BEAUCHEMIN, CHARLES-ODILON, printer and bookseller; b. 29 March 1822 at Sainte-Monique, Lower Canada, son of Antoine Picart, dit Beauchemin, a farmer, and Marguerite Fontaine; m. Louise Valois of Pointe-Claire, Canada East, and they had eight children; d. 29 Nov. 1887 in Montreal, Que.
At the Séminaire de Nicolet, which he entered in 1836, Charles-Odilon Beauchemin was not a poor student but he was a rather unusual one. Fascinated by machinery, he is said to have built the chapel organ and to have taken an interest in the various processes of bookbinding. In 1841, after his father’s death, he had to leave the seminary to support his family.
Beauchemin spent some time with the Montreal printer John Lovell* (neither the date of his arrival nor the length of his stay is known). He was able to improve his knowledge of bookbinding and probably became acquainted with the business practices of the book trade. In 1842 he decided to try his luck in New England. With several hundred books purchased in Montreal, and in Quebec City in 1841, and with equipment for a bookbindery, he hoped to find a clientele among French-speaking people who had settled in the United States. An unfortunate accident near the present-day Victoria wharf in Montreal forced him to stay in the city until he had repaired some water-damaged books; he took up residence on Craig Street, near Saint-Denis. In a few days he sold his entire stock of books without having made any real effort, and decided to settle in Montreal. The house of Beauchemin was born.
Taciturn and straightforward in his dealings, Beauchemin was always interested in the technical aspects of his business. He assembled some of the machines himself and improved others. In addition he attached great importance to the training of his employees. As the firm expanded and diversified its operations, Beauchemin went into partnership in 1864 with his brother-in-law, notary Joseph-Moïse Valois, under the trade name of Beauchemin et Valois. In 1868 they added a printing-press to the bookstore. Valois attended to business matters and Beauchemin to the technical aspects of book production: the presses, stereotyping shop, and bindery. The partnership lasted 22 years. In 1886, after Valois’ retirement, Beauchemin went into partnership with his son Joseph-Odilon, who had been the company’s secretary since 1876. The firm was known from then as the Librairie C.-O. Beauchemin et fils.
After the death of Charles-Odilon, the house subsequently experienced remarkable growth, yielding its owners substantial profits. One observer noted that in 1920 Joseph-Odilon was a millionaire. The firm began publishing its famous Almanach du peuple in 1855. The Almanach, which at first came out irregularly, became an annual publication in 1870, and still occupies a notable place in the popular literature of Quebec.
ANQ-MBF, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Nicolet), 29 mars 1822. La Minerve, 30 nov. 1887. “Références biographiques canadiennes,” BRH, 49 (1943): 228. P.-M. Paquin, La librairie Beauchemin, limitée, 125e anniversaire, 1842–1967 (Montréal, 1967). Rumilly, Hist. de Montréal, II: 278, 334. Léon Trépanier, On veut savoir (4v., Montréal, 1960–62), IV: 158–60.