1920s Queen's Road Central | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

1920s Queen's Road Central

1920s Queen's Road Central

Where: Looking west along Queen's Road Central. In the distance there's a gable with a circle:

Building on Jubilee Street

That building was on the corner of Jubilee Street, just past the Central Market.

How about the buildings in the foreground, where were those? The first building on the right pins it down:

Eastern Bazaar

"The Eastern Bazaar, Leading Silk Mart, 35 Queen's Road, Central". Comparing maps from 1911 [1] and today, number 35 hasn't moved. It's where Commercial House stands now, on the southeast side of Chiu Lung Street.

When: The back of the card suggests the 1920s:

Back of postcard

See the stamp-box, which says "4 Cent Stamp Required"? I've got other postcards which were posted with 4-cent stamps. Their postmarks are dated in the 1920s. (If we have any stamp collectors reading, I'm interested to know which years the 4-cent stamp was used for postcards.)

The building left of the Eastern Bazaar helps us narrow down the dates some more:

Madame Flint, Queen's Road

Madame Flint was a well-known milliner and dress-maker in the early 20th century. She was successful in those businesses, but things fell apart when she formed a partnership with a Monsieur J. L. Durand. Together they expanded into other lines of business, lost money, and ended in bankruptcy. Her misfortune is our benefit, as the bankruptcy, and the events leading up to it, were reported in the newspapers [2]:

[...] In May 1924 a certain partnership arrangement was made between [M. Durand] and Madame Flint. [...]

[There follows an examination of M. Durand by the Official Receiver, Mr E. L. Agassiz]: When you first went into partnership with Madame Flint, where was her business being carried on? In Queen's Road.
You subsequently moved into China Building? - Yes, on the first floor.
You then moved again to No. 12 Pedder Buildings - Yes, and that cost us about $20,000.
[...]
The Au Chic dress making business in Pedder Street, from January 1926 until January 1927. shows a profit of $3,149? - Yes. For the conditions in Hong Kong it is quite a success.
[...]

They were already in Pedder Building by Jan 1926 at the latest. I guess they moved into the China Building in Jan 1925, so 1924 was the last year Madame Flint's shop was on Queen's Road, and the latest date this photo could have been taken.

I'll date the photo to 1924, but if you can spot any other clues for dates, please leave a comment below.

Who: There aren't any western faces in the crowd here, despite the presence of shops like Madame Flint's. We're on the border between the European and Chinese sections of town - the nearby shop signs are a mix of English & Chinese, but looking further west they change to all Chinese.

What: Manual labour. No horse-drawn carts or motor-vehicles to be seen, people are either walking, pulling rickshaws, or carrying loads using shoulder poles. Were Hong Kong's roads really this clear of motor traffic, or had the photographer waited for a moment when the view looked good for a postcard?

And before we leave this photo, note our old friend lower-left: a rat bin! [3]

Rat-bin, rickshaw, shoulder-pole

Regards, David

References:

  1. Mapping Hong Kong, Plate 3-4
  2. The Hong Kong Daily Press, 1 Nov 1927, page 4
  3. Rat bins

Reference: EC010

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Tuesday, January 1, 1924

Comments

Probably taken by the same photographer. Note the complete signboards on the upper left and the same licenced-numbered rickshaw beside the rat bin. With the absence of the motor car on QRC, I suspect the photos may have been taken earlier than 1924.

1920s Queen's Road Central

That's a good complement to the original photo - thanks for posting. It looks as though the photographer shifted his tripod a bit between shots, as though he wasn't sure which would be the better view.

Hard to know what's the reason behind the lack of cars. I don't know if it was really that not many cars drove along Queen's Road, or that the photographer waited for a car-free moment, or that the photos really come from an earlier time. Looking at photos of Queen's Theatre, there aren't many cars to be seen there either

I'm not sure when Madame Flint moved to Queen's Road Central (or the Eastern Bazaar for that matter). The 1911 map referenced above showed Madame Flint at 10, Des Voeux Road, so it's definitely later than that.

regards, David

David,

Had a quick look through the family collection of postcards to see what they were costing to send!

Came across three immediately - one of Armistice Day in HK in 1918, one of Morrison Hill Road, and another of Blake Pier.

All three are dated 1919 by their sender. One has a 2 cent stamp and the other two have TWO 2 cent stamps affixed! They were all sent to the UK and all seem to have arrived.

If I come across anything else strange will let you know.

Sean

Hi Sean,

Thanks for checking - I wonder how that 2-cent card made it home?

Thanks also to Jill for the link to a list of stamp costs. On page 6 of that document it shows the 4-cent stamp was used for post cards from Hong Kong to the British Empire and other countries between 1893 and 1931 - a much longer period than I'd expected.

Regards, David

David,

The card with only a two cent stamp was sent by my Great Uncle Charles. He had a way of making money disappear all his life but I suspect, just as today, the postal service just got it wrong.

Charles died in Canada in 1966.

When he looked after my grandfather's businesses in HK in the mid 1920s he blew a lot of money - said to be $96,000. My grandfather had to make a quick trip out  from the UK to sort things out.

Charles worked for Thoresen Shipping Ltd., and judging by the Jury Lists was still in HK in 1927 living at 13 Broadwod Road with his wife Ethel. No record of when he left but do know he went to North America as have lots of pictures of him there sans wife but always with pretty women!

Sean

Thanks to IDJ for pointing out this advert, which shows that Madame Flint was already in the China Building by July 1924

Madame Flint's sale

So the main photo above was taken earlier than July 1924.

Regards, David

Madame Flint's store was located at 31 Queen's Road Central. From the advertisments in the China Mail, the QRC shop was still in operation in April 1926. The direct move to Pedder Building occurred in the same month. It would appear that along the way a branch store had opened in the China Building.

Moddsey, thanks for the extra site. The shop certainly moved around! So far we've got mentions of it at:

  • 1911: 10, Des Voeux Road Central
  • 1922, July 15 : "Madame Flint's New Showroom. [...] Madame Flint has just removed into the premises lately occupied by the Bon Ton Ltd. on Queen's Road Central. [...]" (Page 4, HK Daily press, 1922-07-15)
  • 1924: "In Queen's Road."
  • 1924, July: China Building
  • 1926, April 1 - 7 : 31, Queen's Rd Central (See 'Business directory' on back page of China Mail.)
  • 1926, April 8 : Pedder Building (See 'Business directory' on back page of China Mail.)

In the photo above, Madame Flint was next to 35, Queen's Road Central, ie at number 37. I found a few mentions of Bon Ton in the newspapers, including this one (Page 12, HK Telegraph, 1922-05-27) that confirms the address:

Bon Ton, Limited

(in Liquidation)

CHEAP SALE

Commencing from Wednesday, the 24th May, 1922, and for Ten days thereafter, all Piece Goods, Millinery, Lingerie, &c., &c., contained in the premises of the above firm, 37, Queen's Road Central, Hongkong, will be sold subject to a cash discount of 25% to clear. [...]

That narrows down the date of the photograph to between May 1922 and July 1924.

Regards, David

I have added 2 similar views on Facebook, which was taken in mid 1870 and 1880 restectively. It is fun to see how street develop. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=456873177731589&set=a.44962213845... Is it possible to insert Facebook photo as external ref.?

HF, those are good photos, thanks.

I can't see any easy way to embed those photos here, so here's the link to the second photo:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=457503861001854&set=a.449622138456693.1073741836.431607540258153&type=1&theater

Regards, David