Francois Baltazard Solvyns, the artist from Antwerp who was in Calcutta from 1791, may have executed the original drawing. He is known to have painted palanquins made by Steuart’s firm. See BL

Taylor and Company’s Emporium, opposite Palmer’s House, Lall Bazar, Calcutta, 1826

টেলর কোম্পানির দোকান ঘর, নিলাম ঘর, লাল বাজার, কলকাতা, ১৮২৬

Before Chowringhee was grown to a grand centre of amusement and entertainment for the European communities, Lall Bazar had been the best attraction for them. Calcutta’s first theatres, hotels and restaurants, coffee house, ball rooms, shops and markets were all clustered around Lal Dighi.  From the junction with Mission Row, there is eastward down the length of the street. The grand house dominating the composition is the house of John Palmer, Palmer was one of the richest merchants of then Calcutta, the so-called Prince of Merchants, but in the end became a pauper because of his habit of charity. Palmer’s house was sold shortly afterwards to the government and converted into a police station, now the police head quarter. Beyond it, on the intersection with Chitpore Road, is the house that served as a court for the Justices of the Peace. Opposite Palmer’s house stand the emporium and auction rooms of Taylor and Company.
This is a coloured aquatinted plate no. 16 from James Baillie Fraser’s ‘Views of Calcutta and its Environs’, painted in 1826.

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