Mary Delaney Caught Stealing at The People’s Store

Mary Delaney Caught Stealing at The People’s Store

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Photo- Almonte Gazette 1871

November 15 1871

Editor Almonte Gazette:— In your last issue I noticed an item on “Shop Lifting.’

Since then it has been rumoured that the party’s name; who committed the theft was Mary Delaney. I deny knowing anything about the matter whatsoever. By giving this a place in your valuable paper, you will oblige .

Yours, Mary Delaney

November 10 1871-Almonte Gazette

While the proprietors and clerks of The People’s Store were out at *the fire on Monday, a young lady coolly appropriated to herself a parcel of dry goods, put up for a customer, and carried it off. The theft, however, was quickly discovered, and the suspected party was followed and the goods were found in her possession. They were taken back and the woman was allowed to depart in peace.


Photo thanks to Brent Eades of

Within the special world of new stores, women found themselves challenged to resist the enticements of consumption. It was the tiniest of crimes, but it wasn’t innocent- the history of shoplifting  really remains unwritten.  Once tied to the rise of the kleptomania, most shoplifting was done by female customers.  With all the new choices  some women couldn’t help but steal. It’s actually rather interesting to note that with the rise of cheap items and a plethora of choices in shopping, people felt more compelled to take it than buy it.

Did you know that buying something, wearing it to a party, and returning it to the store the next morning was a known occurrence in the nineteenth century? Another crazy aspect was that sometimes women were deemed insane in relation to the crime of shoplifting. So, if I was Mary Delaney from Almonte I would have written to the newspaper too before I was *committed.

It was one of the first areas in which a woman’s crime was seen to be an aspect of mental illness rather than criminality. The concept that a respectable woman, who had been caught stealing something which she did not need, was an anathema to a society who could see no reason for a respectable woman to steal something which she could easily afford.

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Photo- Almonte Gazette 1871



The decoration of stores and private residences is a proof of the good wishes of the citizens and an evidence of their interest in the undertaking. Many places of business were tastefully adorned with banners and evergreens. The Dominion Block was surrounded by balsams, while the windows of Messrs. Hayes, Gavin and Gardner were tastefully dressed. A rope stretched to the Almonte House bore the words “The People’s Store Welcomes All.”— Grand Balloon Ascension At McFarlane’s Grove In 1879

No photo description available.

Our pushing young merchants, Messrs. Riddell & McAdam,
have purchased the •People’s Store• property from Mrs. J.T~
Brown, and will shortly remove to their new stand. The price
paid was $5,550. At the sale on Saturday afternoon .Mr. Wm.
Curry, blacksmith, bought the Cowie pump factory and the
residence adjoining, paying therefor.$950. Sept 1890 Almonte Gazette-

1889 map — this is almost surely it. Note the 3-story main building with 2-story addition, and the bevelled corner.-Brent Eades (People’s store)

*Fire–On Monday forenoon a defective chimney in Mr. J. L. Reed’s house set fire to the wood-work adjoining, and for a few moments there was every prospect of the long-expected fire that is some day to lay Mill Street in ashes. The fire being discovered before it had gained much headway, it was soon put out with a few buckets of water. The loss was very trifling— about §10. November 1871

Almonte Gazette–April 1 1892-
Four Smith’s Falls boys were lately
fined $2 and costs each for loafing at a
street corner on Sunday evening. This
should be a warning to the crowd that on
Sundays lounge around the People’s
Store corner staring at people going to

*May 6 1892-Wonder where those loafers were when the fire started? On Tuesday last the People’s Store brick block had a narrow escape from being damaged by fire. The chimney leading from Mrs. Greig’s kitchen stove runs up the wall between her residence and Riddell & McAdam’s store. Tuesday noon the chimney took fire, and through an imperfectly protected pipe hole in R. & M’s. the flame was communicated to a curtain stretched across it.

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

related reading

Lanark County “Bad Girls”– Bank Street 1873

“Wenches” in Almonte??

*To Be Manic Depressive in a Rural Town — Kingston Insane Asylum

The Insane Spinster Ghost of Appleton Ontario

Embroidery of the Insane?

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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