Working Faith of the Social Reformer, and Other Essays - A. J. Alexandor

A. J. Alexandor

Biography

Alex Jacob Alexandor (1880-1973)

Alex Jacob Alexandor was the son of Joseph Alexandor Ginsberg and Fannie Bach, who was apparently a descendant of Bach, the musician. Alex was born on 1 January 1880 in Liverpool, England and was descended from three generations of furriers. His early education was at St. Peter's School in Wolverhampton, England. Later, he apprenticed with the furriers J. Marx and Sons of Birmingham, England, and the International Fur Stores on Regent Street, in London, which was also the preferred furriers of Queen Victoria. When his training was complete Alex decided to take his chances on becoming a furrier in the New World.

At least two of his siblings had the same plan of moving to Canada, as furriers. Abraham Ernest Alexandor became the owner of Foster's Fur store in Victoria, British Columbia and Isaac Ginsberg Alexandor was a fur merchant who lived in Hamilton, Ontario, before moving to Oakland, California.

For Alex, in his late teens, he left Liverpool with the equivalent of $18 Cdn in his pocket and headed to Montreal, Canada. He immediately took a job as a sweeper in a local fur factory but within a year and a half, he opened up his own fur business on rue St. Paul, in 1899. This location was previously occupied by early fur-trader, John Jacob Astor, and his business with the Northwest Fur Trading Company. Alex remained at the St. Paul premises until 1925, where a fire forced him to move locations.

Alex married Bessie Morris on 8 June 1904 in Montreal, under the direction of Rabbi Herman Abramowitz. Bessie was the daughter of Moses L. Morris, a clothing merchant from Russia. Bessie's sister Beatrice married Alex's brother Abraham.

Alex and his father-in-law, Moses, seemed to have worked together, a natural fit for a clothing merchant and furrier. On 6 February 1909, they travelled together from Liverpool, England to New York, arriving on 15 February 1909, aboard the Lusitania. Their joint destination was to return to Montreal.

Alex's fur business appeared to be booming. An advertisement in a concert programme souvenir dated 16 November 1913, expressed that A.J. Alexandor furs were manufactured in Montreal and Ottawa. They had a West End Branch at 412-414 St. Catherine West and a Head Office and Show Room at 504-506 St. Paul St. The advert promoted Ladies Finest Quality Hudson Seal Coats in the Latest Models for $100.00.

By 1923-24, Alex had retail businesses at: 412 St. Catherine St. W., Montreal, PQ; 67 Sparks St. Ottawa, ON; 22 King St. W., Hamilton ON; and 561 Barrington St., Halifax, NS. He also had furrier agencies in London, England, Paris, France and Moscow, Russia.

Alex was a frequent traveller for business. There are records showing him travelling to England, Germany, Miami, U.S.A., and the Bahamas, where he would procure pelts for the business.

In the 19 August 1927 edition of the Canadian Jewish Review, we read:

A.J. Alexandor, who returned from Europe on the “Empress of Australia", was presented to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Mrs. A.J. Alexandor, Miss Huldah, Felix and Bernard Alexandor, who are in Grenoble, France, will be home in September.

The Prince of Wales, at the time, would become the future King Edward VIII, before he abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. It would have been quite an honour to have been presented to the future King of England!

After the fire in 1925, Alex's manufacturing plant and store was moved to 464 rue McGill in Montreal, where Alex worked until he retired in 1946. His son, Felix J. Alexandor, took over as President of company and founded Alexandor Furs (Canada) Ltd; a wholesale and export business.

In 1949, the business was moved to 1316 rue Sherbrooke, where they renovated to include cold storage vaults, showrooms, designing rooms and office spaces.

Coats made by Alexandor included a label reading “A. J. Alexandor Furs" or “A. J. Alexandor, Montreal".

Alexandor Garment Tag

According to an A.J. Alexandor Furs Limited post card, held in the Bibliotheque et archives Nationales du Quebec, the company also had branches in Halifax, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Windsor and Quebec [city]. The company is still operating today under the name Alexandor Furs and they proudly claim to have been in business since 1899.

Alex was very involved in his community. He was a member of numerous business-based associations, including the Montreal Board of Trade, the Canadian Reconstruction Association, the Canadian Manufacturers Association, and the Fur Manufacturers Association. He was also a Governor of the Montreal Jewish General Hospital, and a long standing member of the Ashkenazi Jewish synagogue, Shaar Hashomayim, in Westmount, PQ. He also belonged to the Canadian Club, the St. James Literary Club, and the Royal Empire Society.

The UPEI Provenance book, The Working Faith of the Social Reformer, by Henry Jones, was given to Alex, as a twelfth anniversary present, by his wife Bessie. The inscription, in Bessie's handwriting, reads:

Love from Bessie. June 8th, 1916

Below that, A.J. signs his own name, and location:

A.J. Alexander
Montreal


The signatures can be proven by their marriage registration, Register of Marriages of the Corporation of English, German and Polish Jews of Montreal, dated 8 June 1904.

Bessie died in 1930 and Alex remarried Kathleen “Kay" McCormack, who was thirty-two years his junior. In 1960, they moved to 148 Portland Ave., Mont Royal, PQ, the home previously owned by Kay's mother.

The only information found, regarding Alex's death was Kay Alexandor's obituary, which mentioned that her husband, Alec J. Alexandor, died in 1973. He would have been 93 years old. Kay lived to be 100 years old and died on 6 March 2013, in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Sources:

Ocean Arrival to Quebec Port; Date August 1924 aboard the Megantic. Library and Archives Canada; Form 30A Ocean Arrivals (Individual Manifests), 1919-1924; Rolls: T-14939 - T-15248.

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935. [Database on-line: Ancestry.com].

Canadian Jewish Review, 19 August 1927, p.2.

“Kathleen “Kay" Alexandor,” InMemoriam.ca, accessed April 12, 2016.

“Old Firm Now in New Premise Emerged From Small Beginnings", The Montreal Gazette, 22 October 1951, p.11.

“Our Tribute Everlasting". 12th Annual Report of the Jewish General Hospital, 1945., p.25.

Prominent People of the Province of Quebec, 1923-1924, Montreal, Biographical Society of Canada, Limited, undated and unpaginated.

Register of Marriages of the Corporation of English, German and Polish Jews of Montreal, dated 8 June 1904. From Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968 [database on-line].

“Welcome to our Town. Items of Interest about Newcomers: 23 Years in the Same House.", Town of Mount Royal Weekly Post, 14 April 1960, p.8, 25.

“Vieilles Pubs!” Accessed April 6, 2016.

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