Vintage Toronto Ads: Everyone’s Proud to Serve Jersey Farm Sausage

Originally published on Torontoist on June 5, 2012.


The Telegram, November 19, 1918.

If the claims made about the widespread use of Jersey Farm Sausage at Toronto’s finer eateries in today’s ad are true, it’s possible that many a link could have been downed in meals celebrating the end of World War I, a week earlier. With the conclusion of such a horrific conflict, who wouldn’t have wanted to slice into an “unusually good, unusually appetizing, unusually satisfying” sizzling piece of ground-meat greatness to celebrate better days ahead?

Much of the fine print in today’s ad is devoted to advice on cooking Jersey Farm Sausage from noted local chefs:

C. Bouzard, chef at the King Edward Hotel, says Jersey Farm Sausage can be fried, broiled and steamed. Cooked this way they should be pricked first with a fork. But they are best when baked—in the oven. Be sure to use only a moderate heat. He finds it unnecessary to add grease when baking these sausage. After removing sausage, put a little water in the bake pan and stir. This gives an excellent brown gravy for the mashed potatoes.

Chef Grosso of the National Club also recommends Jersey Farm Sausage either fried or baked. Be careful, he says, not to use too great heat, as this will cause the sausage to burst.

H.P. Donnelly, chef at the Hotel St. Charles, prefers to bake Jersey Farm Sausage in an oven of medium heat. He covers them first with a little beef dropping (not shortening or lard). 12 to 13 minutes is the time necessary to cook them to an appetizing brownness. He says that by this method the natural flavour is preserved [and] there is no need for pricking and the sausage does not burst.

The manufacturer had its own suggestion for preparing their tasty treats:

As most people find it more convenient to fry sausage rather than bake them, we suggest the following method. Cover the sausage with water. Allow this to boil slowly away. Leave the sausage in to fry—there is enough grease from the sausage to prevent them from burning. In this way the sausage is thoroughly cooked by the water and the heat is moderate enough to give no risk of the sausage bursting. Try it!

Few of the locations listed as serving Jersey Farm Sausage still exist, but perhaps they still secretly have a supply on hand. Next time you dine at the Gladstone Hotel or the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, demand that your pure, wholesome meal include a link or three of Jersey Farm.


“The Greatest Marine Disaster in History” – Toronto and the Titanic

Originally published on Torontoist on April 13, 2012.


An ad for voyages of the Titanic that never took place, published the day before the unsinkable ship sank. The Globe, April 13, 1912.

H.G. Thorley had little inkling that he would be the busiest man in Toronto on April 15, 1912. Just before 2 a.m. that morning, the local agent for White Star Line received a phone call requesting information on the condition of the luxury liner Titanic, rumoured to have hit an iceberg on its maiden journey from Southampton to New York City. “From two o’clock until after six,” Thorley told the News, “I was forced to sit in an easy chair by the phone and answer questions of all description.” For the next two days, the swinging door of Thorley’s office at the King Edward Hotel was in constant motion as news of the maritime tragedy unfolded.


The Titanic sets sail. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1703.

Early reports were promising. Newspapers declared that the passengers aboard the Titanic were safely and smoothly being transferred onto another ship, the Carpathia, while the liner itself was being towed to Halifax. A statement from White Star Line indicated that while the company hadn’t received direct messages from the Titanic, they weren’t worried about its passengers because the ship was “practically unsinkable.” Thorley shared his employer’s confidence in the ship’s ability to survive anything: “I can hardly credit the idea of the Titanic being in a sinking condition. She is the most completely equipped with water-tight compartments and the most strongly built liner on the high seas.”

Reports from Cape Race, Newfoundland indicated good weather and calm waters in the vicinity of the Titanic, conditions that suggested little danger to anyone waiting in a lifeboat for a rescue from the vessel Virginian. One detail raised eyebrows: “It was difficult,” the News reported, “for even mariners to interpret the situation from the Marconi dispatches. They could not understand why it was necessary to take off any passengers if the liner were sinking slightly at the bow, unless her captain felt that the water-tight compartments would give way.”

Besides the throngs at the King Eddy, Torontonians gathered around the city’s newspaper offices for updates, as one edition after another rolled off the presses of all six of Toronto’s dailies and frequent bulletins were provided to the assembled crowds. The Star provided a glimpse of the hectic scene at its King Street West office:

All morning long the telephones in the Star office buzzed with inquiries as to the big marine disaster, and the same story is told by all the marine and shipping offices in the city…Scores of persons who had relatives or friends due to sail from the Old Country about this time, were most anxious, and telephoned repeatedly for news. However the news that all the passengers had been taken off in safety was a great relief to anxious enquirers.

The interest of the public in the wreck of the world’s greatest steamer was evidenced by the rapid manner in which the early “extras” got out by the papers, were sold, and the way in which crowds clustered in front of the bulletin boards in front of the newspaper offices. Everywhere about the streets, in the shops, and on the cars, the wreck of the Titanic was the sole topic of conversation.


The News, April 15, 1912.

Within that conversation was anxiety around the fate of passengers with Toronto connections. Under a disclaimer of “many rumours wrong,” the Telegram attempted to verify stories of who was and wasn’t on the Titanic. Among those who didn’t make the fateful voyage were businessman A.O. Beardmore (who booked but changed his mind), Mr. and Mrs. F.P. Wood (postponed their sailing by a week), and wholesaler William J. Denton (found alive and well in Medicine Hat). On the other hand, the friends and relatives of those known to have been on the Titanic ranged from relief that businessman Major Arthur Peuchen appeared to have been rescued, to fear about the uncertain fate of Eaton’s merchandise buyer George E. Graham.

It’s understandable that some inaccurate reports were published given the breakneck speed with which editions were published. Several papers boasted of breaking the story—the News declared it was first “as usual” in its April 15, 1912 edition, a claim the World disputed the following day:

When the bulletin came from Cape Race at 4 o’clock yesterday morning, announcing that the Titanic was sinking following its collision with an iceberg, The World made the greatest newspaper “beat” in years. Shortly after thousands of extra editions giving particulars of the disaster were on the street and caught the early morning crowds.

The World was the only morning paper in Toronto, or even Canada, to put the big story of the Titanic sinking on the street when the flash came. The World was the only paper alive at that hour of the morning.


The News, April 17, 1912.

Yet the optimism behind the earliest reports faded as April 15 wore on. By evening, it was clear that White Star Line officials had purposely promoted false hope—the Titanic wasn’t heading to Halifax, and most of its passengers wouldn’t be rescued. The Mail and Empire reported how Toronto reacted when the depth of the tragedy reached the city:

Fragments of the whole awful story spread through Toronto like wildfire. To one walking through the downtown streets it seemed grotesque to hear a knot of people on one corner commenting in subdued tones on the latest news, while a few yards further on a couple would be gaily arguing as to how much salvage the Virginian would claim for towing the Titanic safely into Halifax…All through the evening the morning newspapers’ telephone switchboards were taxed to their utmost replying to queries. Many refused to believe what was told to them by the switchboard clerks and insisted on talking personally to one or other of the editors.

Back at the King Eddy, Thorley spent the night answering phone calls from anxious citizens, providing relief to some, despair to others. Some of those inquiring refused to believe that the Titanic had sunk. Thorley wanted to believe the ship was still afloat, “but the speed required to reach her on time would be impossible in that ice-filled sea.”


The News, April 16, 1912.

The city’s grim mood was reflected in the headlines on April 16, 1912: “The Greatest Marine Disaster in History,” declared the Globe. Over the next few days, pages were filled with grim details about the ship’s demise, especially after survivors arrived in New York. Regular updates were provided on the status of passengers with local ties and how their families were coping.

Local philanthropic impulses quickly kicked in. During a Board of Control meeting on the morning of April 17, 1912, Mayor George Geary proposed granting $5,000 to a relief fund for families of the Titanic’s officers and crew, and reflected the city’s strong ties to Great Britain:

As Britishers we should all feel proud of the reported conduct of the crew and officers of the Titanic in the awful disaster of last Monday. In the face of certain disaster, it appears that the crew calmly stood by and gave their places to the women and children, thus preserving the beautiful British traditions of the deep…It is possible that the relief will grow to large proportions with contributions from rich survivors, but my idea is that we should all take advantage of the opportunity in order to show our personal appreciation.


The Telegram, April 17, 1912.

Geary’s motion passed unanimously. The “beautiful British traditions of the deep” he alluded to were repeated on the editorial pages, such as that day’s edition of the World:

With those who have suffered bereavement there is universal sympathy, all the more because at the hour of trial the victims upheld so nobly the highest traditions of the British mercantile marine. There are passive as well as active heroes, and the courage of those who accept and await death that women and children may take the one chance of escape is no whit inferior to that of the officers and men who brave the almost inevitable fate of a forlorn hope. Honor indeed to both, but not the least to the heroes of peace.


The News, April 19, 1912.

The city’s papers discussed the perceived cowardice of men who survived instead of nobly going down with the ship, even if they were asked to row lifeboats. Among those viewed with suspicion was Arthur Peuchen, despite his being pressed into rowing duty and his testimony as a star witness during the United States Senate investigation into the disaster. Peuchen endured insults like “He said he was a yachtsman so he could get off the Titanic, and if there had been a fire, he would have said he was a fireman.” Among his defenders was the Star, which felt he was prejudged for simply surviving and that “his conduct was not only above reproach, but that it was the natural course of a man of action, and was spirited and admirable.”

Even some of the women who survived earned scorn. The News interviewed local ladies a week-and-a-half after the sinking to see what they would have done under similar circumstances. While some thought there shouldn’t be any rules governing who should survive, others had definite ideas. “I think that the woman should base her conduct on the whether there were children at home or not,” said Mrs. Archibald A. Huestis. “If she had little children which needed her care, she should take to the boats. Otherwise, I think she should remain with her husband.”


The News, April 19, 1912.

As bodies were recovered from the disaster, memorials were held around the city. Eaton’s closed its Queen Street store early on April 20, 1912 in memory of George Graham, whose death was confirmed after several false reports of his survival. Church sermons the following day centred around the Titanic, with the largest service held at Massey Hall.


The Telegram, April 20, 1912.

It was a Biblical story that the Telegram turned to when it summed up the Titanic disaster in an editorial:

The Titanic was a floating Babylon, destined to illustrate the eternal truth that man is never so near disaster as when he imagines he has built a career or anything big enough to be proof against disaster. Napoleon achieved great victories by conforming to the laws of nature. Then he imagined he was big enough to cut loose from the laws of nature and still go on winning victories. The laws of nature crushed Napoleon. Man builds mighty steamships by conforming to the laws of nature, then he imagines that he can cut loose from the laws of nature in the navigation of these mighty craft. The iceberg crushes man’s handiwork like an eggshell and the ocean swallows his leviathan of the deep.

Additional material from the April 16, 1912 edition of the Globe, the April 16, 1912 edition of the Mail and Empire, the April 15, 1912, April 16, 1912, April 17, 1912, and April 24, 1912 editions of the News, the April 15, 1912, April 16, 1912, April 22, 1912, and March 13, 2012 editions of the Star, the April 15, 1912 and April 19, 1912 editions of the Telegram, and the April 16, 1912 and April 17, 1912 editions of the World.


tely 12-04-15 titanic 2

The Telegram, April 15, 1912.

star 1912-04-16 front page images

Toronto Star, April 16, 1912.

globe 12-04-17 brave tradition holds

The Globe, April 17, 1912.

tw 12-04-19 front page small

The World, April 19, 1912. Click on image for larger version.

The original article made heavy use of front page images from the News. There were several reasons for that, ranging from it being a long-defunct newspaper to the quality of microfilm scans. The condition of most pages I looked at for this piece from other papers are in terrible condition, for reasons you’re about to see. Let’s call this a glimpse into the pitfalls researchers encounter.

me 12-04-16 front page

The Mail and Empire, April 16, 1912.

Without extensive use of Photoshop, this is the best quality microfilmed front page from the Mail and Empire as the tragedy unfolded. The rest are covered in varying degrees of black smudging.

globe 12-04-16 front page

The Globe, April 16, 1912.

A chunk of this front page is gone…

ts 12-04-18 front page

Toronto Star, April 18, 1912.

…while this one is missing even more. The previous day’s Star has a giant chunk missing from the middle of the page.

Vintage Toronto Ads: April Showers Bring Free Trousers

Originally published on Torontoist on April 10, 2012.


The News, April 19, 1912.

1912: Take a decent head shot of the store owner/employee/mascot and place it on a nattily-dressed cartoon body. Frame ad with promises of “free trousers.” Appeal to the customer’s sense of being a smart consumer who knows to spend money when he senses clothing that will make him the fashionable envy of his friends. Use period phrases like “swell.” Wait for customers to rush in.


Toronto Sun, April 9, 1980.

1980: Take four models. Strip them of their trousers, but leave them with the featured blazers and sports jackets so that they won’t freeze during the photo shoot. Update “trousers” to “pants.” Mention the “free pants” offer in boldface at the top of the ad, but take a quieter approach throughout the rest of the ad. Ask at least one model to adopt a wide-mouthed smile to reinforce the slightly cheeky nature of the ad. Avoid use of phrases like “swell.” Wait for customers to rush in.


Vintage Toronto Ads: Dr. Blosser’s Discovery

Originally published on Torontoist on March 13, 2012.


Toronto World, February 23, 1913.

Can you name all of the body parts represented by letters in the illustrations above? Do you think this ad makes crystal clear Dr. Blosser’s claims that his tobacco- and narcotic-free herbal smoke relieves catarrh? Are you confused by the length to which the illustrator attempted to prove Dr. Blosser’s superiority over other remedial aids?

Unlike some peddlers of cure-alls, Joseph Blosser was a trained physician who alternated between careers in medicine and ministry. Yet Blosser seems to have been less than virtuous in keeping the letters he received from customers in strict confidence. Samuel Hopkins Adams, in his landmark investigative reporting on the patent medicine industry for Collier’s magazine in 1905, cited Blosser among those who passed their testimonial letters and mailing lists on to other remedy makers. “The ink was hardly dry on that issue of Collier’s,” Adams later noted, “before Blosser was on the spot with a lawyer letter and a personal letter which breathed injured innocence.”

Backed by personal endorsements from prominent Atlanta citizens, Blosser claimed that Adams would be “utterly unable to sustain by proof” that any letters were sold. Adams contacted a New York–based letter broker, who had more than 113,000 letters sent to Blosser’s company ready for purchase. No legal action appears to have followed.

Blosser’s remedy, usually sold as herbal cigarettes, remained on the market for decades. Later ads dispensed with the detailed diagrams, forcing the illustrator to seek work in the scientific textbook field.

Additional material from the fourth edition of The Great American Fraud by Samuel Hopkins Adams (Chicago: American Medical Association, 1907).


Vintage Toronto Ads: Clean, Rich Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer

Originally published on Torontoist on January 3, 2012.


Mail and Empire, November 2, 1911.

While we doubt that Toronto’s cultural elite emptied bottles of PBR at their private clubs a century ago, we sense the local importer had a good feel for who this brew could be marketed to: germaphobes and health purists. The claims of cleanliness also make us wonder how lax local brewers were toward sanitizing their facilities, or if there was a subtle implication that Lake Michigan water was purer than Lake Ontario.

Despite advertisements such as this one, Pabst, along with fellow American brewers like Anheuser-Busch, failed to gain a toehold in the Toronto market during the early 20th century. Few drinkers appear to have switched over from local producers like Dominion or O’Keefe’s.

An odd fact we discovered while researching this piece: during Prohibition in the United States, Pabst survived by manufacturing cheese. Their most popular product was Pabst-ett, a processed product that was too similar to Velveeta for Kraft’s liking. Result: Kraft sued and won, which led the cheese giant to produce Pabst-ett under license for a while and then, once Prohibition was over, to acquire the product outright. Which leads us to wonder: what if the marketing gurus at PBR bought back the rights to the name and marketed Pabst-ett as a hipster snack (playing on the humour of its low dairy content) to be enjoyed while tossing back a can or pitcher?


Vintage Toronto Ads: Dial-a-Thermos!

Originally published on Torontoist on December 6, 2011.


The Telegram, June 2, 1911.

Got an old rotary phone you’ve hung onto for years and can’t bring yourself to toss out? Why not let your friendly neighbourhood Thermos representative convert it to Dial-a-Thermos! Yes, Dial-a-Thermos has provided consumers with instant access to a fine range of insulated Thermos products since 1907. Every month, you will receive an updated list of useful items that are only one dial away! Never worry about what you’ll carry your beverages or lunches in ever again!

What if you got rid of that old-fashioned phone years ago or don’t even know what a rotary phone is? Relax—the Dial-a-Thermos tech team is working on one of those newfangled phone apps!

For readers who don’t feel like squinting while trying to read the text in the centre of this dial-styled ad, here’s what’s written to the left of the antique vacuum flask:

As a sick-room comfort, to keep ice-water in guest rooms, for children, for children’s school lunch it is indispensable. Filled, cleaned, emptied same as any ordinary bottle. Glass inside metal case. The original “keeps-hot-keeps-cold” bottle. See the genuine at first-class stores. For free booklet, write Thermos Bottle Co., Limited, Toronto.

On the right:

When travelling, motoring, boating, picnicking, camping, THERMOS enables you to have any kind of home-made refreshment, piping hot or ice-cold, anytime, anywhere. Don’t deny yourself its comforts any longer. Get one right away. See the name THERMOS stamped on the bottom of the genuine.



Historical Holiday Hints: O Christmas Tree

Originally published on Torontoist on December 21, 2011.


“Excuse Me” by M. Myer, the News, December 23, 1911.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, your branches green entice us!

The centrepiece of many homes at this time of year is a decorated tree. Whether it’s fir, pine, or plastic, a well-chosen tree establishes a cozy atmosphere. While there are occupational hazards such as falling needles or ornaments that pets treat as toys, a healthy, smart-looking tree will be a point of pride during holiday celebrations.

We don’t view Christmas trees as fruit-bearing plants, but an anonymous poem published in the Star in 1905 extolled the sweet goodness they produce:

The strawberries may shrivel and the apple crop may rot;
The peas may have the weevil, the potatoes go to pot;
But it is a consolation, as most anyone can see.
That no pest can kill the fruit crop of the dear old Christmas tree.

Sure it thrives in every climate and it grows in every soil.
And no simoon hot can blast it, nor no arctic zephyrs spoil;
It is always richly laden, and we view its fruit with glee;
There are never barren seasons with the dear old Christmas tree.

Ask the boys and girls about it; show them peach and plum and pear;
Ask ’em which of all they fancy, which they most prefer to share.
See their smile, alike expectant, hear them every one agree,
That there is no fruit equal what grows on the Christmas tree.


“Excuse Me” by M. Myer, the News, December 23, 1911.

In the early 20th century, locally grown trees prompted those smiles. Most sold in Toronto were raised within a 140-kilometre radius of the city. According to St. Lawrence Market vendor James Bamford, these trees were grown on land that was too poor to produce wood suitable for lumber. “The farmers,” Bamford noted in a 1924 interview with the Star, “are glad to get rid of them in many cases.”

By the late 1970s, twice as many Toronto homes had artificial trees as had the real thing, due to the lack of maintenance they required. A market remained for the live trees, either on a street corner lot or out in a rural bush, but selling them required creativity. If a grower’s stock turned yellow, they could spray the trees with Greenzit, which was promoted as “a non-toxic, economical, natural colorant spray that won’t wash off.” Visitors to farms run by Murray Dryden in Caledon and York Region could cut their own tree and then, with a charitable donation, hire a Newfoundland or St. Bernard dog to haul it back to their vehicle. There was no indication if the St. Bernards also carried a small barrel of brandy to revive weary tree cutters.

Growers recommended that those heading out to the country to cut their trees should bring the proper equipment. The first piece of advice, offered to the Star in 1978: wear warm clothes and sturdy boots equipped to handle rough, snow-covered terrain (“the bush is no place for city shoes”). Buyers were also advised to bring their own saws for cutting and twine for tying, in case the grower had none to spare.


Left: the punchline to “Excuse Me” by M. Myer, the News, December 23, 1911. Right: advertisement, the Toronto Star, December 23, 1910.

True rugged types don’t go to tree farms. They roam the land in search of the perfect tree. Care must be taken, though, to avoid chopping down a tree on protected land. You will earn both a fine and public embarrassment via the press. Don’t be like Robert Blythe, whose quest for a pine in Vaughan was rewarded with a $63 penalty and a blurb on the front page of the Globe and Mail in December 1957.

This season, chop your tree wisely.

Additional material from the December 17, 1957, edition of the Globe and Mail, and the December 9, 1905, December 6, 1924, November 26, 1977, December 11, 1977, and December 7, 1978, editions of the Toronto Star.



Toronto Star, December 6, 1924.


Toronto Star, December 7, 1978.


Don Mills Mirror, December 8, 1971.