Canada was still 17 years away from Confederation and Toronto’s population was less than 20,000 when Waddington’s began life in the auction business.
Andrew Henderson of Paisley, Scotland had settled in Toronto in 1841, and in 1850, opened his auction rooms on lower Yonge Street. In a few years Andrew was joined by his son Charles, who would later give Henderson’s its high profile and notoriety.
In 1863, the company moved to 128 King Street East where the “C. M. Henderson & Co. - Auctioneers” sign would hang over the entrance for the next 75 years, establishing Henderson’s as the auction house of Toronto.
“Charlie” Henderson ran the company with flair. He was one of Toronto’s great Victorians keeping company with Toronto notables Ned Hanlan, Canada’s first international sports hero and world-class rowing champion, and Goldwin Smith, noted author and historian. Henderson was recognized by everyone as he drove his horse and buggy around town ready to conduct an auction at the drop of his top hat. Many auctions were held directly on the Toronto docks, with Charlie deftly taking bids from the crowd as containers of fruit and dry goods were unloaded.
When Charles Henderson died at age 81 in 1928, the media paid tribute to the veteran auctioneer:
“Elegantly silk-hatted, spatted and cravatted, he was this city’s most famous glass of fashion and mold of form, as well as its most persuasive orator and most original character. He never sold any article with a guarantee of uniqueness so genuine as his own”.
“A composite of civic history could be gathered from beneath Charlie Henderson’s hammer. His office was the scene of the making of many a political career...He has auctioned everything auctioned in Toronto”. Toronto Telegram, Dec. 7, 1928.
The business passed on to Charles’ son Douglas, and in 1939, ownership of the company was transferred to Douglas’ partner Frank Waddington. As the new proprietors, the Waddington family re-named the auction house ‘Waddington’s’, and ran the successful business for the next four decades.
In 1960, young British auctioneer Ronald Mclean arrived in Toronto to work for Ward-Price Auctioneers located on College Street near Yonge Street. By 1962, McLean was ready to be his own boss, and bought Waddington’s from Frank’s two sons “on a handshake”. Waddington’s continued to develop its reputation as a Toronto institution, and in 1969, expanding business necessitated a move from 128 King Street East to larger facilities at 189 Queen Street East.
Ron McLean brought his own style to the auctioneer’s podium, always keen to share amusing anecdotes from his experiences in both Canada and the U.K. His style is reminiscent of Charlie Henderson’s, throwing out jibes and jokes at the auction crowds. Ron is considered an institution of the Canadian auction business.
Waddington, McLean & Co., Ltd. was incorporated in 1970. The company employed over 35 full-time staff and a roster of specialists to support all aspects of the auction and appraisal business.
Again, growth of the business required a move and in June of 1998, Waddington’s closed its doors on Queen Street and moved to 111 Bathurst Street, an exciting neighbourhood developing a strong arts and design identity.
Waddington’s celebrated its 150th anniversary.
A significant expansion of the business was realized with the creation of Joyner Waddington’s Canadian Art – a partnership of Canada’s most successful Canadian Fine Art auctioneer, Geoffrey Joyner, and Waddington’s Auctioneers.
To keep pace with changing market place realities for secondary value product, Waddington’s opened an auction hall in Brighton, Ontario where we continued to conduct our successful weekly ‘regular auctions’ of estate goods.
That same year, capitalizing on the booming growth and power of the internet, Waddington’s conducted its first online auction. Online auctions have since become an important component for all our departments.
After several successful years of growth, change and many exciting auctions, Waddington’s returned to its east end roots. Our new home is a sleek, brand new, concrete and glass facility on Toronto’s busy King Street East.
Another change saw our East Ontario operation expand to a larger facility in the vibrant, lakeside town of Cobourg, Ontario.
A reflection of the times, we rebrand as Waddingtons.ca. We also leverage our many years of experience to launch a new initiative -- Transitions -- focussed on the growing needs of the Baby Boomers.
Waddingtons.ca is committed and energized by the challenge to adapt to the changing demands of the business and to continuously look for opportunities to expand our horizons. Whether conducting unique auctions such as the contents of Maple Leaf Gardens, or the many estate and specialty auctions, we’re proud that as Toronto has become an international business and arts force - so have we.