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Fonds/Collection Description

Title Columbian Company fonds
Description Level Fonds
Fonds No. IH 2008.248
Creator Columbian Company
Material Type graphic material
textual record
Date Range 1904-1983 ; predominate 1958-1983
Title Source Title based on content of fonds
Physical Description 3.7 m of textual records
ca. 7500 photographs
History/Biographical The history of the Columbian newspaper can be traced back to 1859. The New Westminster Times, the predecessor of the newspaper, was published on Sept. 17th, 1859 by Leonard McClure. In 1861, Leonard McClure sold the Times to a group of New Westminster citizens who renamed the paper, the British Columbian whose first issued appeared on February 13, 1861. John Robson, a future premier of the province, was appointed as its editor. The newspaper’s office was located at the south side of Columbia Street in Lytton Square. In March 1862, the office moved several doors east along Columbia (PAGE 8). After the consolidation of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia in 1868, the local economic conditions worsened and Robson moved the newspaper to Victoria in 1869 where it was eventually bought by a competing newspaper, the Daily British Colonist.

Robson returned to New Westminster in 1880 and purchased a local paper, the Dominion Pacific Herald in 1880. In August, 1881, his brother, David Robson, joined John Robson. Robson with the help of his brother published the first issue of the new British Columbian in January 1882. However, in 1883, John Robson again returned to Victoria to pursue his political ambitions and left the newspaper in the hands of his brother to manage until 1888, when the newspaper changed ownership. In this year, the newspaper was purchased by the five Kennedy brothers: George was the editor, Robert, the business manager, with the remaining three brothers being responsible for other duties. Throughout its early years the newspaper was published several times a week, but it was not until 1886,when the newspaper became a daily paper and was renamed the Daily Columbian.


After the great New Westminster fire of 1898, The newspaper ceased publication for one month. The newspaper’s offices were destroyed and all its records lost. Forced to publish in Vancouver for the next year, on Oct. 8, 1898 the daily issues recommenced after the fire. The newspaper returned to New Westminster the following year. On Sept. 9, 1899 the newspaper moved into a building at Victoria Gardens, on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Clarkson.

In 1900, a group of local citizens with the help of Richard McBride, another future premier, purchased the paper. Ownership of the paper was transferred from the five Kennedy brothers to the following new shareholders: G. E. Corbould, Fred Buscombe, Charles Wilson, T. S. Annandale, W. J. Mathers, J. W. Johnston and George V. Fraser. The new owners were shareholdesr in the Columbian Company Limited which was incorporated on May 17, 1900. The Kennedy brothers continued on the staff. In 1900, James Davis “JD” Taylor, a future MP and senator, was appointed as its managing editor (E). In 1902, JD Taylor became a shareholder. In April, 1906, J. D. Taylor became a director of the company. Subsequently, Taylor bought out the rest of the original shareholders. The Taylor family maintained ownership of the paper throughout the remainder of its history.

For a time, the Columbian owned several other newspapers. In 1907, the company bought the Chilliwack Progress and operated until 1923. The Columbian also operated the Delta Times from 1909 to 1922.

C. Davis Taylor, J. D. Taylor’s only son, joined the paper in 1921. In 1924, he became a shareholder. In 1927, he became a director. At the time of his early death in 1940, he was the managing editor. In May, 1941, J. D. Taylor died at age 77. Subsequently, ownership of the Columbian Company was passed to his two daughters Miss Dorothy Taylor and Miss Mary L. “Babe” (Mrs. M. L. Emes), his daughter-in-law, Mrs. C. D. Taylor (Mrs. Walter Goodwin) and grandson, Richard D. “Rikk” Taylor.

During WWII, there was only little or no growth as necessity and equipments were impossible; however, during the post WWII boom, the Columbian Company was able to expand its operations. Although during its early years, the newspaper was a political newspaper with several owners also being politician, the newspaper took a more independent line during its later period.

The three successive editors were first, R. A. “Mac” McLellan, who retired in 1948. The next editor, Dorothy G. Taylor, daughter of Sen. J. D. Taylor, as also editor of the popular weekly edition of The Columbian that served the Fraser Valley until 1950. She resigned her position in 1954 and retired. I. E. “Bill” Hambly was editor from 1954. In 1972, the newspaper moved its operations to North Road in Coquitlam. In 1980, more than 200 staff member were working under the direction of R. D. “Rikk” Taylor. It was one of Canada’s few remaining independent family-owned newspapers.

In the early days, the circulation of the newspaper was only a few hundred copies. By 1941, daily circulation was 3,000. In the 1940s, the Columbian had reached 5,000 circulation and served only New Westminster. However, by 1964, the paper reached 22,000 circulation and served not just new Westminster, but neighbouring communities as well with five separate weekly editions: the Burnaby Columbian, the Coquitlam Columbian, the New Westminster Columbian and the Surrey Columbian, and Fraser Valley Columbian. In 1971, daily circulation was 36,000. In 1980, the daily press reached a high of 39,000. Including the affiliated Columbian weeklies, circulation reached 120,000. There were also community newspapers published under the name of Today from 1979 to 1983 for Burnaby, Coquitlam, Fraser Valley, New Westminster, and Surrey/North Delta. The Company also operated a commercial printing division, Craftsmen Printers.

Circulation of the newspaper began to decline in the late seventies and burdened by increasing debt, the newspaper laboured to stay in business. A final attempt of the owners to raise more capital by selling a portion of their equity in the paper failed. Forced into bankruptcy, a receiver was appointed on October 11, 1983 to wind up the affairs of the business. The last issue of the newspaper was published on November 15, 1983. The Columbian Company was dissolved on November 10, 1988.
Custodial History Columbian staff members transferred these files to the New Westminster Public Library in 1983. There they remained until the Library donated them to the New Westminster Museum and Archives in 2002. The fonds described here is the New Westminster portion of a larger fonds that contained files pertaining to several other neighbouring cities.
Scope & Content The fonds consists of a collection of reference files created by Columbian staff members over a number of years. The files were accessed by staff members to provide information about a given person or subject. The content of these files is predominately black and white photographic prints and associated newspaper clippings. There are also other types of documents in the files such as pamphlets, circulars, assignment sheets, and memos.

The fonds contains five series: people files, subject files, and sports files, sports mug shots, and New Westminster Today photos.
Arrangement All series are filed alphabetically except for the New Westminster Today series which is filed chronologically.
Finding Aids Finding aid available
Accession No. IH 2008.248
Name Access Columbian Company Ltd.
Columbian (Newspaper)
Subject Access Businesses
Media