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Memorable Manitobans: William Lewis “Original” Kendall (1878-1970)

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William Lewis “Original” Kendall
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Printer, hobbyist.

Born at Lebanon, New Hampshire on 13 October 1878 to William M. Kendall (1854-1926), a printer, and Mattie Lena Lane (1856-1934). On leaving school, Kendall worked as a newspaperman and printer in several New England towns. In 1906, he moved to Winnipeg, establishing a printing business, the O.K. Press, at 544 Main Street. “O.K.” was an abbreviation for “The Original Kendall”, the attention-getting nickname that Kendall used in promoting himself and his business.

Kendall and the O.K. Press had begun printing picture postcards by 1907, successfully soliciting orders to supply pharmacies and general stores in several Manitoba towns, including Gladstone, Pilot Mound, Portage la Prairie, Roland, and St. Boniface. A few postcards of Saskatchewan scenes were also printed and a set of souvenir cards was produced for sale at the Winnipeg Exhibition. The relatively small number of postcards produced, and their scarcity today, suggest that the O.K. Press was unable to compete with the major players in the postcard trade, which included Winnipeg’s Consolidated Stationery Company and a number of Toronto-based publishers.

In 1909, after the postcard business had petered out, the entrepreneurial Kendall struck out in a new and bolder direction, forming “The Hobby Club” with the intention of uniting the world’s hobbyists under one banner. While all hobbies were welcome, the main focus of The Hobby Club, at least initially, was stamp collecting. Kendall was an avid philatelist who hosted the weekly meetings of the Winnipeg Philatelic Society at the O.K. Press office at 344 William Avenue.

In the Club’s monthly magazine, The Hobbyist, printed from 1909 to 1912 at the O.K. Press, “Original” regularly expounded on his grand ambitions, rising at times to an almost religious fervour. In one issue, he wrote of his plans as follows: “For twenty years the writer has been studying nature. Laying plans for the Hobby Club. … We are a peculiar people. I am one of them. I live to-day. Do you? Let’s organize and call ourselves the Hobby Club. … Let’s have one central office where the detail work can be carried out systematically and have The Hobbyist carry the exchange of our ideas, whims and fancies to each other.”

Given the profusion of stamp clubs, postcard exchange societies and other hobbyist organizations that then existed, it was a daunting task for The Hobby Club to stand out from the crowd. Apparently sensing the critical importance of “creating a buzz”, Kendall filled The Hobbyist’s pages with sensational predictions and cash giveaway come-ons. He also used personal connections in the North American philatelic community to establish The Hobby Club as much more than a merely local organization. For example, he was fortunate enough to hire one of Canada’s most illustrious philatelic authorities, John Reginald Hooper (1859-1944), to edit The Hobbyist. He was not deterred from this choice by Hooper’s 1893 criminal conviction for attempting to drown his first wife, who had subsequently died by poisoning – a crime with which Hooper was also charged, but acquitted. In addition to Hooper, the famous (but later disgraced) American coin and stamp dealer A. C. Roessler (1883-1952) was trumpeted as the Club’s New York representative. The Club also introduced a New York-based Post Card Department, which promoted schemes for exchanging cards that do not appear to have met with much success.

Kendall’s dream of uniting the world’s hobbyists under the banner of The Hobby Club was not realized. By 1912, The Hobbyist had ceased publication and The Hobby Club was no more. The O.K. Press remained in business, however, while Kendall also worked as a conventional stamp dealer from offices at 334 Main Street, just south of Portage Avenue. During the 1910s, he served in various executive positions with the Winnipeg Philatelic Society. By the 1920s, he had returned to promoting hobbies in general as proprietor of The Hobby Shop, located next to the Orpheum Theatre on Fort Street. With business suffering during the economic slump of the early 1920s, Kendall was forced to declare bankruptcy at the end of 1923. Shortly thereafter he left Winnipeg for Detroit, where he managed an antique store.

He was married three times. The outcome of the first marriage, to Minner Shattuck of Lebanon on 20 May 1901, is unknown, although Kendall described himself as “unmarried” on arriving in Canada in 1906. His second marriage, to Georgiana Malcolm of Winnipeg, took place in 1912, but by the time of the 1921 census, Kendall was a widower. Finally, on 21 June 1921, he married Violet Batsford Cameron, a Winnipeg widow who divorced him in Detroit in 1941. His children, all Winnipeg-born, were William James Kendall (1913-1977), Martha (“Mattie”) Lillian Kendall Wade (1914-2003), and Gordon Batsford Kendall (1923-2008).

He eventually moved to California, where he died at San Mateo on 24 April 1970 at the age of 91. He was interred at Hope Hill Cemetery in North Charlestown, New Hampshire.

Sources:

This page was prepared by Andrew Cunningham.

Page revised: 19 February 2022

Memorable Manitobans

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