Early 20th Century General Store in Downtown Saline Sold a Little Bit of Everything

 06/14/2016 - 01:36
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This postcard of the G. C. Howard store in Saline shows two young men standing in the door. The one on the left is dressed up in a suit and bowler hat; the fella on the right is more casual, his pants held up by suspenders.

Signs above the door declare “G. C. Howard” in big letters, and above it, another sign says “W. R. Stierle, Candies, Cigars.”

For a long time, small-town stores carried candy and tobacco together. This is not so strange when you consider that grocery stores often sold boots and shoes.

The sidewalk in front of the store is cement, but the road appears to be dirt. A wooden post in the middle holds a metal ring, handy for customers to tie up their horses.

Advertising signs outside lure in customers with “Hot Coffee, Sandwiches” and another sign saying “Orange Drink, Fresh Roasted Peanuts.”

The glass windows in front are cluttered with signs in all shapes and sizes. One to the right of the door with a diamond shape looks like a Knights of Pythias symbol. Since the KOP was established in Saline in 1914, this photo would be taken after the KOP came to town.

Other signs in that window look like advertisements for the theater, perhaps silent movies or a minstrel show on its way.

A row of big jugs with stoppers is seen in the window on the left. They could have been used for spices, candy, cosmetics, or medicine for sale to customers. On the other hand, perhaps people were just buying the containers.

W. R. Stierle was listed in the Washtenaw County Polk’s Directory in 1906, on page 647. The directory has a listing for “Carbonated Beverages” and puts Stierle in that list, with the comment “Saline.”Not very many people were in the Carbonated Beverages business in the county at that time, since only two other people were included.

Stierle must have had the know-how for the orange drink being sold at Howard’s store.

Speaking of oranges, G. C. Howard apparently had a train car full of oranges in 1900. He put a display ad on the front page of the Saline Observer on May 10 of that year. His ad boasted that he had 500 dozen oranges to sell, and he was charging only 16 cents per dozen.

Besides the fruit, Howard had to mention his finest chocolate drops in town, at only 20 cents a pound.

G. C. Howard was good at creating signs. On May 22, 1918, the Saline Observer routinely listed all the expenses being paid by the Saline Village Council. The Council paid $1.50 to G. C. Howard for signs.

This wonderful postcard was dropped off to the Saline Area Historical Society in 1999 by Marge Stanger, and no further information was availble.

There is no proof of the exact date for this picture, but my guess is around 1915. If someone else has a better guess, send me a note.

The exact location of this shop is unknown, but the layout of the upstairs windows reminds me of the area around Mangiamo’s restaurant.

Thanks to the Saline Area Historical Society, the Saline District Library, and Ancestry.com.

Martha Churchill is a local historian. Contact her at [email protected]

Martha Churchill
Martha Churchill is an attorney, author, and local historian who resides in Milan. Visit her website at http://marthachurchill.com/