Whoops, False Armistice

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The Telegram, November 8, 1918.

Having endured over four years of war, Torontonians were ready to cut loose as November 1918 dawned. As the Central Powers collapsed, there was a feeling that the Great War could end at any moment. The recent wave of the Spanish Flu pandemic had curtailed public gatherings, keeping people at home. All everyone needed to hear was that an armistice had been signed.

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Around noon on November 7, the Toronto Star posted a bulletin in the window of its office at 18 King West based on a United Press report that the war was over. Within an hour, people poured into the streets to celebrate, making as much noise as possible. Workers left their posts. Streetcar conductors barely made attempts to collect fares. Courtrooms emptied. Preparations were made to burn effigies of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

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Toronto Star, November 7, 1918.

Problem was, an armistice had not been signed. The city’s other newspapers took a more cautious approach and waited for further confirmation. By the time the Star’s 5 p.m. edition hit the streets, it noted that earlier reports were unofficial. Though the news that it was a false alarm filtered to the streets, the celebrations continued. If the war didn’t end that day, reports that Germany was collapsing into chaos gave the impression it wouldn’t last much longer.

As the Mail and Empire framed the day:

Dame Rumour has been responsible for numerous announcements in the past four years of bitter struggle with Germany that have brought anxiety and anguish to many hearts, but none has had more widespread results that that which emanated from the office of an evening newspaper yesterday and placed Toronto in the midst of a torrent of frenzied celebration…Never before in the history of Canada has such a scene of indescribable exultant frenzy occurred as that which reigned in the streets of Toronto for more than ten hours. Judges of the Supreme Court, men learned in the law and staid and sober-minded businessmen discarded decorum and reserve in the contagious whirl of joy and joined in the universal paean of victory. The streets presented the appearance of a mammoth carnival with multitudinous vari-coloured streamers and ribbons hanging out from the windows of skyscrapers and adjacent buildings and showering onto the heads of cheering and jubilant humanity below.

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The Telegram, November 8, 1918.

At least one death was attributed to the excitement. William Gloyns had finished stringing flags onto the the front of the D. Pike Awning Company’s office at 122 King East when, according to the News, “heart failure, accentuated by the excitement of the hour, seized him and he fell in a heap.” He was rushed to St. Mike’s, but died soon after. His wife told authorities that Gloyns had a long history of heart trouble, so no inquest was called.

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Toronto World, November 8, 1918.

Among the other stories that day:

  • In the Beaches, two Boy Scouts organized a victory parade, gathering over 200 children. At Waverley Road, a confectionary owner tossed candies to the kids, while a grocer gave them apples.
  • In Earlscourt, a window sign in a grocery store read “The Kaiser and his breed are beaten. We are so excited about it we cannot sell groceries. We will perhaps open again tomorrow morning.”
  • People who were ill left their sick beds to join the celebrations downtown. I’m a great deal healthier than Germany is at present,” one man told the Telegram.
  • At least one car was seen dangling a dead turkey from the top of its windshield.

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The Globe, November 8, 1918.

The Star’s competitors jumped on the paper for sharing the United Press bulletin. Here’s how the News presented the initial report…

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..and how it framed the story the next day.

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Toronto Daily News, November 8, 1918.

The News‘s editorial page stated that “The Toronto Star boasts that its special dispatches appeal to the imagination” The paper also wondered if “unreliable news agencies” would be banned from Canada as the Hearst chain’s had been earlier in the war.

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The Telegram, November 8, 1918.

The Telegram tore into the Star, with two editorial pages blasting the paper for perpetrating a cruel hoax. The excessive degree of outrage reflected the near-pathological hatred editor-in-chief John “Black Jack” Robinson displayed towards the Star. Throughout the main editorial, “counterfeit news” appears repeatedly, and the piece goes as far as to suggest the incident would give German leaders a boost.

The editorial begins with an itemized tally of the number of soldiers from Toronto who had died (4,585 total), been wounded, or gone missing since July 18. It initially shares blamed for the cruel fake armistice story among several competitors and United Press.

Toronto’s broken hearts and mourning homes were the victims of an unexampled cruelty. That cruelty had its primary origin in the cold-blooded sensation-mongering of the United Press News Service. That cruelty was perpetrated upon the people of this city by the news columns and bulletins of the Toronto Star, aided and abetted by the bulletins of the Mail and Empire and the Globe.

Next, an argument that was the incident was a blot on the good name of the newspaper industry:

ETERNAL VIGILANCE IS THE PRICE OF ACCURACY. The United Press and the Toronto Star have made the newspaper business look like a disreputable trade. A newspaper should be diligent in the effort to verify the foundations of its statements as an individual is diligent in the effort to tell the truth.

Given the number of dead/injured soldiers from Toronto, the Telegram felt that:

A combination of stupidity, negligence and cupidity must explain the Toronto Star’s cruel and heedless circulation of the “news” manufactured in the counterfeiter’s den that calls itself the Paris headquarters of the United Press.

The final paragraph screams a torrent of anger, that may have been a wee excessive, if only for the use of all caps.

A true newspaper is not immune from HUMAN ERROR. THE ARMISTICE HOAX WAS AN EXAMPLE OF INHUMAN ERROR. The perpetrators of that cruelty and stupidity have made decent newspapers ashamed to be published in the same country as the sensation mongers and rumour pedlars who TORTURED THE HEARTS OF WOMEN, DEFILED THE HOLY ALTARS OF TORONTO’S GRATITUDE, AND SPOILED THE MOST SACRED MOMENT OF TORONTO’S LIFE.

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The Telegram, November 8, 1918.

Another half page was devoted to criticizing the Star and further editorializing, as well as showing how the Telegram was only interested in printing facts.

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The Telegram, November 8, 1918.

Here’s a surprise: if you think “fake news” is a term from the Trump era, here’s a sidebar showing how the “fake news” destroyed productivity for the day. Elsewhere in the paper, an account of how the story broke in New York used the headline ‘STORY OF NEWSPAPER CRIME” and subhead “COLD-BLOODED CRUELTY.”

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The Telegram, November 8, 1918.

There was even coverage on the women’s page.

Methinks the Telegram protested too much, and this incident presents a good example of the holier-than-thou attitude it often displayed in its war with the Star. Besides, compared to newspapers which published the United Press bulletin, the Star’s presentation was muted. Compare the Star’s front page on November 7…

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….to the New York World….

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…or, closer to home, the Hamilton Spectator.

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In the end, the citizens of Toronto had some fun while letting loose pent-up frustrations, and the false armistice served as a dress rehearsal for when an agreement was signed four days later.

Selling the Daily Star to Toronto’s Hinterland, 1919

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Bolton Enterprise, January 31, 1919.

While their focus was on city readers, Toronto’s dailies frequently courted customers on the edges of Toronto. This series of ads which appeared in the Bolton Enterprise during the first half of 1919 show some of the approaches that were used to attract rural and suburban readers.

For example: touting the Star‘s speed at covering major international events like the Paris Peace Conference. It appears the Star entered a coverage alliance with the Chicago Daily News, whose circulation was passed by the Chicago Tribune around this time.

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Bolton Enterprise, February 28, 1919.

In an era where journalists and production staff are regularly laid off, it’s almost odd to see an ad touting how many people worked for a newspaper.

As for the Star‘s claim that it provided news “fairly, in easy-comprehended form,” it was a better looking product than many of its Toronto competitors. It’s easier to read a century on than its main competitor, the Evening Telegram, whose editorial page was full of Twitter-like outbursts that are nearly incomprehensible without a firm grounding in the politics of the era (and even that doesn’t always help). As the Tely continued the archaic practice of running classifieds on its opening pages, a reader could jump into a breaking news story faster in the Star.  The Star’s writing was snappy and full of dramatic impact.

In terms of fairness, the Star was moderate compared to the conservative imperialist voice of the Tely, but was often sensationalistic when it came to stories about crime and social justice.  The Star‘s traditional alliance with the Liberals was in flux as 1919 began – the paper had supported Robert Borden’s Union government during the 1917 federal election to present a united front for the war effort, but worked behind the scenes to heal rifts within the federal and provincial branches of the party.

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Bolton Enterprise, March 14, 1919.

Farming news filled the urban papers in 1919, tied into what would evolve into the modern business section.

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Bolton Enterprise, March 28, 1919.

The sketch of Rasputin looks more like a grizzled prospector or old sea salt than the “mad monk” of legend.

Wikipedia entries for Edward House and John J. Pershing.

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Bolton Enterprise, April 11, 1919.

Here are examples of the Star‘s women’s and magazine pages from the same say this ad appeared. Click on the images for larger versions.

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Toronto Star, April 11, 1919.

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Toronto Star, April 11, 1919.

The Death of Warren G. Harding

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Sample of an American front page noting the death of Warren G. Harding. Pittsburgh Press, August 3, 1923.

Warren G. Harding does not rank among the great American presidents. For years, he resided with the likes of James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce at the bottom of scholarly rankings. Much of what soiled Harding’s reputation emerged after his death—corruption galore, the Teapot Dome scandal, mistresses, etc. At least he was aware of his weaknesses (“I am a man of limited talents”).

But the murkiness of his presidency was not widely known when he died in office on this date 95 years ago. None of it was present in the respectful coverage found in Toronto’s newspapers.

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The Globe, August 3, 1923.

Given what we now know about Harding’s extracurricular love life, I wonder if the headline above the picture of the president and his wife was sincere or a winking joke. The Globe’s coverage also included a passage which summed up Harding’s strong desire to be liked:

A trait that endeared President Harding to millions of his fellow countrymen was a certain quality of homeliness. This was the quality that made him liked by his fellow townsmen, Democrats as well as Republicans, and the President knew no politics where his personal relations and neighbours were concerned.

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Editorial, The Globe, August 3, 1923.

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Toronto Star, August 3, 1923.

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King issued an official statement.

Though Mr. Harding had been in office a little more than two years, during the course of which time the tragic memories of years immediately preceding continue to overshadow current events, he had come to be known to Canadian as a man essentially of goodwill and of unassuming, earnest and kindly purposes.

Flags were lowered to half mast at all federal buildings.

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Editorial, Toronto Star, August 3, 1923.

The province also sent its condolences:

The executive council on behalf of the government and people of the province of Ontario tender to the government and people of the United States of America a sincere expression of their sorrow and sympathy in the national loss that has befallen them through the death of their president whose wise and broad-minded attitude to other nations has done so much to promote international goodwill and co-operation.

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The Telegram, August 3, 1923.

The official reaction from mayor C.A. Maguire. Note the delay in lowering the flag in front of City Hall.

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Toronto Star, August 3, 1923.

Many Torontonians first learned about Harding’s death through the emerging medium of radio.

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The Telegram, August 3, 1923.

The Telegram was the only paper not to feature Harding’s death on its front page, as it was still locked into running classifieds and incomprehensible-without-deep-historical-knowledge editorial cartoons on page one. Readers had to flip to page 14 to find the details.

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Editorial, The Telegram, August 3, 1923.

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Cartoon by George Shields, The Telegram, August 10, 1923.

Not until a week after Harding died did the Tely move away from its cartoons on local political matters and note the president’s passing.

Sun on the Run

Originally posted on Torontoist on September 15, 2009

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Front of Sue-Ann Levy’s campaign office on Mount Pleasant Road, 2009. 

When voters go to the ballot box in St. Paul’s on Thursday their choices will include the latest in a long line of Toronto Sun columnists who have attempted to parlay their print personas into elected office, usually for parties that have matched the paper’s right-wing tilt. City Hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy’s run is part of a tradition that stretches back to the early days of the paper and was inherited from a large number of staffers from the Telegram that sought to represent the public. Some came to the paper during/after their elected stints (True Davidson, Douglas Fisher, Paul Hellyer, Morton Shulman), while others found the exposure didn’t hurt when they ran (Garth Turner). Today we’ll look back at three prominent figures from the paper who, despite not achieving their ultimate goal, left behind tales of colourful, controversial campaigns.

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Logo for Paul Rimstead’s mayoral campaign. Toronto Sun, December 4, 1972.

From the paper’s first edition in 1971 until his death in 1987, Paul Rimstead provided readers with a daily dose of his colourful misadventures. His hard-drinking, populist persona earned him a loyal audience that played a part in his decision to run for mayor in 1972. Born out of a joke during a “welcome home” party at the Brunswick House after he had spent the winter in Mexico, Rimstead initially intended to run for office employing the same irreverent tone found in his column. Along with several other Sun staffers, Rimstead considered ideas such as running a donation-free campaign and a deal with a brewery to market a specially labelled beer around the city. But as Rimstead thought more about a run, his mood changed, as he revealed in his column on October 18:

I went home, enthused about another madcap adventure and started to think. Something told me it wasn’t right. Just a small signal somewhere up there in my usually-vacuous noggin. It would be a ball. Two months of parties. A chance to poke fun at City Hall. But, dammit, this is Toronto we’re fooling around with…This used to be the best city in North America, the best possible place to live. I was away for seven months. When I returned, it was bursting at the seams. More clubs, more music, more entertainment, relaxed laws…more hookers, more crime, more undesirables. We are growing too fast…I am far too worried about the future of Toronto to fool around with it, even though I love a good time. That’s why I can’t run a fun campaign.

At the end of that column, Rimstead asked readers if he should consider a serious run for office. The Sun’s switchboard was flooded with calls for the rest of the day—by the time Rimstead checked with the office before an evening jazz gig, more than thirteen hundred readers called in favour. He soon set up headquarters at the Brunswick House, where volunteers produced signs and buttons. Rimstead remained nervous about entering and waited until the last minute to file his nomination papers, by which time he had already participated in several candidate meetings. His platform consisted of issues he felt the three leading candidates (aldermen David Crombie, Tony O’Donohue, and David Rotenberg) were afraid to tackle—the deterioration of Yonge Street, a rise in handguns, racial tensions (he felt the city turned its back on the black community), the need to shut down Rochdale College, and the need to slow overdevelopment of office towers downtown. As he was allowed to continue writing his column, he arranged to have the three frontrunners write one column a week for the Sun. Rimstead ceased writing for one week after an opponent complained he had an unfair advantage, but returned when he discovered the other papers in town would cover him as just another fringe candidate. The last week of the campaign saw a desperate, bordering on whiny, tone creep into Rimstead’s columns, as he pitched his platform and complained about the lack of respect and coverage from elsewhere. As he noted on November 28, “I’m learning a lot in this election. In a way, it is going to hurt. I am as disappointed in politics now as I am with my own profession. I am afraid I am going to come out of this a cynic.” When the ballots were counted on December 4, Rimstead finished in fourth place with just less than eight thousand votes.

Perhaps Rimstead’s run was best summed up by Jean Sonmor in her history of the SunThe Little Paper That Grew:

He entered as a lark but found himself taking it seriously and the more he did, the more his patchy naivete stuck out all over the place…in the end, the snowy day and the overzealous use of his column to promote himself kept his vote low and his candidacy on the fringe. What the Sun had hoped would be a great whimsical romp turned into a vaguely embarrassing chapter for everyone concerned.

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Advertisement for Lubor Zink’s second election attempt in Parkdale. Toronto Sun, July 7, 1974.

Concurrent with Rimstead’s mayoral run was editorial page commentator Lubor Zink’s first attempt to woo voters as the federal Progressive Conservative candidate in Parkdale. Unlike Rimstead, any humour in Zink’s columns tended to be unintentional. Having fled his native Czechoslovakia after the Communists took over in 1948, Zink’s zealous criticism of anything with the slightest Commie tinge bordered on grotesque caricature, even when his accounts of horrible conditions behind the Iron Curtain were dead on. He displayed an obsessive hatred of Pierre Trudeau, whom he was convinced was destroying the country in a dictatorial manner. Though he would claim otherwise, it seemed clear that his hate-on for Trudeau was the guiding force behind his campaign, even if he told the Sun “he doesn’t bother me as a person—but he does as Prime Minister. I am accusing Trudeau of not only slowing down the economy and raising unemployment artificially, but of killing jobs by undermining the working morale—by destroying the work ethic that built this country.” He blamed the destruction of work ethic on government programs that allowed young people to “do their own thing” instead of good old-fashioned work. When the votes were counted on October 30, Liberal incumbent Stanley Haidasz remained in office, but Zink had improved the Tories’ usual lousy standing in the riding with a second-place finish. Zink waited until late in the evening to congratulate Haidasz on his victory, by which time the MP had left. On the way out, Zink was jeered by two young boys who echoed a refrain that had been heard throughout the campaign: “Zink stinks!”

Insults didn’t deter Zink, who tried again two years later. The 1974 campaign was a nasty affair, as swastikas were spray-painted on Zink’s headquarters on Queen Street and on campaign signs in the north end of the riding, while Haidasz’s windows were smashed. Zink blamed the graffiti on the Liberals’ “almost pathological appeal to chauvinism and racism.” He was bitter about his reception in the “Polish Fortress” he found around Roncesvalles Avenue, where voters were afraid to publicly associate themselves with the columnist. “I am being called a stinking Jew and a Nazi collaborator,” he told the Star. “I would be proud to be a Jew. It so happens I am not Jewish.” He claimed that posters were ripped up nightly and that the tires and radiator hose on his car had been slashed. Haidasz brushed aside these complaints as a case of Zink “running scared” as he tried to take advantage of the vandalism. A call from a local Polish paper that it was “obligatory” to vote for Haidasz because of his Polish background added to the tension. Zink lost again, blaming the defeat on goon tactics and voters who feared change. “They don’t realize that the economy now is like a firecracker in the sky that is burning itself out,” he told the Star. “Anyone who tries to tell them that the brightness can’t last is bound to be unpopular.”

A burning dislike of Trudeau also fuelled the political adventures of the Sun’s first editor-in-chief, Peter Worthington. That he considered running for public office surprised many, as Worthington often admitted that he didn’t care for politicians. But 1982 found Worthington looking for new challenges after he resigned as editor-in-chief of the Sun following its sale to Maclean Hunter. Following a mountaineering trip to the Himalayas, he joined a crowded field of candidates running for the Progressive Conservative nomination in a federal by-election in Broadview—Greenwood. The nomination meeting at the CNE Coliseum on September 9 proved a raucous night, as Greek-Canadian delegates were fuelled with rage stoked by candidate Bill Fatsis and an editorial that had appeared in the Greek Canadian News two days earlier that accused Worthington of “racist fanaticism.” The charge was based on an August 26 Sun column where Worthington denounced multicultural policy as a waste of money that divided Canadians. Boos drowned out Worthington’s supporters as their man lost to Fatsis by sixty-nine votes. Some party officials were relieved not to have to deal with Worthington’s maverick nature…or so they thought.

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Cover of Looking For Trouble, published the same year as Peter Worthington’s second run for office in Broadview—Greenwood.

Despite proclaiming “I don’t think I’ll try politics again. Once is more than enough,” a grassroots campaign impressed Worthington enough for him to re-enter the race as an independent two weeks later. He admitted that “on a personal level, I’ve felt unfulfilled. All the fight was not taken out of me and I wanted to go on. I’m in the same race, I’ve just changed horses.” He also believed that once elected, he would inevitably find his way into the Tory caucus, even if party leader Joe Clark wanted no part of him for violating traditions like supporting the winning party nominee. Nervousness in Tory ranks over the rise in support for Worthington saw Clark visit the riding five times in the final weeks of the campaign. Other newspapers, especially the Globe and Mail, delighted in skewering Worthington, emphasizing his millionaire status, right-wing opinions, lack of knowledge of the riding apart from its softball diamonds, and his tendency to draw attention to himself. He admitted that he “generally made a nuisance of myself” while campaigning, to the point of blaring the theme from Chariots of Fire while wandering along Danforth Avenue. When ballots were cast, he lost to the NDP’s Lynn McDonald by two thousand votes, which placed him far ahead of Fatsis. The wrap party felt like a victory celebration, as Worthington was pleased that Clark had had his “ass kicked.” When asked if he was through with politics, he said, “The last time I quit forever, it lasted three days,” then smiled when he suggested he wouldn’t rule out another run in the future. He later revealed that his secret plan was to run for the party’s leadership so that he could act as a kingmaker for any potential leader who hewed closer to his views than Clark.

By the winter of 1984, the ouster of Joe Clark in favour of Brian Mulroney made Worthington consider another run. Despite manipulations by remnants of the Fatsis camp, Worthington won the nomination. During the election campaign, his outspokenness resulted in opposition from a group calling itself the Committee to Defeat Peter Worthington (CDPW), whose brochures portrayed him as someone who represented hardship for the poor, the military for the unemployed, political confusion and discrimination,” which was backed up by quotes from years of columns. Worthington accused CDPW of being an NDP front and considered pressing hate literature charges. McDonald’s camp denied responsibility and was further outraged when they discovered some Worthington workers reprinted the brochure with a slight modification—the addition of an NDP phone number. Worthington was predicted to win, but finished four thousand votes behind McDonald on September 4. Joking that “it takes real talent to lose even an NDP riding in the middle of a Tory sweep,” he vowed never to run again. Over at McDonald headquarters, a black-draped coffin topped with candles representing Worthington was brought onto the stage once her victory was secure.

In the closing words of his book Looking For Trouble, written in the midst of the 1984 campaign, Worthington wrote:

The creed that the politician’s first duty is to get elected, his second duty to get re-elected, has to change if the country is to improve. The people recognize this, but do the politicians and bureaucrats who control the system? Only politicians can rescue themselves from the quagmire of their own making. It will be interesting to see if someone who feels this way, as I do, can be elected and, if elected, can do anything about it.

Time will tell if any future Sun columnists with designs on elected office will heed these words.

Additional material from Looking for Trouble by Peter Worthington (Toronto: Key Porter, 1984), The Little Paper That Grew by Jean Sonmor (Toronto: Toronto Sun, 1993), and the following newspapers: the September 22, 1982, October 7, 1982, August 14, 1984, and August 17, 1984 editions of the Globe and Mail; the October 31, 1972, June 20, 1974, July 4, 1974, and July 9, 1974 editions of the Toronto Star; and the October 16, 1972, October 18, 1972, October 19, 1972, November 28, 1972, September 9, 1982, September 14, 1982, September 22, 1982, October 13, 1982, and September 5, 1984 editions of the Toronto Sun.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Sun, December 4, 1972.

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Toronto Sun, December 6, 1972.

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Globe and Mail, June 20, 1974.

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A sample Lubor Zink column from his pre-Sun days, looking at April Fools Day for the Telegram in 1967.

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Toronto Star, October 13, 1982.

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Toronto Star, October 13, 1982.

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Globe and Mail, August 14, 1984.

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Globe and Mail, August 17, 1984.

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Globe and Mail, August 29, 1984.

As for the 2009 by-election that inspired this column, Sue-Ann Levy finished second behind Liberal Eric Hoskins by a margin of 5,341. She returned to spewing her special brand of vitriol in the Sun, where she remains as of summer 2018.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 9

Let’s Have a Sherry Before Dinner!

Originally published on Torontoist on July 10, 2012.

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Liberty, October 1955.

As with many cookbooks from the 1950s, print quality and the passage of time have not done wonders to the appetizing qualities of these special oven-roasted meals meant to be enjoyed with a cheap Canadian sherry. That this fine beverage’s economic benefits are touted as much as its palate-pleasing qualities tends to reinforce the poor image the Canadian wine industry enjoyed among serious oenophiles at the time.

We weren’t able to find much about the Canadian Wine Institute apart from its evolution into the Canadian Vintners Association. We do know that they offered a free home delivery service during the 1950s—newspaper ads published throughout the decade offered prompt service if you ordered three or more bottles over the phone from the nearest wine store. The organization also offered cooking guides rich in suggestions for using sherry in ways other than pickling yourself.

How to Solve a Prop Emergency

Originally published on Torontoist on July 18, 2012.

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The Performing Arts in Canada, Volume 6, Number 1, 1968.

In the midst of a busy summer theatre season, a missing prop can strike terror in the heart of any performance troupe. Sure, skilled actors can improvise around an absent item so well that an audience would never notice its absence, but given all the time devoted to maximizing a prop’s symbolic value during rehearsals, wouldn’t you want a replacement or close approximation? Have no fear—the polymer industry has come to your rescue!

Whether it’s Yorick’s skull or a hand-crafted Godzilla statue that the unfortunate fellow depicted in today’s ad can’t find, a quick run to Toronto’s venerable Malabar costume house to pick up some Polysar XB-407 might have solved his problem. Not that it would do a perfect job of replicating everything—we doubt it would have recaptured the texture of Aunt Ruthie’s old scarf that was borrowed for the production, never mind placating Aunt Ruthie once she discovered the neckwear she’d worn since her flapper days was nowhere to be found.

Who is Canada’s Most Quoted Newspaper?

Originally published on Torontoist on September 11, 2012.

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The Telegram, August 4, 1962.

In the three-way battle for Toronto’s daily newspaper readers during the early 1960s, any minor advantage turned into a selling point. For the Telegram, digging up stats on how often it was quoted proved a matter of pride, especially when compared to its ideological opposite, the Star. The Telegram’s quote tally may have been aided its growing roster of editorial columnists—some of whom, like Douglas Fisher and Lubor Zink, would be associated with the paper and its stepchild, the Sun, for decades.

Not that being quotable helped the top two papers on this list. We ask you to observe a moment of silence for the Telegram (died 1971), the Ottawa Journal (died 1980), and the Montreal Star (died 1979).

Watch Your Feet!

Originally published on Torontoist on September 18, 2012.

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Toronto Star, November 21, 1930.

It was one of silent cinema’s most iconic images: comedian Harold Lloyd dangling from a clock face in 1923’s Safety Last. Seven years later, talkies had arrived and Lloyd attempted to recapture the excitement of that scene in an extended sequence, complete with period slow-talking racial stereotypes, for his second sound feature, Feet First.

The film made its Toronto debut during a late evening showing at the Uptown. The Star noted that the theatre “echoed to laughter” for over two hours, primarily over Lloyd’s antics. As for the rest of the night’s fare, the paper was succinct: “The remainder of the bill is good.”

Additional material from the November 22, 1930 edition of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Top-Rung Advertising

Originally published on Torontoist on February 28, 2012.

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The Toronto Daily Mail, March 1, 1892.

Newspapers have always wanted to sit atop the wall of public opinion. While we don’t think the children trying to climb the ladder represent any particular rival papers, we imagine that the two brats at fisticuffs by the “good work” rung could easily be the Mail’s nineteenth-century rivals, the Globe and the Telegram. The kid sprawled on the ground could be the Empire, which was established when the Conservative Party found the Mail no longer willing to toe its party line without question.

The Mail‘s editorial page on the day this ad appeared (March 1, 1892) shows no evidence of opinions that would have swayed public thought. The Mail’s push to sell eggs by weight, due to the inability of hens to lay uniformly-sized eggs, was obviously not successful, since we still buy them by the dozen. The editors’ energy was also devoted to pitching the value of the Mail as an impartial observer of the new session of Parliament (even if, despite the break with the ruling Tories, the paper tended to lean in their political direction). As the editors put it:

The Parliament of the Dominion is now in session. The proceedings during the next few months will no doubt be of unusual interest, not only by reason of the importance of the measures promised and the discussions thereon, but because exhaustive enquiries will be instituted regarding boodling [whose root, boodle, is defined by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary as “money, esp. when gained or used dishonestly, e.g. as a bribe.”] operations in various places. The Mail has made liberal and extensive arrangements for reports of the House and Committee proceedings, which will be prepared by an able staff of reporters and correspondents, whose instructions are to tell the whole truth, regardless of the interest of either political party. People who desire the truth must therefore read the Mail, and they will acquire such an accurate knowledge of the political situation as will enable them intelligently to consider and discuss all the important questions of State. Every patriotic Canadian should subscribe for Canada’s great independent paper.

We imagine a follow-up ad would have depicted new subscribers sitting on the wall alongside the flag-bearing boy, with the objective reporting of the Mail providing the balance required to prevent them from tumbling off like Humpty Dumpty.

The Toronto Standard, “A Sound Conservative Protestant Journal”

Originally published on Torontoist on April 21, 2011.

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When the Toronto Standard launched its website earlier this month, the newest addition to the city’s media landscape linked itself with a newspaper that ceased publication 162 years ago. The earlier, original Standard certainly had a snazzy logo, but what else did it have to inspire the creators of its contemporary counterpart?

What little is known about the Standard is summed up by Edith Firth in Early Toronto Newspapers 1793-1867: “Founded on December 6, 1848, this weekly was published by James Northey. It supported Conservative principles and Protestant Ascendancy; it carried more news and thought more highly of William III than of Lord Elgin.”

We found a quartet of issues from the Standard’s first month of publication bound in a volume at the Toronto Reference Library. After reading these fragile relics, we’d say the Standard’s descendant isn’t the modern namesake website so much as the Sun News Network.

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The front page of the premiere edition was laid out innocuously enough: a handful of ads, followed by two pieces of literature (one a tale of the July Revolution, the other an attempt at humour written in a near-impenetrable Scottish brogue), and a reprinted story regarding the suspension of the warden at Kingston Penitentiary.

Things start to get a bit more strident on page two, when newspaper’s intended audience was captured in the opening editorial: “It is our wish and our object to present to the readers of the ‘STANDARD‘ a sound Conservative Protestant Journal, in which we shall endeavour to advocate the principles of the Revolution of 1688, firmly and fearlessly; and we promise that neither sectarian zeal, popular love of innovation, nor a desire to court honour in high places, shall be able to drive us from our purpose.” The editors repeatedly touted their allegiance to the British crown and vow to defend it against dastardly criminals who would wreck the glorious British methods of governing—including political reformers (“restless men”) and Catholics (who looked for the opportunity for “popish usurpation” that would destroy religious tolerance of the type only extreme Protestants could maintain). The paper promised to “always be ready to listen to the voice of the oppressed,” with no unjust acts going “unnoticed or unpunished if we can overtake the offender.”

The editorial was followed by a reprint of a prospectus distributed in late October, which started by echoing the eternal complaint of the right. To the Standard, it “was a matter of general regret among the Conservatives of Canada…that they have hitherto had no proper exclusive organ through which they might express their sentiments, or in which they might find their opinion responded to.” The editor then denied any connection to previous short-lived papers that bore the name “Standard.”

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Had the Standard been around 70 years later, they might have sponsored this float. Parade float of Juvenile Orange Lodge Branch 31, circa 1919. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 668.

And if it wasn’t clear already, the paper’s political stance was defined in a shouty sentence:

The Politics of the STANDARD will be, in the strict and proper sense of the term, CONSERVATIVE, BRITISH CONNEXION will be its leading principle, and PROTESTANT ASCENDANCY the object of all of its exertion. It will be LOYAL TO THE THRONE, because the THRONE is the palladium of Civil Liberty, and it will be TRUE TO THE PEOPLE, because their happiness and the amelioration of their condition ought to be the object of all who love their country or wish the greatest good to the greatest number.

Nervous readers were assured that the Standard was a family-friendly paper, full of “useful and entertaining” articles on new books and the fine arts. The editor would write historical pieces based on his obsession with the Revolution of 1688 and the reign of King William III. (Given the editor’s desire to replay the battles of a century-and-a-half earlier, it’s a reasonable guess that he belonged to the Orange Order and hoped to indoctrinate future members through thrilling tales of King Billy kicking Jacobite butt.)

The Standard also believed negative option billing was a good method of building a subscription base: “The first two Numbers of this paper will be sent to some who have not given us permission to do so,” surprised readers were told. “If they wish not to become subscribers they will please notify us as thereof by returning one of the numbers immediately, otherwise they will be considered as subscribers and charged accordingly.”

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Left: Lord Elgin (seated centre), surround clockwise from left by Lady Alice Lambton, Lord Mark Kerr, and the Countess of Elgin, 1848. National Archives of Canada, C-088507. Right: Robert Baldwin, c. 1850. Wikimedia Commons.

In terms of local content, the editor apologized for providing little of it due to the effort put into launching the paper. While there were references to angry gas company customers and trouble brewing at the Lunatic Asylum, most of the section was devoted to attacking Governor General Lord Elgin for “abetting misrule, corruption and incapacity in every shape—leaving the faithful office-bearers of the Government to be kicked out of their places to make room for beardless ignorant boys, or for men steeped in disloyalty to the very lips.”

What had happened was that the Tories had lost the most recent election to “beardless ignorant” Reformers led by Robert Baldwin in Canada West (Ontario) and Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine in Canada East (Quebec), who were allowed by Lord Elgin to run a responsible government (one beholden to the electorate, not just the crown). A lengthy rant about the definition of the term “chisel” in relation to the Reformers followed, which the editor hoped would form part of “a fund of descriptive words” to discuss local politics, He also expressed no surprise if the current “chisellers” in government were eventually hung for their radical disregard for traditional order.

The editorial section of edition number two (December 13, 1848) began with a reprint of the first edition’s editorial, provided for readers who missed that paper. This was followed by feedback concerning the paper’s name: “No sooner was our Prospectus published than certain faint murmurs of disapprobation reached our ears, as to the title of our paper—’The Standard!—Standard again!! Why, there have already been three Standards in Toronto, not one of which was ever fit to prop up a cabbage.’”

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Additional info about the Standard and services they provided. The Toronto Standard, December 20, 1848.

Attacks against the Reformers and Lord Elgin carried on in the December 20, 1848 edition. The editor felt that the Governor General betrayed his prestige and regal lineage by casting his lot with “a rebel conclave of Canadian political jobbers” who would inevitably lead the colony down the road to armed anarchy along the lines of the rebellions of 1837–1838. When the editor complains “Cannot the British Government, Whig as it is, send us a Governor General with, at least, the shadow of independence in his character?” We suspect that the only independent thought that was fine was one that aligned with the Standard.

Government members who had bounties on their heads following the rebellions a decade earlier were pilloried for placing a premium on tarnishing the honour of the colony. In his hysterical fervour, the editor believed they would take Canada down the road to republicanism. Until such radicals were flushed out, he hoped that “the fairest, and most valuable portion of Britain’s Colonial possessions” would remain loyal and provide “a rich and grateful refuge to the redundant population of the Mother Country” until Canada was “united to the British Monarchy as an integral part of the Crown.” Last time we checked, Toronto wasn’t one of the United Kingdom’s leading cities.

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Though the next session of Parliament wouldn’t begin until January 19, 1849, the Standard predicted that in the interim, “we may expect a corresponding amount of humbug and leaning towards the perversion of every principle, upon which a wise authority is established and just Councils directed.” But we weren’t able to determine how the paper would have covered the new session, other than the frothing at the mouth outrage we imagine the Rebellion Losses Bill would have provoked. The library’s collection skips the fourth edition, while the fifth is undistinguished apart from joy upon hearing George Gurnett would be acclaimed as Toronto’s mayor and a lengthy look at the first performance of the local philharmonic society.

We don’t know if the paper ceased publication after the fifth edition and loyal Tories had to look elsewhere to vent their spleens—which wouldn’t have been a shock during a time when papers regularly folded in a hurry—or if future issues went uncollected (perhaps the person who preserved these copies realized they were being negative billed). Based on several apologies for delays in production of the paper, which were blamed on sick employees or the late arrival of dispatches from Europe, we suspect the production end was a little disorganized.

UPDATE

The modern Toronto Standard starting promisingly, with a solid batch of contributors, but gradually fizzled out. In a Halloween 2014 posting, it promised a revamp focusing on “unique profiles of founders & innovators that help make Toronto one of the greatest cities in the world” and “the remarkable products and experiences they create that can provide a positive jolt to your life.”

Crickets.

It briefly reappeared in June 2015 with a post having something to do with cultural consciousness, startups,  and Amy Schumer. A few more posts followed then, like its 19th century predecessor, it faded away.