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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Raymer's Old Book Store is really old

A few years ago, I wrote about a piece of ephemera from Raymer's Old Book Store in Seattle, 1956, and traced the store's lineage, if not its age, to Minneapolis. Now I know just how far back the business goes.



This old ad cover from the Minneapolis store takes Raymer's back to the 1800s. For now, this is the earliest evidence of its existence I have, but this piece does confirm when the business got started. On the left side under the image of the business' building: Established 1835. Make that 1885 (thanks to a reader's comment below).

Raymer's was no slouch at advertising. They used both sides of this envelope rather judiciously, especially the backside, to promote their business (see image below). And their business included just about everything in the way of books from rare, curious and out of print to specialties in law, medical, school and college text books. And if that weren't enough, they laid claim (front) to the fact that they were the "Cheapest Book House in the West."


This time around with Raymer's, I found a little more information to document their arrival in Washington state. The Spokane Daily Chronicle, has a couple of reports in 1905 announcing the arrival of antiquarian bookseller, Charles D. Raymer,from Minneapolis to Spokane, Washington. The September 15, 1905 issue announces that Raymer's has opened in Spokane at 122 Washington Street. 


A few months later, November 29, 1905, Raymer's son, Harry, is reported to be in town helping his father with the store. This blurb also reveals some long-range, ambitious plans for the business. The booksellers will open a chain of antiquarian book stores in both Washington and Oregon--up to a dozen!



The Raymer's move was not just a family pulling up stakes and trying their luck in a new location. At least as far back as the 1890s, Raymer had already expanded his bookselling business west with a shop in Salt Lake City, while maintaining operations in Minneapolis. The Library of Congress archives offer evidence of this with old newspaper articles found online.

The move into the Northwest seems part of an overall westward expansion business plan of Raymer's book business that started at least a decade earlier. I don't know how many stores they eventually opened, but they had to be one of the country's early chain book stores. And they did it with antiquarian stock! That in itself had to be a pioneering enterprise.

As the old century of the "Wild West" came to a close and the 20th century dawned with the excitement of automobiles and flying machines, perhaps the visionary in Raymer saw great opportunity in the mobile, developing New West. If so, that business vision would be based, ironically, on recyled artifacts from the previous centuries. Old books.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post. I live in Minneapolis, collect Mpls ephemera, and work at used bookstore just across the river in St. Paul, so this touches on many of my interests. I have been unable to find other images of Raymer's bookstore in my own collection, or in the online images from the Hennepin County Public Library or the Minnesota Historical Society. I will do some research the next time I can get to the library. I wish, however, to offer one correction. Close examination of the advertisement shown above shows that the date is a slightly imperfectly printed 1885 not 1835. The earlier date does not fit into the history of Minneapolis. I will share anything else I can come up with as soon as I've found it.

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  2. Your are correct! Thanks so much for the closer examination. I've noted your correction in the post. Glad this was of interest and I appreciate your taking the time to comment and set the record straight.

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  3. There is a photo of "Raymer's Books" dated 1930 on Third Ave North in Seattle WA. The photo is on page 109 in the book "HIstoric Photos of Seattle" by Walt Crowley (ISBN 1-59652-303-4).

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  4. By an extraordinary bit of luck the copy of this Sunday school book that was digitized by Google bears a stamped not indicating that it was sold at Raymer's in Minneapolis.
    Pamler's Songs

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  5. Raymer is affectionately discussed and described in this book (pp. 99-103)Russell's Fourth Street

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    Replies
    1. Interesting finds! I enjoyed reading Russell's story about going into Raymer's and finding a valuable book for a quarter. Thanks for the links!

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Totally by chance I ran across this a few minutes ago. Raymer's in Spokane

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