Traveling between Idaho City and Boise in 1872 and tending his two book and stationery stores, James A. Pinney made new friends in the city that would become his home for the rest of his life. Frequent newspaper items in the Statesman and the Idaho World tell us what his stores were like. An item in the latter in November 1872 noted that, “Messrs. Pinney & Co. still have on hand a fine lot of apples which they are offering at reasonable rates, and as we have tried some of them we know them to be excellent. They also have a large supply of superior playing cards.” The apples, unlike the oranges, lemons and limes that Pinney imported from California, were certainly from Boise Valley, and probably from the orchards of Tom Davis.
Pinney regularly stocked toys and gift items in his store every year as the Christmas season approached. On Dec. 5, 1872, the Statesman wrote, “James A. Pinney, at the Boise City Book Store, is unpacking some of the finest presents you ever saw in your life. If you want to see your little shavers jump right out of their boots, go there and pick out a present for each and carry them home.”
Pinney married Mary A. Rodgers on Dec. 17, 1873, and in February 1874, the Pinneys became permanent residents of Boise City. Newspaper references to him were consistently positive, referring to his “pleasing ways” and his “mammoth bookstore.” “Pinney knows the necessities of the people of this country and endeavors to supply their wants.” In May 1876, when he left for a visit to eastern cities and the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the Statesman called him “one of Idaho’s best and most beloved pioneers.” When he returned in June, he brought with him his mother and an uncle from Iowa who intended to settle in Boise. While in the East he had purchased “a splendid stock of stationery and miscellaneous goods.”
Pinney made news outside of Idaho in October 1878 when The West Shore magazine of Portland published a lithographic view of the house he had bought in 1874. The Statesman had published a long description of it earlier, making special note of its beautiful flower gardens.
The year 1881 was an important one for Pinney and for Boise. In July he was elected to the first of five two-year terms as mayor. Pinney also began planning construction of a new and larger brick mansion. He hired W.W. Goodrich, an architect from Atlanta, and most recently from Denver, to design a new “double house,” reflecting the fact that his mother now lived with him and that the first of his four children had arrived. In April 1882, a Statesman reporter, obviously much impressed with the vocabulary of the man, wrote, “We understand that Mr. Goodrich, the architect, will soon commence the design of a handsome Grec-Jacobite residence, the facades being of the above orders of architecture, and the interiors of Italian Renaissance, for a citizen of our city, the entire exteriors of brick and cut stone, the interiors of native woods, with fancy moldings of ebony, mahogany, birds-eye maple and ash. The woods are all to be worked here, from the architect’s designs. That which will cultivate taste is what our city needs, and handsome homes will do it, when properly designed and decorated correctly.” Work on the house was reported in detail throughout the spring and summer.
During the Christmas shopping season in December 1881, the paper reminded readers that, “The front room of James A. Pinney & Co.’s store is only a commencement. Their house runs 123 feet and every inch of available room is occupied with holiday goods.” In July 1883, Pinney added a second story to his store and installed a new front with plate glass display windows and cast-iron columns. “Mr Pinney’s business has grown steadily from year to year, making several extensions necessary until the space being entirely occupied, this second story became indispensable.”
Next week: Mayor Pinney becomes a theatrical impresario.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.