John Graham


The oldest business house in Spokane under the same name and management is celebrating its 44th birthday during August, 1933. 

The John Graham Stationery Store is very successful.

"Our store literally grew out of the ashes of the Great Fire of 1889."  explains owner John Graham.

"The decision to go into business for myself had to be made that day."  "The fire was roaring through the business district, and I could see Sy Heath's bookstore was totally destroyed." 

"Three days later I was the proud owner of a fire ravaged store."  I unpacked the little inventory I had saved, and the rest is history."

Why Did I Come To Spokane?

"My home was in southern Indiana and as I went out in the world, I worked in a big Minneapolis stationery store."  "But I was itchy to "go west young man."  "I took a job as a traveling salesman for the Mabel-Todd Book Company." 


          John Graham 1876  16 years old

"On a Friday night in April, I landed in Spokane."  "I took my shirts to be laundered, but they would not be ready until Monday."  "So I took a temporary job at Sy Heath's stationery store."   "He was so enthusiastic about the future of Spokane Falls that I decided to stay in the Village for a while. "

That devastating fire that destroyed 30 downtown blocks occurred on Sunday afternoon, August 6th, 1889 . 

"Before the ruins of the fires had cooled, Sy and I together inspected the damage."

 "I was satisfied there was a future."  "I made Sy Heath an offer."   "I had little money, but I asked him to finance me and he agreed."   "Fortunately, he had been building his new house across the river near Gonzaga and was distracted."   "He allowed me to pitch a tent on the front lawn of his store on that lot at Monroe and Riverside."   "I wired to Seattle, asking a wholesaler to ship me $300 worth of stock."   "I told that supplier that Mr Heath would back me up for the purchase."  "The goods arrived promptly on August 10th and that started the whole thing rolling."

"It wasn't two months before the business was growing so fast that I needed a new store."  "I also needed an assistant and I hired William Drury, a friend of mine living in Maryland."

"In October I moved the store to a new location, two blocks away."   "HH Hebert and CJ Kemp, now very prominent merchants, signed on as my clerks."   "In later years they would open Kemp and Hebert Department Store, a very successful dry goods firm."

"In the years in town I knew many importance people in Spokane."  "I invested in mines with many and I did a lot of Chamber of Commerce events."

"In 1901 I built a new building for $45,000, located at 705 E Sprague Avenue.  I have added on to that building three times over the years."  


" In 1904 I married the daughter of Sam Havermale, early Spokane Falls land owners and methodist minister."  "Later that year Sam died." 

"We lived at 323 York for two years".  In 1906 I buit a new house costing $11,000 at 615 S. Monroe Street."


          John Graham 1916  40 years old

"In 1933 the business has now become so large it employs 200 people."   "Some have been with me for almost as long as the business existed."

"As a young man, I never dreamed that "goin' west" would end up in my being one of the most well-known business in a city called Spokane."

excerpts by:

John Graham recalling his biography on his 44th year anniversary. in business.






Read More Return Home