H.T. Nelson Chandlery Co. was established by Hjalmar T. Nelson in 1930. In the first years of the company, it mostly served Norwegian ships as Hjalmar and his wife, Sofie, were both from Norway and knew people involved in shipping. The depression, and then the beginning of World War II, caused many problems for the small company, but they struggled through. Hjalmar had been in Haugesund, Norway soliciting new business contacts when World War II started. He was almost stuck there and was barely allowed on one of the last ships out of the bay. Randi P. Nelson, Hjalmar's daughter, helped by finding second jobs at the Park Steamship Co. and the Unemployment Insurance Department.
In 1948, Hjalmar's nephew, Birger Nielsen, came to visit Vancouver and eventually joined the family business as an employee. On May 26, 1949 Hjalmar T. Nelson died of a massive coronary leaving his wife and daughter, Randi, to take over the family business. This made Randi one of the only, if not the only, female ship chandlers on the West Coast.
Birger acted as the 'charming' front of the organization while Randi took care of the office and administrative details. Because they had no warehouse, each time an order came in from a vessel they would have to run around town to various vendors to gather the materials needed to fulfill an order. In addition, a large part of their business was built on the relationships they kept with captains and officers of the ships they worked with. This involved frequent correspondence and when a ship was in town, taking the captains and officers out to dinner, dancing, and other entertainments.
In 1972 Sophie Nielsen died and a few months later, in 1973, Birger formed a partnership with Randi. Together they formally ran the business until the late 1980s when H.T. Chandler Co. eventually closed after more than 60 years of business.
The fonds consists of business correspondence; personal correspondence of Randi P. Nelson; several samples of vessel orders and their related records; financial and administrative records, such as, vessel orders, receipts, invoices, insurance papers, and tax records; newspaper clippings related to the Vancouver shoreline development, the shipping industry, and specific vessels served by H.T. Nelson Chandlery; negatives and photographs of the Nelsons and unknown people; shipline pamphlets; and some menus and memorabilia related to their business and family.
The materials were kept in the original order that we received them in and file names were kept when they were provided.
This fonds came with a flag from the Knut Knutsen shipping company which is now part of the Curatorial collection. Please consult the Curator to see this item.