Maritime History On-line Catalogue
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|Record No:|| mha00000197|
|Title:|| James Ryan Limited (Bonavista) fonds|
|Location:|| Storage Banks 57-61, 97-103, 926-928|
|Extent:|| 88.5 m of textual records|
|Restrictions:|| No restrictions.|
|Adm. Hist/Bio. Sketch:|| By the last decade of the 19th century, James Ryan had become one of the most prosperous merchants in Newfoundland. In 1895 the two firms known as James Ryan, Bonavista, and James Ryan and Company, King's Cove, exported nearly 100,000 quintals of codfish, approximately ten percent of Newfoundland's total exports for the year.|
With the assistance of his father Michael, sixteen year old James started the business on October 20, 1857 in the Bayley's Cove section of Bonavista. Michael Ryan came to Bonavista from Ireland about 1830 and subsequently married Mary Ellen Fleming. They had nine children: James (1842), Mary (1844), Margaret (1849), Daniel (1851), Patrick (1853), Michael J. (1856), John (1858), Nicholas B. (1860), Edmund J. (1863), and Frederick (1867). All of the sons, except Frederick who died at a young age, were involved in the business in some capacity. Initially the firm was both a fishery supply business and pub; glasses of gin, rum, and porter were sold over the counter as were flour, molasses, twine, and other goods.
In 1869, James expanded the firm by purchasing the old William Keen estate located in the heart of the Harbour area adjacent to his principal competitors. Alcohol was sold only in bulk quantities at the new premises as James concentrated all of his efforts on the fishery supply aspect of the business. The "Harbour" premises immediately became the headquarters for the firm and James developed the site into an extensive fishery industrial complex. He appears to have built the large house and shop in 1869. Prior to 1874, Ryan also constructed a powder magazine, barn, coach house and stable on the site. The retail store, fish store, cooperage, and salt store were added in 1874. With government approval and support, he built the local telegraph office on the site in 1876. Ryan added the double house - Tenement House - in 1879 for his bookkeeper, Robert Brown and other management staff, a separate fish store in 1888, and, over time, two wharves, several gardens, flakes and a shipbuilding yard.
From the "Harbour" premises, the firm expanded like a giant octopus extending its tentacles into every part of the region. Ryan maintained several other branches and seasonal barter shops in Bonavista Bay, some in close proximity to each other. At Bonavista, the Bayley's Cove premises continued as a separate branch until 1880, and there were barter shops at Canaille, Rolling Cove, Red Cove, Cape Shore, Lance Cove and Spillars Cove. The firm also established barter shops at Newman's Cove, Bird Island Cove North and South, Knight's Cove, Sweet Bay, Open Hall, Plate Cove, Tickle Cove and Bay de Verde. James and Dan established a separate firm at King's Cove in 1875 under the masthead, James Ryan & Company. Dan moved there to manage the operation and eventually became sole proprietor. James also established a separate firm at Trinity in 1906 in partnership with Dan known as Ryan Brothers. Under the management of their youngest brother Edmund, the firm's chief goal was to profit from supplying Trinity and Conception Bay schooners involved in the Labrador fishery. Sometime after 1894, James acquired the Greenspond premises of J. & W. Stewart, operating it as a separate branch until 1914. The Bird Island Cove South barter shop became a year round branch operation in the early 1900s, as did the shop at Newman's Cove circa 1925.
The firm remained a dominant player in the Newfoundland salt cod trade well into the twentieth century. When James Ryan died in 1917, John McCarthy, his brother in-law, continued as manager of the firm. Dan, Edmund, and McCarthy maintained regular contact through correspondence, often consolidating their orders for imported goods through the Bonavista firm, sharing fish catch and market intelligence, and offering advice to each other. The firm experienced significant change in the 1930s. Nicholas, who had been replaced by McCarthy as manager but continued to be active in the firm, died in 1936, two years after Daniel's death. John McCarthy died in 1939, marking the end of the era; he was the last family member to reside at Bonavista while running the firm. And finally Edmund, the last of the brothers, died in 1949. The end of the family connection affected the conduct of the business but the decline of the salt cod trade had the most significant impact on the firm's future direction.
By 1953, James Ryan Limited had completely withdrawn from the fish trade, becoming primarily a wholesale and retail business. The firm carried on in this vein under the management of John Hennebury, who succeeded McCarthy, followed by his son Gerald and then, Ben Durdle. The business closed in 1978 following the death of James' son, Herbert Ryan.
In 1987, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the Ryan Premises at Bonavista as a national historic site to commemorate Canada's East coast fishery. The Government of Canada subsequently acquired the premises and Parks Canada opened the site to the public in 1997.
|Scope and Content:|| This fonds contains the records of the firm James Ryan, a general merchant and fishery supplier at Bonavista from 1857 to 1978. Financial records constitute the bulk of the material, mainly in the form of ledgers, ledger indices, journals, day books, memo books, cash books, sealers' books, account sales books, inventory books and collection books. In addition, there are substantial volumes of incoming correspondence, letterbooks, diaries, catalogues, sample books and publications.|
The diaries, 1874-1919, were kept by the proprietor and the staff of the office, especially Nicholas Ryan, James' younger brother. Many of the entries concern shipping and fish intelligence, but there are also numerous entries in each volume pertaining to community affairs as well as national and international matters, including the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
The material in this fonds has been separated into five series: Series 1, "James Ryan Limited (Bonavista), 1857-1965 (predominant 1857-1949)," Series 2: "James Ryan Limited (Bonavista), 1943-1980 (predominant 1949-1978)," Series 3: "James Ryan Limited, Bird Island Cove (Elliston), 1897-1963," Series 4: "James Ryan Limited (Greenspond), 1894-1915," Series 5: Business papers of Katherine M. Ryan, James E. Ryan and Herbert F. Ryan, 1933-1963 includes their correspondence from James Ryan Limited and Ryan Brothers Ltd.
|Reproduction Note:|| No restrictions|
|Associated Material:|| Estate papers of Edmund J. Ryan, 1946-1951, MHA, MF-0194.|
|Associated Material:|| Last wills and testaments of James Ryan, Michael Ryan and Michael J. Ryan of Bonavista, 1906-1923, MHA, MF-0199.|
|Associated Material:|| James Ryan and Company (King's Cove), 1883-1934, MHA, Finding Aid #10.|
|Associated Material:|| Ryan Brothers (Trinity), 1906-1951, MHA, Finding Aid #22.|
|Associated Material:|| Parks Canada Photographs, MHA, Uncatalogued, Accession No. 1998-008.|
|Associated Material:|| Robert Mellin, "Structural Report: Ryan Premises, Bonavista"; "Building Supplies Report: Ryan Premises, Bonavista"; "Cultural Landscape Report: Ryan Premises, Bonavista"; "Oral History Report: Ryan Premises, Bonavista", MHA, Book No. 676-681.|
|Associated Material:|| Ryan premises at Kings Cove (photograph), Accession No. 1996.022 (uncatalogued).|
|Associated Material:|| Letter from J.W. Ridley to Michael Ryan, 1869, Accession No. 1998.028 (uncatalogued).|
|Associated Material:|| E.J. Ryan (photograph), PF - 289.|
|Custodial History:|| In 1989, Ena Maria Ryan, Marilyn Ann Ryan and Marcella Maria Ryan - granddaughters of James Ryan - donated the bulk of the records to the Maritime History Archive. Marilyn Ann Ryan made a subsequent donation of a small amount of material that had been in her possession in England. Since 1991 Parks Canada has made four donations of material found in various buildings on the site at Bonavista.|
|Finding Aids:|| MHA finding aid 22|
|Subject:|| James Ryan|
|Subject:|| Daniel A. Ryan|
|Subject:|| Nicholas Ryan|
|Subject:|| Gerald Hennebury|
|Subject:|| E.J. Dominey|
|Subject:|| Thomas Moore|
|Subject:|| Laurence Moss|
|Subject:|| Frederick Shears|
|Subject:|| Samuel Templeman|
|Subject:|| Tom Joy|
|Subject:|| Walter White|
|Subject:|| William Hunt|
|Subject:|| Thomas Doody|
|Subject:|| William Doody|
|Subject:|| Harvey and Company|
|Subject:|| Ridley and Sons|
|Subject:|| Lazenby and Ridgewell|
|Subject:|| H.B. Wells|
|Subject:|| J.J. Langley|
|Subject:|| Campos Hoole Kinch|
|Subject:|| A.H. Murray and Company|
|Subject:|| Hawes and Company|
|Subject:|| Bowring Brothers|
|Subject:|| C.T. Bowring and Company|
|Subject:|| Harrington and White|
|Subject:|| Rylands and Sons|
|Subject:|| J.W. Phillips, Gander River Sawmills|
|Subject:|| Hawes and Company|
|Subject:|| Fisheries Newfoundland|
|Subject:|| Saltfish industry Newfoundland|
|Subject:|| Merchants Newfoundland|
|Subject:|| Shipping Newfoundland|
|Subject:|| fish markets|
|Subject:|| Birchy Cove (N.L.)|
|Subject:|| Amherst Cove (N.L.)|
|Subject:|| Brooklyn (N.L.)|
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