BRUNET, WILFRID-ÉTIENNE (baptized Étienne-Wilfrid), pharmacist and politician; b. 21 Oct. 1832 at Quebec, son of Jean-Olivíer Brunet, a merchant, and Cécile-Adélaide Lagueux; m. 24 June 1857 Victoria Duberger, granddaughter of Jean-Baptiste Duberger*, in Charlesbourg, Lower Canada, and they had 12 children; d. 7 March 1899 at Quebec.
Wilfrid-Étienne Brunet studied at the Petit Séminaire de Québec from 1841 to 1850 and on 1 Aug. 1850 began a five-year apprenticeship in chemistry and pharmacy to his brother-in-law, pharmacist Pierre-O. Giroux. In 1855 Giroux opened a store on Rue Saint-Pierre and sold Brunet the one he owned on Rue Craig (Rue du Pont) in Saint-Roch ward. As well as a “complete assortment of the best drugs,” Brunet carried “every possible variety of fancy goods, toiletries, patent medicines, perfumes” and promised to take care in filling “all medical prescriptions.” The following year, with financial help from his mother, he purchased for £600 the building in which the pharmacy was located.
On 8 May 1858 Brunet was licensed as a chemist and pharmacist. His business must have prospered, since in 1861 he had an apprentice and two employees working for him. Ten years later, according to the census, he had three maidservants, one manservant, and four employees. He now gave thought to the relocation of his thriving business into more spacious premises. On 29 July 1872 he bought a lot at the corner of Rue Saint-Joseph and Rue Sainte-Anne (Rue de la Chapelle) for $3,000. The following year he had a three-storey stone and brick building erected on it. This structure, which cost him $18,000, housed the pharmacy from 1874 and also served as the family residence for some time. The new premises attracted attention by their architecture, lavish decorations, and size. There were those who unhesitatingly compared them with the best in Canada at the time. On 1 May 1879 Brunet took his son Wilfrid-Jean-Baptiste, also a druggist, into partnership with him, forming W. Brunet et Compagnie. Five years later his son Georges-Henri, who was working as a druggist, joined the team. In 1881 Brunet was a member of the Pharmaceutical Association of the Province of Quebec and acted as an examiner:
Besides being involved in his business and in the purchase of a few properties, Brunet took an interest in politics. In February 1876 he became city councillor for Saint-Roch ward, a position he held for a year or two at most. He had a hand in founding the Liberal newspaper L’Électeur in 1880.
Wilfrid-Étienne Brunet died in 1899 at the home on Rue Sainte-Ursule, in Upper Town, that he had bought in 1888. Most of the leading citizens of Quebec, especially from Saint-Roch and Saint-Sauveur wards, made a point of attending his funeral. Nine of his children survived him. Despite his delicate health, Brunet had managed to build up a prosperous business. He was one of the pioneer businessmen of Saint-Roch and helped make Rue Saint-Joseph an important commercial artery. He included clauses in his will designed to ensure the survival of his pharmacy in order that “it might continue as far as possible within the Brunet family.” His wish that the store remain in their hands was reality until the mid 20th century. Now, although the company still bears his name, it no longer belongs to his descendants.
AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-Roch, 11 mars 1899; Minutiers, É.-J. Angers, 24 juin 1873; Jacques Auger, 29 juill. 1872; J.-A. Charlebois, 2 nov. 1878, 3 nov. 1883; Philippe Huot, 20 juin 1857, 27 févr. 1871; Louis Leclerc, 9 janv. 1874; John Strang, 21 juin 1873, 31 juill. 1874. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 22 oct. 1832; CE1-7, 24 juin 1857; CN1-128, 22 juill. 1856, 21 mai 1863; CN1-208, 8 oct. 1848, 6 juin 1851; T11-1/29, no.2348; T11-1/445, 2: 133; 3: 286. ASQ, Fichier des anciens. AVQ, Conseil, conseil de ville, procès-verbaux, 1875–76; Finances, bureau du trésorier, livres de comptes, 1875–78. BE, Québec, reg. B, 194: 903–6; 197: 667–69. NA, RG 31, C1, 1851, 1861, 1871, Quebec. Le Canadien, 27 avril 1855. Le Journal de Québec, 26 mai 1855. Le Soleil, 8, 11 mars 1899. Grand annuaire de Québec pour 1881, Ovide Fréchette, édit. (2e éd., Québec, 1980), 98. Quebec & Levis directory, 1892–93. J.-C. Gamache, Histoire de Saint-Roch de Québec et de ses institutions, 1829–1929 (Québec, 1929), 106–8. L’Événement, 9 juin 1955.