Source: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
IRVING, ANDREW SCOTT, bookseller and publisher; b. 13 Oct. 1837 in Annan, Scotland; m. Eliza Morgan in Pennsylvania, and they had a daughter and two sons, one of whom died in childhood; d. 29 April 1904 in Toronto.
Andrew Scott Irving immigrated to the United States with his parents at an early age. In 1857 or 1858 he settled in Hamilton, Upper Canada, and found employment with W. E. Tunis of Detroit, who controlled the sale of books and periodicals on the Great Western Railway. Irving moved to Toronto in the fall of 1862, opening a bookstore at the corner of King and Jordan streets. Within a few years he relocated in larger premises on King Street. There he added a wholesale warehouse that would increasingly become the focus of his activity. Between 1874 and 1876, in partnership with Russell Wilkinson as A. S. Irving and Company, he also operated a bookstore on Toronto Street.
Like a number of local booksellers and publishers in the 1870s, Irving issued cheap, pirated editions of popular authors such as Mark Twain. Frequently these were printed at the Daily Telegraph office, owned by John Ross Robertson*, a friend and business associate. In 1879 Irving was a shareholder in Robertson’s Telegram Printing and Publishing Company. Sheet music of fashionable songs, which he began issuing in the early 1870s for mass merchandising as “Irving’s Five Cent Music,” became a staple of his business. In 1873 he provided the initial financial backing for John Wilson Bengough*’s comic weekly, Grip.
Irving gave up the retail trade in 1876 to found the Toronto News Company Limited (initially called the Canadian News Company Limited) in association with William Walter Copp* and Henry James Clark of Copp, Clark and Company and with several other Toronto publishers and booksellers. Part of an international trend to the wholesale distribution of popular reading material, the company was modelled after W. H. Smith and Son of London and the American News Company in New York. Railways played an important role in the evolution of the news business, providing both an efficient means of distribution and locations for outlets that catered to a wide reading public. At the same time changes in printing technology made possible the production of much cheaper books, often issued in series called “libraries” [see George Munro*; George Maclean Rose*]. Irving was said, in Books and Notions, to carry the largest stock of these paper-bound books outside New York. He expanded into the Montreal market as an incorporator in 1880 of the Montreal News Company, along with Samuel Edward Dawson*, W. V. Dawson, Copp, and Clark.
The Toronto News Company, like its British and American counterparts, supplied news-stands across the country with books and periodicals. A contemporary account describes the shipping department of its Yonge Street office as resembling a “huge postoffice.” Each customer had a “box into which all his papers and periodicals are placed as soon as received and then taken out and shipped as often as the respective dealers desire.” The company maintained collection depots in London, England, Montreal, and Clifton (Niagara Falls), Ont. Irving’s “very great energy” in getting his shipments through customs and out to retailers and his attention to detail were legendary. He continued to manage the Toronto News Company until the end of his life, but by 1889 the principal shareholders were two of the founders of the American News Company, and the Toronto operation eventually became a branch of that firm. At Irving’s death his shares were, in fact, in the American company.
An Anglican, Irving served as rector’s warden of St James’ Cathedral for several years. He was a member of the Toronto Board of Trade from 1881 and a director of the Great North Western Telegraph Company of Canada and other firms. By 1900 he was living on Toronto’s fashionable St George Street. However, family tragedy overshadowed his last years. His son, Andrew Maxwell, secretary of the Toronto News Company and a popular militia officer, died suddenly in 1896, his son-in-law and business associate, Arthur Wellesley Croil, two years later, and his daughter, Nettie, in 1900. When Irving himself died in 1904, the bulk of his estate went to two granddaughters.
In his lifetime Andrew Scott Irving was described in Books and Notions as the “pioneer of the Canadian news business.” He was praised by author Charles Pelham Mulvany* for discouraging the sale of “trash” and “encouraging in its place the better class of light literature.” Through the Toronto News Company he influenced the reading habits of Canadians throughout the dominion.
AO, RG 8, I-1-D, annual returns for Toronto News Company, 1889–1904; RG 22, ser.305, nos.11280 (A. M. Irving), 12481 (A. W. Croil), 17052 (A. S. Irving). CTA, RG 5, F, St George’s Ward, St James’ Ward, Ward 3, 1863–98 (mfm. at AO). NA, RG 31, C1, 1881, 1891, Toronto, St Patrick’s Ward. St James’ Cemetery and Crematorium (Toronto), Irving family tombstone. Globe, 29 April, 2–3 May 1904. J. W. Bengough, “Reminiscences of a chalk-talker,” Canadian Magazine, 60 (November 1922–April 1923): 295–305. Books and Notions (Toronto), 8 (March 1892): 10–11. Bookseller and Stationer (Toronto), 20 (1907): 178. Business sketches of Toronto ([Toronto, 1867?]), 24 (copy at MTRL). Dict. of Toronto printers (Hulse). Directories, Hamilton, 1862/63; Toronto, 1864/65–1904. Dominion annual reg., 1880–81: 133. Encyclopedia of music in Canada (Kallmann et al.), 463. Hist. of Toronto, 1: 406. Illustrated Toronto, past and present, being an historical and descriptive guide-book . . . , comp. J. Timperlake (Toronto, 1877), 374. C. P. Mulvany, Toronto: past and present; a handbook of the city (Toronto, 1884; repr. 1970), 236–40. Ont. Gazette, 8, 29 July 1876. G. L. Parker, The beginnings of the book trade in Canada (Toronto, 1985), 181. Toronto, Board of Trade, “Souvenir”, 243.