THOMPSON, THOMAS, schoolmaster and merchant; b. 1803 in Yorkshire, England, son of Thomas Thompson (who also came to Canada about 1830 but of whom no more is known); m. Rebecca Boyce, and they had three children; d. 12 Oct. 1868 in Toronto, Ont.
Thomas Thompson, who had taught school in England, arrived in York (Toronto) in 1830 and opened a private school. Soon after, he offered the premises as a meeting house to the Primitive Methodists who were struggling to establish themselves. Unlike many others, the school prospered and was later sold to immigrants who wished to establish themselves in the same way. Throughout his life Thompson’s educational activities proved to be more financial than pedagogic; at the time of his death he held the mortgage of Joseph Day’s Commercial College.
By 1833 business opportunities in a growing community about to be incorporated drew Thompson into retail trade. He is credited with opening the first boot and shoe store in the city; known to patrons as “cheap Thos. Thompson’s shoe warehouse,” he advertised his business as “Thomas Thompson’s Cheap Shoe Store.” He was undoubtedly one of the first merchants to market goods on the basis of a large stock, high volume of sales, low mark-up, and extensive advertising.
His tactics worked well and in a few years Thompson expanded into general merchandise, particularly dry goods, clothing, and millinery. The location of the business changed several times but always remained near the St Lawrence Market. He suffered heavy losses in the Toronto fire of 1849 but reopened “The Mammoth House,” as the business had become known, within a year. “A lean man with resolute features, deep-set eyes, a drift of side-whisker, and a high black stock,” Thompson developed a reputation for integrity and subtle ingenuity in business by concluding his advertisements for staple and fancy dry goods with a condemnation of other advertisers and an appeal to the wisdom of potential customers: “As the subscriber is much opposed to the system of puffing, now so common, he would merely request the public to call and examine for themselves.” His son Thomas became a business partner in 1864 and took over the Mammoth House on his father’s death.
Thompson should not be confused with Thomas Thompson, a saddler and harness-maker, who was councilman and alderman for St Lawrence ward from 1861 to 1868.
York County Surrogate Court (Toronto), will of Thomas Thompson, no.1079, 1868. U.C. Land, Mercantile, and General Advertiser (Toronto), January 1835. Commemorative biographical record, county York, 97. Cyclopaedia of Canadian biog. (Rose, 1886), 804–5. Middleton, Municipality of Toronto, III. Robertson’s landmarks of Toronto, I.