Feeding the Family

Nancy Oke and Robert Griffin


In the last half of the 19th century, Victoria was the commercial powerhouse of British Columbia. The largest city in the province was also the largest market. Businesses that thrived here brought prosperity to the rest of BC. Nancy Oke and Robert Griffin present a colourful history of the bakers, butchers, grocers, coffee makers and other suppliers of food and drink in Victoria’s prosperous early days.

2011, paperback, 192 pages

175 b/w and colour photographs

ISBN 978-0-7726-6343-6

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This richly illustrated book shows how the shifting population, economic factors and technology all contributed to changes in delivering food and beverages to the people of Victoria. Local biscuit makers disappeared as cheaper imports arrived. On supermarket shelves, seasonal fresh peas gave way to canned and then frozen peas available year round. Small shops yielded to larger shops. Specialty shops flourished in Victoria – and still do – though general food stores eventually dominated the market.

In the early days, a customer handed the grocery list to the clerk who gathered all the goods from shelves behind the counter. A new era of self-service stores arrived in the 1920s: now customers could stroll among the goods offered for sale, make their selections and take them to a cashier. With self-service came the large chain supermarkets, like Piggly Wiggly and Safeway. Nancy Oke and Robert Griffin show how the urban landscape changed as the city grew and how it stabilized in the shadow of Vancouver’s rising prominence.


About the Authors

As a research volunteer at the Royal BC Museum, Nancy Oke began a project to examine artifacts related to food packaging in the museum’s collection. She soon became interested in the people who supplied these groceries in early Victoria.

Dr Robert Griffin was a history curator at the Royal BC Museum for more than 30 years and also managed the History department. He curated several exhibitions and wrote many articles on the forest and mining industries in BC. He is now curator emeritus and a research associate at the Royal BC Museum.


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