The E.F. Pearsall Co., a furniture and appliance store, had its earliest roots in Richmond, Va., in 1896 as T.R. Maxwell & Co., founded at 1445 E. Main Street in the Shockoe Bottom section of the city. Subsequent mergers altered the company's name to Maxwell & McGowan in 1898. George W. McGowan was the co-owner. In 1902, the firm became McGowan & Pearsall with the new partner, Edward Frank Pearsall. By 1919 the name became just E.F. Pearsall. Throughout its history, a main sales outlet was located at the E. Main Street location, but other branches were also established in Richmond at 726 N. 2nd St. (1927-1931), 1525-1529 W. Cary St. (1927-1955), 214-216 W. Broad Street (1929-1956), and lastly, as a used merchandise outlet, 1204 Hull St. Road (1931-1958). A Suffolk, Va., daybook reveals that a branch was once there as well. Receipts in the records show that Bluefield, W. Va., and Petersburg, Va., also had branches. A related company is also apparent on a 1911 receipt for Moseley, Smith & Pearsall of Newport News, Va. Stock included a wide variety of common household furnishings and appliances. Many families of varying ethnic backgrounds and low-income households were customers at the Richmond branches. The installment method of payment was most prevalent as seen in the financial records showing collections by agents of the firm.
The records are divided into seven series, beginning with Series 1, correspondence, 1911-1912, especially noting the financial troubles of the Bluefield, W. Va., store and including letters from other companies to E.F. Pearsall Co. of Richmond, Va., asking for payment on overdue accounts, customers explaining why they are in arrears with payments, agents reporting on collection of debts and accepting jobs, and advertisers introducing their products to the company. Series 2 consists of a single photograph, ca. 1902, of the office and staff at 1445 E. Main St., Richmond, Va. Series 3 contains accounts, 1910-1912, mainly with companies supplying the furniture and appliances sold at E.F. Pearsall.
Series 4 is made up of daybooks, 1909-1933, showing daily business transactions.
Series 5 includes agent collection books, 1901-1938, detailing client's addresses with cash payments made on certain dates, and sometimes indicating their ability to make payments to the company. Series 6 contains cashbooks, 1904-1917, also kept often on an occurrence basis with transactions in chronological order. The final series, Series 7, is also the largest, containing ledger books, 1896-1959, which were usually kept as the final book of record with debit and credit tabulations for specific customers and businesses and sometimes interspersed with collection lists attributed to specific company agents.
Gift of Laila W. and John W. Pearsall, Richmond, Va., in 2002. Accessioned 27 May 2003.