A Crash Course on Toronto’s Black Tuesday

Originally published on Torontoist on August 12, 2011.

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Bay Street, looking south from City Hall in 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7010.

Given the recent turmoil in markets both international and domestic, it seems like a good time to look back at our city’s history for tips on how to handle a stock market crash. One story goes that, following the harrowing experience of trading shares on Black Tuesday in 1929, a Toronto investor arrived home with news for his wife. He told her that due to the heavy losses he incurred that day he resigned from six of the seven clubs to which they belonged, sold their second car, advertised that their garage was for rent, and cancelled nearly all of their charge accounts. He promptly fired the maid and went to sleep. As Doug Fetherling asked at the end of this tale in his book Gold Diggers of 1929, “What else was a gentleman to do?”

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The Telegram, October 29, 1929.

This investor reacted as extremely as anyone else who found their financial worth diminished after the markets closed on October 29, 1929. Contrary to stereotypical images, there weren’t any bodies to scrape off the sidewalks of the Financial District in the immediate aftermath of the crash, no Canadian banks collapsed, and newspaper headlines weren’t doom-filled predictions like current headlines about the global financial mess. Indeed, Toronto papers were equally or more concerned with the provincial election held on October 30, which Premier G. Howard Ferguson’s Conservatives won by a landslide.

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Cartoon depicting Ontario Premier G. Howard Ferguson’s electoral victory and a stock ticker. Illustration by Harold S. Johnston. The Mail and Empire, November 1, 1929.

“In the heady days of 1929,” noted Fetherling, “ordinary folks discussed playing the market the same way people in 1969 spoke of scoring dope; in elevators, on trains, and at parties they bored everyone silly with talk of their portfolios the way today people chatter about their RRSPs.” People were taken by magazine stories with inspiring accounts of those who built their fortunes by playing the stock market for six months.

At the time, Toronto was home to two trading temples: the reputable Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) on Bay Street and the corrupt Standard Stock and Mining Exchange (SSME) on Richmond Street. The latter was a hive of activity for scam artists who bilked investors through phoney mining operations, short-selling, and bucket shops, as well as shady characters who took advantage of the widows of deceased mining executives. Virtually non-existent securities regulations helped those who traded on the SSME lessen investor pockets to the tune of $100 million in the years leading to the crash. Immediately following the crash, the Financial Postpublished a 10-week series of exposés on the shady dealings at the SSME, which resulted in the arrest of 27 still-wealthy stockbrokers in early 1930. Regulations were tightened and the SSME was forced to merge with the TSE in 1934.

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Financial Post, November 7, 1929.

Though on the surface all appeared well for local investors in 1929, behind the scenes nervousness, such as warnings the Bank of Nova Scotia sent to its branches urging managers to watch out for over-speculation, took hold. The prelude to the crash came on October 24 (“Black Thursday”), when safe stocks like those of Loblaws, Massey-Harris, and the Steel Company of Canada tumbled amid rumours of total panic in New York. The following week began badly and, as Fetherling later recounted, some TSE traders had premonitions on October 28 that the worst was yet to come.

C.W. Stollery, a floor trader at the TSE, had been returning to his office late Monday afternoon when he met an acquaintance, Jack Meggeson, of Hickey, Meggeson and Company. They had exchanged pleasantries. “It was pretty bad today,” Stollery had said grimly. “Yes,” Meggeson had replied, “and it will be worse tomorrow.” For years to come the two men would recall this brief conversation not with pride in their clairvoyance but with amazement at the depth of their understatement. When the markets opened at ten Tuesday morning it was apparent that this was the crash. There was no up and down this time, no shoring up of prices. From the start there was little of anything but panic. This was the day that proved all the doom-sayers wrong. The doom-sayers had never been pessimistic enough.

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Mail and Empire, November 2, 1929.

Chaos ensued in the Financial District. Men fainted in brokerages. Switchboard operators at the daily newspapers couldn’t cope with the volume of calls from hysterical investors wanting the latest news (the Mail and Empire’s line shut down altogether). Trading volume was so high that wire clerks developed blisters from handwriting so many orders. Late into the night, limousines were seen in the vicinity of King and Bay dropping off people hoping to cover their margins. Some brokerages pulled a 24-hour shift, for which tired employees were rewarded with an extra week’s pay.

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Raising last stone to top of Canada Life Building, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 3182.

Despite the crash, some quarters remained optimistic; as industrial stocks recovered up to 70 per cent of their pre–Black Tuesday level by the weekend, the Star believed that “commerce has not been shaken; Canada’s outlook continues to be a promising one.” But as November 1929 wore on, the markets took further tumbles and the Great Depression began in earnest. A spate of towers that were underway at the time of the crash such as the Canada Life Building and Commerce Court were completed or modified, but few skyscraper projects still on the drawing board went forward. Proposed mergers of local businesses, like one between grocers Dominion and Loblaws, didn’t take place. What else were gentlemen to do but hang onto whatever money they had?

Additional material from Gold Diggers of 1929 by Doug Fetherling (Toronto: Macmillan, 1979), and the November 2, 1929 edition of the Toronto Star.

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Historical Holiday Hints: O Christmas Tree

Originally published on Torontoist on December 21, 2011.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, December 6, 1924.

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Toronto Star, December 7, 1978.

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Don Mills Mirror, December 8, 1971.

Ghosts of Christmases Past

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on December 25, 2010.

This holiday edition was, as the introduction noted, “a sampling of a century’s worth of Christmas advertisements, illustrations, pictures, and stories. Light up a Yule log (real or video), sit back and enjoy.”

For this edition, I’m not using the original gallery format, deleting some archival photos, and adding in some material that didn’t make the final cut. I am also merging in ads originally featured in a post for the 2014 holiday season.

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Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Globe, 1885. Library and Archives Canada.

In its Christmas Eve 1885 edition, the Globe reprinted the “Story of the Mistletoe” from Youth’s Companion. While much of the piece drones on about mistletoe’s role in Norse mythology and its use by Druids, it includes these nuggets about its contemporary sources and uses, in as non-romantic terms as possible.

It used to be brought over by friendly foreign steamers, but is now found in Virginia and in most of the Southern States, and is largely used for holiday decoration…The American mistletoe is not the genuine English article, although it strongly resembles it. The botanists have given it a new name, phoradendron, which signifies “a thief of a tree.” It is, however, a true parasite. The mistletoe is now so seldom found growing on the oak that when it is found there it is a great curiousity. It frequents apple trees chiefly, and is propagated by birds wiping their bills on the boughs and thus leaving some of the viscid pulp and seed, and if the bark happens to be cracked there it takes root.

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Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Globe, 1889. Library and Archives Canada.

Little does the turkey suspect that the young lady who visited each day with yummy treats was secretly fattening him up for her family’s holiday feast. Speaking of turkeys…

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The Globe, December 20, 1890. 

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The News, December 22, 1894.

If you couldn’t slaughter a turkey, you could always check out a “slaughter sale” of fine reading material.

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The News, December 22, 1885.

The News also provided “practical hints for the benefit of West End residents and others” as it named off a variety of Queen West merchants. Among the highlights: a free set of tableware with every purchase of a pound of tea at Laut Brothers (420 Queen West); a stock of nuts “not surpassed in the city” at Mara & Co. (280 Queen West); bargains among the jewellery and other goods damaged in a recent fire at J.I.S. Anderson (294 Queen West); and “beautiful villa sites overlooking High Park and Humber Bay” free of city taxes that went for one dollar per square foot at the real estate office of R. McDonnell at Queen and Gladstone.

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Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Mail and Empire, 1897. Library and Archives Canada.

Underneath the colour cover of this supplement was a collection of seasonal art, stories, and other diversions for the entire family.

20141224xmascardsThe Mail, June 27, 1881.

Even back in the Victorian Age, saving a buck on Christmas supplies like cards was as important as aesthetic considerations.

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The Empire, December 22, 1894.

An excerpt from the Empire’s Christmas Day 1894 editorial: “To the mind of the child this is the glorious season of the year when there is no cloud in the sky to dim the sunlight of pleasure in which infantile natures rejoice; but to the mature it is a period, apart from its spiritual associations, the delights of which are tempered by gravity and the joys of which are tinged with sadness, for as men grow memories gather. Looking back upon the Christmases of the past, who is there among us who does not feel that change and decay have wrought their mysteries as the years rolled on, taking here a friend and there a companion and leaving gaps in the ranks more significant and impressive at this time than at any other, so that even at the feast, and where rejoicing reigns, the heart stops for a moment that sorrow may supply its chastening touch.”

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Front page, the News, December 24, 1910. 

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Illustration by Lou Skuce, Toronto World, December 25, 1910.

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Toronto World, December 22, 1912.

From an editorial on holiday charity: “People are giving freely now, who keep their hearts and pockets closd ’till next Christmas. Why? There is need always as at Christmas time. It is simply that we are moved now by an unusual sentiment–an impulse to kindliness.”

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The News, December 23, 1914.

The Copland Brewing Company’s Toronto roots stretched back to 1830, when William Copland opened a brewery along Yonge Street shortly after arriving in Upper Canada. By 1914, most of its products were brewed at its plant on King Street between Ontario and Berkeley Streets. Bought by Labatt in 1946, the site was later occupied by the Toronto Sun.

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Toronto World, December 19, 1915.

An editorial note from the second holiday season of the First World War:

Above all, the call of Christmas is ‘Peace on Earth.’ In the present grievous crisis of the world there is significance in this call beyond that of any crisis mankind ever before was called to read. That war has darkened Christmas for so much of the world may well seem, at the moment, the crushing condemnation of all such conflicts.”

 

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Toronto World, December 19, 1915.

As the war staggered on over in Europe, World cartoonist Lou Skuce reminded readers of where the battlelines were usually located on Christmas Eve.

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Toronto World, December 25, 1916.

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Toronto World, December 25, 1918.

A pair of First World War-themed ads from Eaton’s.

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Mail and Empire, December 25, 1920.

With the shadow of the First World War fading, Eaton’s ad held the promise that life was returning to normal for its customers, and that Christmas was a time to rejoice in youthful spirit.

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The Telegram, December 19, 1923.

Given that the establishment of Sick Kids was a pet project of Telegram founder John Ross Robertson, the paper took every opportunity during the holiday season to solicit donations for the hospital. Heart-tugging stories to invoke contributions were printed in the Tely around Christmas, bearing headlines like “CHILD SWALLOWS LYE THROAT BADLY BURNED” (December 19, 1923).

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The Telegram, December 23, 1933.

A sample of a Sick Kids ad from a decade later.

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Toronto Star, December 24, 1924.

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Mail and Empire, December 25, 1930.

Simpsons centred its 1930 holiday ad around verse from poet Bliss Carman, who died the previous year.

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Mail and Empire, December 20, 1933.

Despite the effects of the Great Depression, the Mail and Empire urged its readers to light up the city at Christmas time. We doubt any displays inspired by this contest were accompanied by a menagerie of front yard inflatables.

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Mail and Empire, December 22, 1933. 

Years before teaching the world to sing, or employing polar bears as pitchmen, Coca-Cola offered an economical solution for holiday entertaining during the Great Depression.

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The Telegram, December 23, 1933.

 

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Weston Times and Guide, December 14, 1934.

The 1930s equivalent of the slightly naughty gift ads found decades later in alt-weeklies like eye and Now?

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Toronto Star, December 23, 1939.

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Weston Times and Guide, December 13, 1945.

Relieved that the Second World War no longer interfered in his annual delivery run, Santa relaxed a little in 1945. He found time to stop in Weston for a luscious roast bird. Note the slightly scary look in his eye, as if he’s daring the artist to take the plate away from him.

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The Telegram, December 23, 1950.

The poet of Toronto’s sports pages, Telegram columnist Ted Reeve, penned an ode to holiday shopping based on one of the big musical hits of that season, “The Thing“:

 

As we were walking north on Church, no Xmas shopping done,
We went into McTamney’s to maybe buy a gun.
The clerk behind the counter there let out a mighty roar:
“Get out of here with that shopping list and don’t come back no more.”

We hadn’t done our Christmas cards when reaching work today,
We asked the office girls if they would get them on the way.
They turned on us with a vicious yell as fierce as any blow:
“Get out of here with that shopping list and you know where to go.”

We’ll get to Kresge’s Christmas Eve and in a final dash
We’ll try to get the presents bought unless they want some cash.
The chances are the manager, while tearing up our cheque,
Will heave us out with our boom-boom-boom and land us on our neck

There’s only three more days to go, we haven’t bought the tree,
It is a most perplexing week, we think you’ll all agree.
And if we don’t get anything done we’ll just let Xmas pass
And take that terrible boom-boom-boom and hide it in the grass.

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Don Mills Mirror, December 8, 1960.

Either the caption writer was ordered to devise a happy sentence without seeing this picture, or somebody decided to play a cruel joke at the expense of the exhausted Santa at the Don Mills Centre. His arrival by helicopter in late November prompted ten thousand people to greet him at the shopping centre, doubling the number that greeted him the year before. Santa’s trip was delayed ten minutes due to fog and low-flying planes landing at Malton airport. Once the chopper landed, Santa hitched a ride on a fire engine, which took him to his seat at the centre of the complex. With over four-and-a-half thousand kids mounting his lap that day, no wonder Santa looks like he can’t wait to escape back to the comfort of the North Pole.

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Weston Times and Guide, December 22, 1960.

Wonder how many diners around that time hummed Marty Robbins’s 1959 smash hit about the west Texas town while eating their delicious young turkey dinner.

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Maclean’s, December 9, 1961.

From 1912 to 2006, Kodak’s Canadian division called Mount Dennis home. Its large campus near Eglinton Avenue West and Black Creek Drive is being redeveloped and will service the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Whenever that line begins service, perhaps someone who received a Kodak camera under the tree will be inspired by the site’s history to haul it out and shoot the opening ceremony.

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Weston Times-Advertiser, December 22, 1964.

Politicians love sending seasonal greetings, and Alan Eagleson was no exception. Before he achieved fame in the hockey world for forming the National Hockey League Players’ Association and infamy for his criminal actions regarding pensions and disability claims, Eagleson sat as a Progressive Conservative MPP for Lakeshore from 1963 to 1967.

 

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Willowdale Enterprise, December 8, 1965.

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Willowdale Enterprise, December 22, 1965.

Santa and the reindeer might have needed a map when a widened Highway 401 between Highway 400 and Hogg’s Hollow fully opened to to traffic on December 16, 1965. The expansion of the freeway from four to twelve lanes included the introduction of the express/collector lane system.

 

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Toronto Life, December 1966.

Toronto Life celebrated its first Christmas by asking Gordon Sinclair to describe how he really felt about the holiday? His verdict? Despite not being a fan of organized religion, Sinclair felt it was “the best and friendliest of all family celebrations when we are with kinfolk; the ones of our blood who accept us for what we are. Not what we should be, or could be, but what we are.” He also described Christmas was the worst day of the year to be alone, a situation he experienced while reporting from Shanghai in 1938. That day he wandered through clubs and pubs “looking for someone to feel sorry with” but found only a black eye (a present given by an American when Sinclair declined to have a drink with him) and a crying fit (after returning to his hotel to find “wish you were here” cablegrams from Canada). There was only one thing he would have changed about Christmas: “that stupid abbreviation, Xmas.”

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The Enterprise, December 20, 1967.

An excerpt from the Enterprise‘s December 13, 1967 holiday editorial, which criticized the trend toward war toys like G.I. Joe, which kids might have asked Miss Suzie for as they received a candy cane.

War toys are not going to make a killer out of a child, but they do instil an acceptance which lasts into adult life. In other words, war toys are a marvellous propaganda instrument…The only way to counteract war toy propaganda is for the consuer public to boycott any kind of violent toy–and encourage manufacturers to produce just as interesting toys who emphasis is not military.

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Globe and Mail, December 25, 1970.

A stylish seasonal ad from a fashionable Kingsway-area women’s clothier. Two weeks earlier, Lipton’s published a gift certificate order form in the Globe and Mail, positioning it as “great trim for any tree.”

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Toronto Life, December 1974.

While CHUM-FM offered a slender Santa for the holidays, its AM sibling distributed its usual CHUM Chart. Topping the Toronto hit list on December 21, 1974 was Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting.”

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Toronto Sun, December 16, 1975.

Unfortunately for eager carolers, the Sun-sponsored musical celebration of the season was cancelled due to the first blizzard of the season. High winds coupled with around 20 centimetres of snow resulted in a record number of help calls to the Ontario Motor League (now CAA), severe TTC service delays and the cancellation of a Toronto Marlboros hockey game. The storm did not deter holiday shoppers, as Simpsons reported a minor decrease in the usual last Saturday before Christmas crowd at their Queen Street flagship.

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The City, December 3, 1978.

Simpsons felt a little punny during the 1978 holiday season. It was a time of change for the retailer–Hudson’s Bay Company had launched a bid to acquire the department store chain in November, while shoppers at its Queen Street flagship would have seen the south end of the Eaton Centre near completion.

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Toronto Life, December 1985.

Because this article needs a touch of 1980s Christmas style.

Vintage Toronto Ads: An Automotive Knighthood

Originally published on Torontoist on May 25, 2010.

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Financial Post, March 13, 1930.

Not noted in the fine print for the Great Six coupe shown in today’s ad: whether the $2,675 price tag (which, according to the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator, would be around $33,250 in current currency) includes a replica suit of armour so your chauffeur can drive you through Toronto with that extra degree of regal bearing and social distinction.

Toledo, Ohio-based Willys-Overland began its Toronto manufacturing operations (which, depending on the source, were based on Weston Road, Yonge Street, or both) when it purchased the Russell Motor Car Company in 1916. The driver who wanted to enjoy the prestige of purchasing a new Willys-Knight had few opportunities after today’s ad appeared, as the deepening depression reduced the pool of buyers who could afford to travel like European royalty. Willys-Overland slid towards bankruptcy and, as part of its reorganization, chopped the Willys-Knight, several other lines, and its Canadian manufacturing arm by the end of 1933. Within a decade, the company developed the vehicle that became its enduring legacy: the Jeep.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Boosting Your Sox Appeal

Originally published on Torontoist on April 20, 2010.

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Toronto Star, July 6, 1928.

Today’s ad proves that, while technology has relegated men’s garters to an aesthetic fashion decision from their one-time general usage, a bad pun is timeless.

Manufacturer Albert Stein & Company, in numerous ads during the early part of the twentieth century, boasted that “no metal can touch you” when you wore their garters. Comfort was always stressed to attract dubious fellows like today’s sad case; an ad from 1910 noted that “the fit is snug without shutting off blood circulation or furrowing the flesh.” Paris Garters were also touted as a great Christmas gift, as a 1939 ad for a boxed set illustrated:

He doubly appreciates receiving Paris from YOU. First he prefers Paris for its style, its quality and its utility. Second, and this is very important—he’s proud you’ve chosen THE BEST for him…Remember, Paris is priced no higher than imitations, but is always higher in quality than in price.

We suspect that our careless friend might not have had enough “sox appeal” to be on the receiving end of a gift that could have altered his destiny. He sat in his chair for several hours and pondered if it was simply sock issues that were his obstacle to dominance in the business world. Nobody seemed put off by his halitosis or the clucking noise he made when nervous or stressed. After taking stock of his situation, and determining that only eighty-seven different emotions seized him at any one time, he decided to launch a manufacturing firm dedicated to eliminating the scourge of sock droop from lazy dressers like him.

Additional material from the May 1910 edition of The Fra and the December 11, 1939 edition of Life.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Take a Troche on Me

Originally published on Torontoist on January 5, 2010.

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The Atlantic, January 1924.

For some people, it wouldn’t be right to start off a new year without a cold or throat infection. Exposure to the mass of humanity flooding city streets and shopping venues over the holiday season often means more than good tidings are spread to you. Medicated lozenges have long been among the options for temporary throat relief, even if their effects are fleeting.

Brown’s Bronchial Troches had been marketed as a cure-all for the throat since 1850. From the start they were recommended for those who relied on their voice for their livelihood. An ad from 1864 noted that “public speakers and singers should use the troches. They are invaluable for allaying the hoarseness and irritation incident to vocal exertion, clearing and strengthening the voice. Military officers and soldiers, who over-tax the voice and are exposed to sudden change, should have them.” We wonder how handy the troches were in the heart of battle during the American Civil War (during that era, the company also produced Brown’s Vermifuge Comfits, which were designed to treat children with worms).

It’s hard to say if the troches helped the oral abilities of Canadian distributor Harold F. Ritchie, who was described by Time magazine as a “squeaky-voiced little man.” From his headquarters on McCaul Street near Queen, Ritchie ran a food and drug distribution empire that had offices around the globe. Early in his career he earned the nickname “Carload Ritchie” for the volume of orders he took during his early days as a salesman, a field he was inspired to go into after observing those who sold products to his family’s general store on Manitoulin Island. Among the other products in his portfolio were Bovril and Eno’s Fruit Salts.

Ritchie was a workaholic who often stayed up until the early morning hours to close a sale. Business was his obsession, to the detriment of his health. Accounts indicate that on business trips he paused only to bathe and change his clothes, rarely exercised, and ate only when it occurred to him to do so (and then tended to overindulge). He insisted on meeting clients in person and preferred to travel by automobile or plane so that he wouldn’t be tied down to train schedules. Though his death at the age of fifty-two in February 1933 was attributed to appendicitis, doctors felt Ritchie worked himself into an early grave. The company survived and, through name changes and mergers, is considered one of the ancestors of the Canadian branch of GlaxoSmithKline.

Additional material from The Presbyterian Historical Almanac for 1864 (Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson, 1864), the March 6, 1933 edition of Time, and the February 23, 1933 edition of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 3

Listerine Kills Germs and Body Odour

Originally published on Torontoist on July 21, 2009.

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Maclean’s, July 15, 1923.

If Listerine can freshen your breath and kill bacteria in the mouth, why can’t it do the same to the rest of your body? It’s safe!

Deodorants and antiperspirants were still in their early stages of evolution when Listerine made today’s pitch—the first commercial underarm deodorant, Mum, had arrived on the market in 1888, with the first antiperspirant, Everdry, following fifteen years later. After you read descriptions of the composition and application of early antiperspirants, Listerine’s claims begin to make sense. Early products were wet, clammy, aqueous alcoholic solutions of aluminum chloride that were poured onto a cotton ball before being dabbed on the body, a technique that Listerine’s model appears well acquainted with. Drying was a slow, sticky process that, once you got past the skin irritations and damaged clothing, reduced one’s stink.

Is That Landmark Sealed with Polysulfide?

Originally published on Torontoist on August 4, 2009.

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Canadian Architect, January 1985.

These three local towers were…

While searching for information regarding Morton Thiokol and polysulfides that didn’t involve deep scientific analysis of the chemical composition of the sealant used in these Toronto landmarks, we ran into an interesting tidbit from the current manufacturer: the sealant should have a “twenty-year service life under normal conditions.”

Makes you want to watch your head while passing by any of these structures, doesn’t it?

Why You Shouldn’t Steal a White Glove Girl

Originally published on Torontoist on September 1, 2009.

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Time, February 10, 1967.

Translation: the “temporary” relationship clause in a White Glove Girl’s contract refers to the amount of time she has remaining on this mortal plane. Until then, we’re happy to shuffle temps around from employer to employer, keeping our White Glove Girls under lock and key until the next call comes in. Sometimes we’ll let them out of the dunge…asset pool for a few minutes to take care of their “happy homemaker” duties. Anyone thinking of stealing one of our assets should be aware that we’ve spent years working on glove-tracing technology—we’ll know when you’ve stolen our assets!

A Toast to Good Hydro Services

Originally published on Torontoist on December 8, 2009.

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(Left) The Globe, November 1, 1929, (right) Toronto Star, November 19, 1936.

We’re not sure which of the images conjured up by today’s ads is more disturbing. Is it the trio of factory workers depicted in a manner usually reserved for nursery rhyme characters or World War I casualties? Or is it the deified toaster (whose cost, if translated into modern money, would start at around $228) trained to act with the utmost style and refinement for a classy late-dinner gathering?

Both ads are fine examples of the large quantity of newspaper advertising the Toronto Hydro Electric System bought during the 1920s and 1930s. Besides trained toasters, the utility’s retail arm offered customers technological marvels for the home such as electric ranges.