Woodward's Holiday Catalogues

Woodward's department store chain operated in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada for one hundred years, before its sale to the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC).

In 1892, Charles Woodward established the first Woodward store at the corner of Main and Georgia Streets in Vancouver. On September 12, 1902 Woodward Department Stores Ltd. was incorporated and a new store was built on the corner of Hastings and Abbott Streets.

When The Hudson's Bay Company bought Woodward's Stores Ltd. In 1993, the Museum was permitted to salvage material remaining in the Hastings Street Store; most of the donated material was retrieved from the administration office area; the City of Vancouver Archives also retrieved a large amount of Woodward's material.

Below is the evolution of the cover design for the Woodward's Christmas catalogue. View more of the Museum of Vancouver's collection of Woodward's artefacts in OpenMOV.


1) This cover design from 1936 is graphic heavy with its two colour print and no use of photo. There's a play with typography and a constructivism influence that was popular in the late twenties early thirties.

2) This cover design from 1954 is still more graphic focus with the Santa Claus illustration and interesting candy stripped typography but here we start to see the introduction of photographic imagery.

3) By the late sixties the Woodward's logo had changed and they began using the same heading and wordmark treatment: "The Wonderful World of Woodward's Christmas Gifts." The catalogue covers also stuck to using a single photographic image that was very traditional and family orientated.

4) By the eighties the graphic standards started to shift again where the chunky and convoluted messaging is simplified and the logo is placed separately from the heading. The traditional family Christmas image remained.

5) Here the catalogue feels very eighties and is embracing the trends of that time. The imagery shifts to a young, rich couple and plays off ideas of consumerism and spending, rather than family moments and children doing Christmas activities.

6) This summarzing catalogue from 1992 utilizes early forms of computer graphics which we can see the designer having a little too much fun with since I imagine computer graphic programs were still rather novel at this time. There's masking and crop out of a tree onto another photographic background, use of a glow effect and over designed titling with the festive banner. We also see use of the iconic Woodward's "W" taking front and centre.

Flickr Find: Woodward's billboard, 1970s

Not to delve back into the billboard issue—see last week’s blog post on the subject—but I came across this swell image on Flickr and just had to post it. What a sign! What a street. Many thanks to Flickr user lookingatdamascus for the upload. A larger version of the image is linked on their photostream here.

Return of the W!

It’s not the original “W” that crowned the Woodward’s building, of course (that “W” will be displayed inside the redeveloped building), but what a symbol! The new version, consisting of 6,700 lbs of steel and lit by LEDs, was hoisted to the top of the building yesterday. Media coverage abounded. The Georgia Straight has a good summary on their website with links to video; click here for it. Coverage on links to past articles on the—complex? storied? controversial? acclaimed?—redevelopment project.

This image was taken by Honey Mae Caffin. Her Flickr photostream (linked here) has other equally striking shots of the event. We loved them all.

Farewell 2009! Here's to 2010

Been a quiet holiday season at MOV (and quiet on the blog front! It’s been awhile!). Consider it the calm before the storm. In just under two weeks we’ll open Art of Craft, an exhibit that comes to us via the Cultural Olympiad. The exhibit is a national survey of Canadian craft with a section devoted to works from B.C. and the Yukon, and another section featuring 47 objects from Korea. (More posts on Art of Craft to come. Meantime, buy your tickets to the opening party on January 13 here.) A second exhibit from the Cultural Olympiad opens on February 4 and features the incredible immersive work Tracing Night by Toronto artist Ed Pien. Details here (and, again, more to follow in upcoming posts). In addition, we’ve extended the run of Working Wood, our look at the work of five Vancouver woodworkers, to February 7. Ravishing Beasts continues to the end of February. It’s a packed house.

But before we get too far into 2010, a quick look back. 2009 saw many changes to the physical landscape of Vancouver. A few things stand out.

—The Canada Line subway/SkyTrain system opened in September, and already draws 90,000 riders a day. Overdue?

—The Pennsylvania Hotel completed a painstaking and inspired heritage restoration in early January (image above), providing 44 studio apartments and on-site services to the area’s homelesss.

—The removal of the scaffolding around the original Woodward’s building revealed—at last!—the store’s old painted advertisements on the brick, reminding us of a time when picking up stationery was a regular errand.

—Outside Woodward’s, more neighbourhood changes. The storied Only Sea Foods (sic) restaurant closed after a drug investigation; Pigeon Park reopened after a lengthy redesign, though still seems in a state of transition with area residents continuing to gather half a block away.

—Across town, Slickety Jim’s Chat ‘n Chew—the cluttered east side eatery that drew a crowd long before Main Street was cool again—burned to the ground. Part of Slickety’s appeal was its tired decor and resistance to the new, minimalist polish underway at many of its neighbours. What will take its place?

—The reallocation of a car lane on the Burrard Street Bridge for bicycle traffic was a major news story this summer, and then the lane opened and, well, nothing happened. It just seemed to work.

All that talk of the cyclist’s place in the city worked in our favour, and timed out perfectly with Velo-City, our exhibit on Vancouver’s ongoing cycling revolution. It was a year of changes for us, too. We’ve written about some of them extensively here on the blog, so let’s just leave it here: 2009 was an incredible year of change for the Museum and the city. And 2010? More ahead. We’re looking forward to all of it.

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