Harrods Archive

Archives of the founding years of Harrods (Buenos Aries) Ltd (1913-1918) for sale - offer unique insight into the establishment of the store against the background of the war in Europe.

In the early days of the twentieth century, when Argentina had the 6th-largest economy in the world, Harrods in Buenos Aires was known as the gathering place for the city’s elite in the decadent tea salon, and as the place to buy Italian suits, expensive perfume and imported jewellery. The top floors of the store were closed one by one from 1989 – and the store was completely closed between 1998 and 2003, when it was partly restored and opened as a venue for arts festivals etc.

The Harrods building was closed in May 2012 for refurbishment to re-open Sept 2013/ March 2014 on the centenary dates of the opening / formal opening ceremony, as a luxury hotel and shopping centre under the ‘Harrods Buenos Aires’ umbrella brand.

Highlights:

All documents are in English (department names sometimes retain the original Spanish) and are originals or the original carbon copies, except for printed copies of the accounts as prepared for annual general meetings – which often have hand-written annotations. Includes documents detailing for example:

  • Invoices from supplier companies, (e.g. from 1915 includes La Perla, Aquascutum, 'Dr' Jaeger).
  • Pre-trading expenses (e.g. details of the cigars bought for the press attending the opening ceremony), also listing publications in which the launch was advertised,
  • Freight invoices, detailing shipping lines and names of vessels,
  • Detailed list of equipment purchased, such as cash registers, safes, along with the supplier names – e.g. 3 Colt revolvers
  • List of all invoices received up to August 31st 1914 with a note attached explaining the column headings and giving the exchange rates: £1 = 5.04 Gold dollars, and 1 Paper dollar = 0.44 Gold dollars. Suppliers include Galerie Lafayette, Albion Motor Car Ltd, General Electric Co Ltd, 
  • Details of goods lost at sea due to the sinking of S/S Highland Brae', the 'Dargai' and S/S Highland Piper by warships
  • Manuscript list of shareholders with July and/or October 1914 calls outstanding, as at July 1915, plus Calls Outstanding List updated to 29th February 1916 (I understand that some of these names had not been able to receive / reply to correspondence as they had gone to war/ died in the war)
  • Schedule of invoices received - lists suppliers - currency indicates most supplies are coming from France. Initial supplier names in 1913 included Roger & Gallet, LEVER BROTHERS, Yardley, Lentheric, Guerlain,  From 1915 includes La Perla, Aquascutum, 'Dr' Jaeger.
  •  
  • Plantel Tea Room - inventory as at 31st August 1915 plate/ linen/ china/ uniforms

Items included for sale with the above documents:

Register of Members Ledger No 1 for The South American Stores (Gath & Chaves) Limited, Buenos Aires

Massive leather-bound volume.

  • Entries on odd-numbered pages only – one per page, on pages 1 – 177
  • First entry on page 1 dated Aug. 29th 1912, last entry on page 177 dated Feb 10th 1914
  • All entries stamped: "Jan 12th 1916 Transfer to new ledger"

(Gath & Chaves was a competitor department store which we believe was instrumental in the setting-up of Harrods in Argentina and bought out Harrods (Buenos Aires) Ltd in 1922. Gath & Chaves was in turn closed by the joint owner of both stores in 1974.)

And:

Notes on Half-yearly individual Interviews with Departmental Buyers, commenting on the results of half-year ended 31st August 1937

(The cover is titled in Spanish but all the contents are in English)

73 closely-typed pages giving a full picture of performance of the various departments, and of management practices, at the heyday of the department store.

In addition some comments from Sir Woodman, Chairman of Harrods (the main company in London) are pinned to the reverse of some pages. These pages are headed "Extracts from Sir Woodman’s criticisms" and often show the relevant manager's / buyer’s response.

Samples:

  • "Mr Marron testified that in fact there was now a variety of shirtings as had never been seen before. The Buyer requested advertisements in favour of his new models of stiff shirt-collars at special prices per dozen. He forecasted that the shirt with collar attached and the soft collar in general would continue to lose favour in future, and the stiff collar regain fashion."
  • "With regard to his cutters, he said he was very pleased with the progress made by Mr Tirabasso, who was now turning out very good work and whose manners were docile and correct. Mr Rapagnani had shown great improvement in his manners, and it was hoped he would soon have moulded himself definitely to the requirements of our clientele."
  • "After the Buyer had left it was agreed that by the end of the present half-year the possibility would be considered of improving his commission basis, in view of the fact that he was working efficiently and that it was only reasonable that he should be allowed to earn a little more."
  • "There was some danger of the cloth glove trade being spoilt, as Czechoslovakian factories were flooding the market with the cheaper grades, which the public did not usually tell from the French gloves we stocked."
  • "After the Buyer had withdrawn, it was mentioned that her mild and even somewhat girlish manners by no means impaired her efficiency, for she only acted that way when talking to the Management or to customers and as a general rule she was a level-headed woman, sufficiently energetic and exceedingly hardworking."
  • "It was mentioned that some large factories, such as Friedenberg of Germany, had closed down, in order to dedicate itself to the manufacture of army implements and equipment and that many other similar factors concurred to make the price of tanned leather rise."
  • "The light handbags especially made for travelling by airship were always on demand…."
  • "The Buyer explained, and the Management admitted as an undoubted fact, that one of the serious drawbacks which made it difficult to push the sale of radio sets, was that the musical programmes of the local broadcasting stations were exceedingly poor and overloaded with advertising, and that the major part of the inhabitants of the city of Buenos Aires found it impossible to listen-in to short-wave transmissions from abroad, due to the numerous interferences and unavoidable noises, caused amongst other things by the reinforced concrete buildings."

PRICE FOR ALL THE ABOVE ITEMS: £7,500

(Separate bids for items (2) and (3) will be considered)

If these are of interest to you, please feel free to contact us.

You can view information about this collection in our flipbook