Vintage Toronto Ads: The Colossus of Want Ads

Originally published on Torontoist on May 19, 2009.

20090526starwantads

Toronto Star, March 31, 1936.

No statistics have ever been made public about the number of deaths and injuries caused by the swift, sudden attack of colossal bellboys bearing large stacks of classifieds that descended upon downtown Toronto during the spring of 1936. Urban legend has it that the attack was an extreme ploy launched by the Toronto Star in its circulation war with the number two paper in the city, the Telegram, that was intended to bury “the old lady of Melinda Street” in a mound of newsprint.

Among the items available in the Star‘s classified section the day this ad appeared were a “practically new” Kiddie Koop, rebuilt mattresses “like new” for $1.70 apiece from 514 Manning Avenue, a 1927 Ford previously “owned by minister” for $55, and a youth looking for “work of any kind.”

Those looking to place want ads in a Toronto newspaper would have one less option by the end of 1936. Toronto became a three-paper town when the Globe(circulation 78,000, Liberal leaning) and the Mail and Empire (circulation 118,000, Conservative leaning) merged through a deal arranged by George McCullagh, who would add the Telegram to his portfolio a decade later. The Globe marked its final edition on November 21 by interviewing a bust of George Brown. When asked about the merger, he said “as a bust, I am determined to enter into my journal’s new relationships with malice toward none and charity for Tories,” then promptly “stamped hard with his pedestal” when he indicated that he would not accept kisses from a Conservative senator. The Globe and Mail debuted two days later with a front-page editorial from McCullagh promising to take an independent stance on politics rather than lean towards either paper’s biases. “Just and fair treatment for all parties in the discussion of political subjects will be sought,” he wrote. “A newspaper which endeavo[u]rs to serve faithfully must analyze party professions and performances and take a stand for good government.”

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