Browsing through Thomsen's Catalogue

At the turn of the century, the town of Reykjavík was growing more rapidly than ever before. The rural community, where trade was mostly conducted on a barter basis, was developing into a modern urban society and the exchange of money for goods soon became the norm. Improved infrastructure, such as regular coastal trafficking routes and better roads for carriages, further strengthened the process making Reykjavík the centre of all trade.

These developments brought on lively commercial activity. The most notable change was that the shops became larger and more specialised, along the lines of the Danish department store "Magasin du Nord" in Copenhagen. One of these establishments was Thomsens Commerce. Around 1890 the store was divided into two sections, but after 1902 the expansion really took hold and during its heydays, Thomsens Commerce operated the following departments: a bazaar, a tourist department, a furniture department, a steel- and ceramics department, a men's wear section, a woman- and fabrics section, a women's hat section, a basement department, a food department, a colonial goods department, a warehouse, a shoe department, a coastal trafficking department, a cigar section and an office. The firm also ran a dress making shop, a soft drink factory, a tailoring service, a carpentry shop, an abattoir, a pig farm, a smoke-house, a canning factory, a cigar factory, a candy factory, as well as a restaurant and a billiard club. In addition, the operation included a branch and a fish processing factory in the village of Akranes, west Iceland, and an office in Copenhagen.

Understandably, the selection was considered phenomenal and an advertisement from the store shows among other things a wide variety of cigarettes and cigars, all kinds of household articles and several types of baking and colonial goods.


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Advertisement from the store sent out before Christmas in 1902. (BskjR: Smáprent, fregnmiğar og auglısingar. Photo KB)
A bill from Thomsen´s Commerce with letterhead which gives us som idea of the size of the business. In 1902 the store owned six houses in the center of town. (BskjR: E- 30, askja 17. Photo KB)
A colourful advertisement from the year 1908. (BskjR: Smáprent, fregnmiğar og auglısingar. Photo KB)