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Ask Rufus: Columbus was booming in the 80s

 

In 1883 “Richards & Teasdale’s” store on Main Street in Columbus specialized in “toys and fancy goods” for “holiday and wedding presents.”

In 1883 “Richards & Teasdale’s” store on Main Street in Columbus specialized in “toys and fancy goods” for “holiday and wedding presents.” Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

“Buder Bros.” were “manufacturing jewelers” whose shop was located in the Gilmer Hotel building in 1883.

“Harris & Price,” which was located on Main Street in 1883, sold boots, shoes, hats, caps, rubber goods and umbrellas.

 

Rufus Ward

 

The Civil War and its aftermath brought hard economic times to Columbus, but by the 1870s businesses were beginning to rebound. There were still economic setbacks, like the failed Memphis, Holly Springs, Okolona and Selma Railroad that was promoted by Nathan Bedford Forrest and attracted many Columbus investors.  

 

The 1880s, though, found the Columbus economy booming.  

 

The success of the early 1880s was varied and enduring. In May of 1880, the Southern Baptist Convention held its 26th session at the Baptist Church in Columbus. This large gathering selected Stephen D. Lee as one of its vice presidents and brought much favorable publicity to the town. In 1883, the Georgia Pacific Railroad was completed between Columbus and the new industrial giant named Birmingham. Then, in 1884, the Columbus Female Institute became the Industrial Institute and College (now MUW). Economically, the 1880s were good to Columbus. 

 

By 1883, Columbus was home to over 150 "business houses." These businesses ranged from J. M. Prescott's confectionery to Caine and Chapman's fancy groceries to Nathan & Oppen-heimer's wines, liquors and tobaccos. Then as now, much advertising was done in newspapers such as the Index and the Dispatch. In addition, colorful advertising cards were passed out. They became a popular item for young people to collect and put in decorative albums or scrapbooks. 

 

One such album was given to Mary Billups of Columbus for Christmas in 1883. Mary filled the album with advertising, Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day cards. Many of the cards were from Columbus businesses and they help document the town's economic life. 

 

On the second page of Mary's album is an advertising card from Richards & Teasdale's store on Main Street in Columbus. They specialized in "toys and fancy goods" for "holiday and wedding presents." 

 

Another card was from the store of Harris & Price, which was also on Main Street. They sold boots, shoes, hats, caps, rubber goods and umbrellas. A. M. Holliday, J. T. Gardner, A. E. Love and W. H. Sherrod were the salesmen working at the store. 

 

Buder Bros. "manufacturing jewelers" was also on Main Street and passed out advertising cards. The store was located in the Gilmer Hotel building. The business, as its name suggested, was composed of three brothers, C. C., E. E. and H. B. Buder. 

 

An 1883 city directory published in the Feb. 24, 1883, Columbus Index provides details of other businesses and their employees. 

 

Abert & Perkins were cotton buyers on Main Street, as was F. M. Leigh & Co. The bookkeeper for Leigh was J. W. Hopkins. 

 

E.F. Kemp was a carpenter and builder who had an office in the Masonic building on Main Street (the present three-story building at Main and Fourth Street). F.S. Kemp had a lumber yard east of Military Road. 

 

Geraud & Desporter operated a billiard hall, 10-pin alley and restaurant on Main. The restaurant specialized in oysters, fish and game. Childers & Walberg operated a saloon and restaurant on Market Street and advertised, "Oysters, fish and game received daily." The Shippers Warehouse operated by J.H. Turner and sons was on St. John Street (Catfish Alley).  

 

Mrs. S. Cranford ran an ice house on Market Street. Thomas Harris operated a grocery store on Market Street where George Lipscomb was clerk. At the foot of Main Street was the New Columbus Gas Light and Coca-Cola Co. The Telephone Exchange was also on Main and was managed by Jasper Carter. There was a skating rink downtown on the west side of Market Street and Titus Gilmer was the barber in the basement of the Gilmer Hotel. 

 

Old directories and maps provide wonderful information on the businesses of Columbus 130 years ago, a time that we don't often associate with ice houses and telephone service. It is, however, the old advertising cards give color and life to that former time. 

 

For those interested in the old businesses of Columbus, the Billups-Garth Archives at the Columbus Lowndes Public Library contains a gold mine of information and images.

 

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at rufushistory@aol.com.

 

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