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Robert Slade & Company was one of several Slade family companies based in Poole and operating in the Newfoundland trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The original Slade firm was established in the 1750s by John Slade (1719-1792) with Newfoundland headquarters at Twillingate. John Slade later acquired trading premises in Fogo and established a branch business at Battle Harbour, Labrador. Robert Slade (1768-1833), John's nephew, was employed as a ship's captain. He assumed responsibility for the firm's business in Labrador and inherited (1792) a portion of his uncles' mercantile estate, John Slade & Co.
In 1804 Robert Slade formed his own firm, Robert Slade & Co., and established a trade at Trinity by acquiring premises formerly owned and operated by the Poole firm of Jeffrey & Street. Slade expanded to Catalina (1813), Heart's Content (1817), Bird Island Cove (Elliston) in 1822 and Hants Harbour (1835). Robert Slade directed his trade from a country house in Poole and employed agents to manage affairs at Trinity. James Gover was appointed manager (1804-9), succeeded by William Kelson (1809), who became a shareholder in 1822.
In the period 1804-1822, the firm traded under the name Robert Slade. In 1822 it became Slade & Kelson, when William Kelson, the company's chief agent at Trinity, also became a shareholder. Robert Slade died in 1833 and, from 1837 until 1850, the firm was styled Executors of the late Robert Slade Sr. After Kelson retired, the firm was renamed Robert Slade & Company and traded under that name until it was dissolved in 1861.
Under the management of William Kelson, Robert Slade's firm established an extensive trade with fishing families in Trinity Bay, utilizing the truck, or credit system. By the 1820s Robert Slade had become one of the larger Poole firms in the Newfoundland trade along with George Garland & Sons (Trinity) and Fryer, Gosse & Pack (Carbonear). Like the Garlands, Slade became involved in shipbuilding; the company fitted out fishing crews for the French Shore and the coast of Labrador and dispatched vessels to the spring seal hunt on the northeast coast.
In the 1820s Slade & Kelson encouraged permanent settlement in Trinity Bay, especially at Catalina and Bird Island Cove (Elliston) by opening and operating mercantile premises. When the firm closed out at Trinity, the Slade property was purchased by Alexander Bremner who formed a mercantile partnership with Walter Grieve and operated as Grieve & Bremner.
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