Willis, Nelson, and Co.

WILLIS, NELSON, & Co., Straw Hat and Bonnet Manufacturers, 32 Miller Street, Glasgow.

    Few mercantile houses have attained so high a position in their own particular department of industrial activity as has the great firm of straw hat and bonnet manufacturers known as Messrs. Willis, Nelson, and Co., whose magnificent premises in Miller Street, Glasgow, well befit the important character of the firm’s vast mercantile operations.

    The business of Messrs. Willis, Nelson, and Co. was originally founded at Luton, in Bedfordshire, some sixty years ago. The founder of the concern was Mr. William Willis (whose eldest son is the eminent Queen’s Counsel), a gentleman who, after a long period of most successfully conducted business enterprise, retired some years ago in favour of his partner, Mr. Nelson, who now actively conducts the affairs of the concern under the same trading designation as has characterised it for the past quarter of a century.

    The warehouse of the firm comprises a four-storey building of large proportions, the basement of which is chiefly devoted to the purposes of packing, invoicing, and “returns”. The first floor is a magnificent apartment — or rather series of apartments — occupied by the flower and feather department. Here will be found a valuable assortment of French flowers in mountings, and grasses, English coloured flowers, mourning flowers in silk, crape, jet, etc., ostrich feathers, fancy ostrich plumes and aigrettes, wings and fancy feathers, leaves, bridal flowers, and many other articles of a kindred character. Ascending to the second floor by a handsome staircase, we reach the straw hat and felt department. This important branch of the firm’s business is necessarily of peculiar interest, for it was in the straw hat and bonnet manufacturing that the high reputation of Messrs. Willis, Nelson, and Co. was principally acquired. In this department, too, the firm still maintains a decided ascendancy over other Glasgow houses, an ascendancy which they seem well able to maintain in the future as they have maintained it during the past twenty-eight years.

    The second floor is also devoted to laces, Scotch muslins, lace and linen collars and cuffs, lace curtains, &c. The Ribbon and Silk department is conducted on the third floor, as also are the departments of infants’ millinery, and shapes, and general ladies’ millinery. It is needless to say with regard to these departments that they adequately represent all the leading styles of the London and Paris fashion centres. A magnificently representative stock is held, and the utmost field for selection is afforded to patrons. The firm maintains a large and influential connection, not only throughout the United Kingdom, but also in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Canada, the past and West Indies, and, in short, wherever the civilising voice of British Commerce makes itself heard.

    The whole of this great organisation is conducted with great practical skill, energy, and well-directed enterprise. Mr. Nelson’s entire commercial career has been characterised by powerful efforts to secure for his house a permanent supremacy in its line of business, and no one visiting the firm’s fine warehouse and seeing the host of clerks and assistants busily employed in preparing goods for despatch to the “uttermost parts of the earth” can doubt that the gentleman in question has eminently succeeded. Mr. Nelson is by birth a Glaswegian, having been born in that city in 1837. Thirty-six years ago he became associated with Mr. Willis at his Luton establishment, and he soon gained, by his ability and uprightness, the esteem and confidence of his employer. Mr. Willis entrusted him thirty-three years ago with the control of the newly-established Glasgow emporium, at that time conducted in Argyle Street. Some years later Mr. Nelson was admitted to a well-deserved partnership, and for many years he has played a most conspicuous part in the industrial enterprise of the city. Mr. Nelson was a member of the Trades House from 1872 to 1882 ; he was elected Deacon of the Corporation of Skinners in 1870 and again in 1878. He is a prominent member of the Corporation of Maltmen, and ably fills the position of a manager of the Glasgow Blind Asylum. In every sphere of activity in which he engages he earns the gratitude and respect, not merely of his fellow citizens, but of Britishers everywhere, who, knowing him, recognise in him a man well deserving of public confidence and high personal regard and honour.

    Since the above was put in type, the above premises have been totally destroyed by fire ; but this firm have been most fortunate in securing a handsome building, belonging to the Glasgow Corporation, at 42, Virginia, where they are temporarily carrying on their trade in all its branches.

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