Walter Wilson & Co.
Walter Wilson & Co., The Colosseum, Jamaica Street. —
What the Colosseum of the Emperor Vespasian was to Imperial Rome, the Colosseum of Messrs. Walter Wilson & Co. is, in a certain respect, to modern Glasgow. It is one of the wonders of the community. The Glasgow Colosseum has much of magnificence, much of immensity, much of real splendour that would not have been unworthy of its great Roman namesake ; but, beyond all, it has the crowning virtue of devotion to the arts and industries of peace. It is one of the mightiest of Glasgow's institutions to-day, and within it are centred some of the most influential commercial interests and operations that dignify the trade capital of Scotland.
Mr. Walter Wilson, the founder, was born in Glasgow in 1840, and is a native of the Fifteenth Ward of the city. At twenty years of age, with a capital of something like £100, , he began the remarkable commercial career that manifests such a magnificent present culmination in the establishment he now controls. With this house the fabric of a great and enduring mercantile renown has never ceased to grow and develop since its foundations were laid just nineteen years ago. The constant extension of the business of the firm has been attended by a correspondingly continuous enlargement of the warehouse space devoted to its purposes, and the point in this dual development at present attained is more than sufficient to justify the use of the impressive title Messrs. Walter Wilson & Co. have bestowed upon the headquarters of their trade undertakings.
The buildings devoted to this mighty business comprise an immense corner block of warehouses, with frontages of great advantage on Jamaica and Broomielaw Streets. The Colosseum proper has its facade on the former thoroughfare. Within the walls of this huge pile exists & marvellous region, which it would be folly to attempt to explore exhaustively in these pages. Messrs. Walter Wilson & Co. have provided here for the citizens of Glasgow and for the people of Scotland a permanent exposition of the resources of the textile, drapery, and a host of other trades. Mr. Walter Wilson has been a traveller as well as a merchant. He has visited all the famous European markets bearing any relation to the departments of trade in which he engages, and from every source he has called the novelties with discriminating care, and dispatched them to swell the mighty aggregation of stock in the Colosseum, warerooms.
The features par excellence of this enormous stock are its millinery and hat departments, simply indescribable in the volume, variety, and value of their attractions ; and after these come ribbons, and furs, feathers and flowers, mantles and costumes, and every description of fabric and material produced by the industrial hand of man to be turned by his fellow-man to purposes of apparel. The Colosseum caters to the wealthier classes who, alive to the saving effected in buying at the modem small profit cash warehouses, now follow the fashion in dealing in such stores as this, and for each and all of its patrons it is never lacking in some novel addition to the long array of attractions which have made it one of the most popular of the giant warehouses of Glasgow. The appointments, fittings, decorations, and general plan and arrangement of all the magnificent showrooms are of the most perfect character in every detail. The perfection of order, system, and regularity also is apparent on every hand, and the whole of the great mercantile machine, watched over at every point by a perfect army of employees, works with a smoothness that is a magnificent tribute to the efficiency of the managerial and executive staffs.
One of the wonders of the Colosseum is its great annual “World’s Fair”, a Christmas exhibition of toys and fountains, grottoes and mimic lakes, tableaux and panoramic effects of gorgeous character and brilliant beauty. This Yuletide celebration is one of the yearly delights of Young Glasgow, anticipated with eager expectancy, and hailed with joy the moment its annual advent, is an accomplished fact.
Mr. Walter Wilson is as fully equal as ever to the task of personally directing the fortunes of the great business he has founded and so successfully developed, but the cares and responsibilities of commercial effort are always appreciably lightened by capable co-operation ; and sensible of this fact, and of the benefit likely to accrue to the house by a practical illustration of the precept that “two heads are better than one,” Mr. Wilson has sought a partner. That partner he has appropriately found in the person of Mr. Robert Binnie, his able and competent manager and chief-of-staff for the past twelve years. Mr. Binnie is in every worthy respect a prominent Glasgovian, as popular with all classes of the community as he is well and widely known, and his accession to a share in the proprietorship as well as in the direction of the businessman event celebrated by a largely attended banquet in the central hall of the Colosseum on September 29th, 1887 — can only be regarded as a distinct and auspicious acquisition to the house.
Mr. Wilson’s numerous acts of benevolence, always well directed and never mercenary in purpose, have won for him the undisguised respect and esteem of the whole populace of the city ; and assuredly the Jubilee Year of the Queen’s reign was nowhere in Great Britain more munificently celebrated by any single loyal subject than at Glasgow under Mr. Wilson’s auspices. His celebration took the practical form of affording a day’s enjoyment at Rothesay to twenty thousand poor children from Glasgow, and a subsequent fete to nearly forty thousand other children of the city on Glasgow Green ; the clothing of a host of poor little tattered urchins in the City Hall, and the final grand soiree and ball given in the same spacious building to the policemen, volunteers, and other assistants, with their wives, who had aided him in carrying his former noble projects to a successful issue. Mr. Walter Wilson in his early days developed a strong ambition and determination to “make his mark” in the world, and that mark he has undoubtedly made. He began by becoming popular. That popularity he has maintained by steady and conscientious consideration of the public interests.
The Colosseum is to-day one of the mercantile “lions” of Europe, indeed of the world ; and there are no two business men in Glasgow at the present hour who have grander possibilities ahead of them in the future, or who possess and command greater resources of available capital and experience to aid in the eventual reaIisation of those possibilities than the principals of the firm of Messrs Walter & Co.
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