Marianne Smith (nee Caughey) and her husband William emigrated to New Zealand from Ireland. In 1880, Marianne opened Smith’s Cheap Drapery Warehouse on Queen Street. Her brother Andrew, who had emigrated a month before the Smiths and had entered the Methodist ministry, joined the business as a partner and so the firm became Smith & Caughey. Marianne was not a partner but remained vitally involved in the business. In 1884, Smith & Caughey moved to a prime site on the western side of Queen Street and began buying direct from overseas markets. The Smiths also continued Methodist mission work and helped establish the Helping Hand Mission in 1885.
Albertlanders often visited Smith & Caughey, mentioning the store in their letters. It seems many knew the partners personally, perhaps through the Auckland Methodist church meetings. The store had commercial travellers who visited outlying districts and on Friday, 30 November, Harold Marsh noted in his diary, ‘Mr Griffiths (Smith & Caughey traveller) came – took his photo (two photos), ordered shirts, pants, boots etc £3-5-0. Photo goods 16/3.’
Those particular photographs were, until recently, among the many images of unidentified men in the Marsh collection. While accessing historic correspondence, I had a ‘Eureka’ moment (archivists love those). One letter, on a beautifully ornate Smith & Caughey letterhead, dated 4 December 1906 read:
Kindly print me one dozen Glossy post Cards off the negative with the horse’s head turned, the one without the pipe. I think it has come out very well. Enclosed please find P. Notes for 6/- in payment. Later on I will get some cabinets. Finish as soon as you can and forward to S E Griffiths, Helensville Post Office.
Sources: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Albertland Museum & Heritage Centre archives.