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Charles Irénée Douville Fonds (P554)

Excerpt from an inventory of the Charles Irénée Douville (1868-1956) general store (detail), 1911. Gift of Mr. Justin Douville, Charles Irénée Douville Fonds P554, M2000.40.5.1 © McCord Museum

Something for everyone at the Douville general store

« 8 pqts..................................... Allumettes 9 [cents].................. .72
8 pots Shellac.......................... 16 [cents................................... 1.08
1 Bouts Eau Javelle................... 4 [cents]................................... .04
1 Reveil Matin........................... [75 cents].................................. .75
4 Pots a Confiture...................... 8 [cents]................................... .32
10/12 Doz Sirop Coderre............ 1 50.......................................... 1.25
1/4 " " A. Gauvin........................ 1 50......................................... .37
1/2 " " Pilules Rouge[s]........ ...... 3.75........................................ 1.88
1 lb Antimoine............................ [15 cents]................................ .15 »


In Charles Irénée Douville's general store, the inhabitants of Saint-Alban in Portneuf could find something to eat, wear, wash with, cook, smoke, help them wake up on time, maintain their home, and more, as this inventory of goods illustrates. They could also find medicine, because Dr. J. Emery Coderre's "Infant's Syrup" and Gauvin's Aniseed Syrup claimed to remedy a host of illnesses, including colic, teething pain, intestinal problems, respiratory problems and insomnia. As for the infamous "Red Pills," they were supposed to cure female anemia. Finally, the highly toxic element antimony was perhaps used as an ingredient in a powerful emetic or laxative.

Covering more than fifty years of commercial activity, the archives of Charles Irénée Douville evoke a time when the general store was the heart and soul of a Quebec village. A supply centre par excellence for often isolated rural communities, it was also a key place for citizens to meet and exchange goods, services, and local gossip!

Over the course of the 20th century, improved transportation systems, the advent of catalogue sales and the growing number of department stores led to the gradual disappearance of Quebec's general stores. The Douville store was no exception and, in 1970, Rosaire, Charles Irénée's son who had run the business since the 1940s, closed its doors forever.


P554 Charles Irénée Douville Fonds. - [1906-1963]. - 71.5 cm of textual records.

Biographical Sketch

Charles Irénée Douville (1868-1956) was born in Saint-Alban, Portneuf County. He was the son of Zéphirin Douville, a farmer, and Philomène Thibodeau.

He started his career as a travelling salesman, but had to stop when he contracted tuberculosis. He then opened a general store in Saint-Alban, possibly around 1902. Located on the main street, the business stocked a wide variety of food products, dry goods, clothing and shoes, stationery items, tools and hardware, cleaning products, personal care products, medicine, hunting and fishing equipment and candy.

In 1904, Charles Irénée Douville married Mérilda Langlois (1882?-1915), the daughter of Joseph Langlois, a farmer, and the late Salomée Picher. The couple had at least one son, Joseph Georges Zéphirin Rosaire (1910-2002). Mérilda Langlois died less than five years after giving birth to Rosaire, in January 1915.

In the 1920s, Rosaire Douville studied at the Collège Commercial du Sacré-Coeur in Sainte-Anne-de-La-Pérade, receiving his diploma in 1926. He married Dolorès Gosselin, the daughter of the late Wilbrod Gosselin and Marie Julien, in 1932. The couple had seven children.

Charles Irénée Douville ran the Saint-Alban general store until his son took over the business some time in the 1940s. The general store was apparently run by Rosaire Douville, under the name Douville & Fils Enr., until October 1970.

Scope and Content

The Charles Irénée Douville fonds is primarily a chronicle of the family business located in the village of Saint-Alban, Portneuf County. Spanning more than half a century, it documents the goods, clientele and commercial practices of a typical rural Quebec retail establishment during the pre-1950 period: the general store. This corpus is a valuable contribution to the history of consumption and material culture in Quebec.

Produced between 1906 and 1963, general ledgers and other books of account, order forms, invoices and receipts paint a portrait of consumption over a period of time that covers almost the entire existence of the Douville store. They provide information about the store's clientele, which included both individuals and institutions like the Saint-Alban parish school board. They also document the products sold and the vendors from Quebec City, Montreal and even Toronto that supplied the store. In addition, these documents record the store's administrative, commercial and accounting practices, illustrating how they evolved over time from one generation of business owner to the next.

The fonds contains a number of store inventories dated from the 1910s to the late 1950s, providing a detailed look at the goods sold by the store, the quantities in stock, and prices. It also includes a sample of the general store's stationery (with the letterhead C.-I. Douville & Fils) and a poster advertising Martin Senour paints.

Ration books issued during the Second World War bearing the names of Charles, Diana and Rachel Douville make up the portion of the fonds devoted to Charles Irénée Douville's personal and family life.

Source of title proper: Based on the creator of the fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition: These documents were donated to the McCord Museum by Justin Douville in 2000.

Arrangement: Several receipts, invoices and order forms were found tucked into the pages of accounting records.

Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

Associated material:

Centre d'archives régional de Portneuf: Fonds Douville (PA06).


The fonds is divided into the following series, sub-series, and files:

  • P554/A Personal and family life


  • P554/B Administration of the general store
    • P554/B1 Accounting
      • P554/B1,1 Order forms, invoices and receipts
      • P554/B1,2 Accounting records
        • M2000.20.2.1 General ledger. - 1906-1910. - 1 textual record ; 33.5 x 22 cm.
        • Digitized document: Part 01 - Part 02

          Scope and Content: This general ledger chronicles the commercial and accounting activities of the general store run by Charles Irénée Douville in its first years. It offers an overview of the store's various customer accounts and their associated transactions. These transactions were recorded in chronological order over the period 1906 to 1910.

          Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the record.

          Language: The document is in French.

    • P554/B2 Inventory
        • M2000.40.5.1 January 28, 1911, inventory. - 1911. - 1 textual record ; 33 x 20.5 cm.
        • Digitized document

          Scope and Content: This handwritten inventory illustrates the variety of goods sold by the Charles Irénée Douville general store and offers some consumer prices from the year 1911. It lists the products and quantities available in store, the unit price, and total inventory value.

          Source of title proper: Based on the title of the document.

          Language: The document is in French.

    • P554/B3 Communications

 

Last update: March 11, 2018