Birth: January 27, 1856 in Chelsea, (London), England
Death: January 8, 1912 (aged 55) Victoria, B. C.
Plot: Row G – Plot 13
A.A. (Andrew Alfred) Aaronson was born in 1856 in Chelsea, a prosperous London borough, to an English mother and Dutch father. In 1877, at the age of 21 he arrived in Victoria after having travelled around South America. He immediately opened a pawn broker shop. There was a large inventory of old jewellery and precious metals which was later expanded into a collection and sale of First Nations handicrafts and ceremonial objects. Collecting these ‘exotic’ objects known at the time as “Indian Curiosities” was very fashionable in the late 1800’s and into to the early 1900’s.
Aaronson returned to London in 1886 as one of two Canadian exhibitors of “Indian curios” at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. Dressed in a long fringed buckskin suit and wide brimmed sombrero hat, Aaronson portrayed himself as a Canadian frontier character. He called himself “Wild Dick” and patterned his persona after Wild Bill Hickok; a figure who had appeared on stage in Wild West Shows that had been touring Europe. Aaronson told the British press that he was in charge of the British Columbia’s curios at the exhibition and generated a lot of attention along with some questionable publicity.
While in London, Aaronson married Rose Vandersluys (Vandersluin or Vandersluis). Rose was also from Chelsea and also a child of an English mother and a Dutch father. Their eldest child, Hannah, was born in London in 1887. The family returned to Victoria in 1888 where they established the Victorian Indian Curio Bazaar. Rose was instrumental in building that business and a full partner in operating it. A.A. Aaronson also continued to operate a pawn shop on Johnson. He was a flamboyant community figure and was often called Andy or “Uncle.”
Andy owned a brothel on Johnson. He joined the ranks other prosperous business men such as Simeon Duck, (the Minister of Finance, and Past Grand Master of the Freemasons), who owned a brothel on Broad Street, and Joseph W. Carey, (a land surveyor and former mayor of Victoria), who owned a brothel on Broughton Street.
Andy rightly predicted that Victoria would become a main center in the curio trade. The Victorian Indian Curio Bazaar was one of the more significant and thriving curio dealers in Victoria. As their shop was mostly geared to the burgeoning tourist trade they primarily sold trinkets, crafts and objects of art created by local indigenous peoples. Andy was also a well respected agent for major museums and private collectors. He made important sales to James Terry, a private collector associated with the American museum. In 1898 he sold a collection to George Dawson of Montreal. Andy also sold to the Field Museum in Chicago in 1903/4.
Rose and Andy and their four children lived at 1811 Quadra Street and later at 1308 Stanley Street.
Andy was heavily involved in a number of fraternal organizations. Shortly after arriving in Victoria he joined the Tiger Co. which was one of the first fire brigades in Victoria. He became an officer and later a co-treasurer. Andy was also a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Woodmen of America. Their seal is on his gravestone.
Andy retired around 1905. After an extended illness caused by gastric ulcers, Andy died on January 8, 1912. His funeral was well attended by delegations from each of the fraternal organizations to which he belonged.
Rose kept the store and continued to run it for another six years. One collector purchased almost 600 carvings and later donated the collection to the University of Florida. Seen as the last major collection of curios, the Royal Ontario Museum was quick to purchase the remaining stock when Rose closed the store.
Their son, Albert was a long-time druggist on Fort Street, and grandson George was also a pharmacist at that location.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
A. A. AARONSON
BORN JANUARY 27. 1856
DIED JANUARY 8. 1912
NATIVE OF LONDON, ENG.
AND OUR BELOVED MOTHER
BORN FEBRUARY 27, 1864
DIED SEPTEMBER 16, 1918.
GOD REST THEIR SOULS IN PEACE.
This gravestone bears Woodmen of the World logo
The Woodmen of the World (WOW). Started in the 1880’s, WOW was a fraternal organization which provided life and burial insurance for it’s members. Until the 1920’s members qualified for the monument program which entitled the widow of a WOW member to receive $100.00 to help defray the cost of gravestones. Including the WOW logo on the gravestone was required. The tree stump, symbolizes that the the life of the breadwinner of the family was cut short. The olive branches represents harmony and neighbourly cooperation. These letters “C” and “O” stand for Canadian Order. The Latin phrase, Dum tacet clamat translates as “Though silent, he speaks”; meaning that the person buried there lead a worthy life.
Heiman Aaronson (1815-1882)
Hannanh Kesner Aaronson (1824-1880)
Samson Aaronson 1852-1909
Louis Lewis Aaronson 1853-1899
Barnett Aaronson 1857-1925
Ralph Aaronson 1860-1923
Esther Aaronson Rothschild 1863-1934
Isabella Aaronson Nachman 1867-1902
Rose Vandersluin Aaronson 1864-1918
Hannah Aaronson Knowles 1887-1978
Albert “Bert” Aaronson 1889-1968
Henry “Harry” Aaronson 1890/1-1972
Irene Aaronson 1895-1967