The Water Nymph Club (Part One)

 

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Preview ad, The Telegram, July 14, 1923.

While it’s hard to say if swimming develops grace and charm, it’s true that Torontonians love to hit their local beaches and pools. The arrival of the high swim season provides an excuse to explore a syndicated series of tips directed towards women that were published (mostly) on the Telegram‘s comics page during the summer of 1923.

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The Telegram, July 16, 1923.

Are your scissors handy? Good. Let’s begin with a guide to proper gear (this was still the era of Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties), and some background on the author of this series.

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The Telegram, July 17, 1923.

The Water Nymph Club’s roots appear to be Midwestern. Merze Marvin Seeberger (1887-1973) entered journalism in her late teens, assisting her father at the Sentinel-Post in Shenandoah, Iowa. In 1911 she published a book, The McCauslands of Donaghanie and allied families, which is available on the Internet Archive. According to several genealogical sites, she spent a year-and-a-half working as a stenographer for the state auditor in Des Moines, and graduated from the University of Missouri.

By 1918, she worked in the advertising department of the Des Moines Register-Tribune and belonged to Theta Sigma Phi, a society for female journalists which later evolved into the Association for Women in Communications. At TSP’s first convention, held at the University of Kansas that year, she spoke about the need for female journalism instructors.

One-third of the students enrolled in schools and departments of journalism today are women. The percentage is steadily increasing, just as the number of women employed on our newspapers is increasing…The schools boast of their progress, their up-to-datedness…Are they now to fall behind, to fail to keep up with the newspapers in giving women their opportunity? I think not. Before another Theta Sigma Phi convention the woman instructor in journalsim will have come into her own.

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The Telegram, July 18, 1923.

Based on a filing with the Library of Congress, the Water Nymph Club series first appeared in the Des Moines Evening Tribune on July 2, 1923, running for 32 installments through August 8. Scanning the web shows it appeared in various newspapers across the midwest that summer.

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The Telegram, July 19, 1923.

The series may have circulated for several years, as it  (or a similar column) appears to have been published in the Washington Evening Star two years later.

 

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The Telegram, July 20, 1923.

The introductory ad for the series appeared on “The Girls Own Tely” page, which was billed as “Sports, Interests, and Activities of Girls, By Girls and For Girls.” Besides this page, the Saturday Telegram carried similar spreads for boys and young children. The features on July 14, 1923 included:

  • “Boys Best at Mathematics? Popular View May Be Wrong”: A piece attempting to debunk the belief of many Toronto high school teachers that males were better at math. The uncredited writer points to statements given by E.F. Phipps, headmistress of a girls school in Swansea, England, in reaction to recent exams at Oxford University where male math scores were higher. Phipps pointed out four reasons for this seeming inequality: lower school attendance by females; less time devoted to mathematics compared to domestic sciences; exam questions using examples more familiar to males than females, such as “cricket and racing;” and males had better qualified teachers. “I think you will find,” Phipps concluded, “that where the above-named disabilities have not been present girls have done as well as boys in arithmetic.”
  • Highlights of Inter-Church Baseball League play (Toronto was the “City of Churches”…)
  • A picture of the staff of the Harbord Collegiate Review, which had published its first edition in over a decade.
  • A story about the misadventures of several girls from The Beaches attempting to return home from a day on the Toronto Islands, foiled by rain, a slow freight train, and the TTC (see below).

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  • “In the World of Books,” where the uncredited writer reminisced about childhood favourites like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Beatrix Potter, and Tanglewood Tales. Their present taste in literature included classics by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde.

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The Telegram, July 21, 1923.

In the next installment, another week’s worth of lessons, and stories of swimming in 1920s Toronto.

Additional material from Women’s Press Organizations, 1881-1999, Elizabeth V. Burt, editor (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000) and DC Sports: The Nation’s Capital at Play,
Chris Elzey and David K. Wiggins, editors (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2015).

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Shaping Toronto: Union Station

Originally published on Torontoist on January 15, 2016.

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Union Station under construction, August 1, 1917. Photo by John Boyd Sr. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 14352.

Pierre Berton called it “the soul and heartbeat of Toronto.” Over its history, Union Station has welcomed new arrivals to Canada, bid farewell to soldiers going off to war, hosted nobility, and endured cranky commuters. The City’s government management committee’s approval earlier this month of a proposal to develop space under the Great Hall for a culinary market and cultural event space is the latest step in the long evolution of our main downtown transportation hub.

Toronto entered the railway age in 1853, when a train departed a shed on Front Street for Aurora. Five years later the first incarnation of Union Station (so named because it was used by multiple railways) opened on the south side of Station Street between Simcoe and York. A shed-like structure, it couldn’t cope with the rapid increase in rail traffic, which prompted railways to build new stations elsewhere.

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Canadian Illustrated News, August 2, 1873.

The Grand Trunk Railway decided a new main station was needed. Built on the site of the original station, the second Union Station debuted on July 1, 1873. The opening ceremony was a muted affair due to the untimely death two months earlier of contractor John Shedden, but the new station was nicely decorated with evergreens for the occasion. Designed by E.P. Hanneford, the new Union was a grand building inspired by English railway stations of the previous decade, and was graced with three towers. Facing the harbour, it helped shape the city’s mid-Victorian skyline.

Like its predecessor, Union #2 couldn’t cope with the demands of a booming city. Facility improvements, including an 1894 expansion which blocked the original façade from view, barely alleviated the station’s woes. “The general consensus of opinion,” Railway and Shipping World reported in 1899, “is that the Toronto Union is one of the most inconvenient stations in America, expensive to run and unsatisfactory in very many respects.”

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The second Union Station, June 15, 1927. City of Toronto Archives Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 79, Item 236.

A catastrophe provided an opportunity to remedy the situation. The Great of Fire of 1904 wiped out nearly all of the buildings east of the station along Front Street, leaving room for a new facility amid the rubble. Within a year plans were underway for Union’s third incarnation, along with a railway viaduct to reduce the injuries and fatalities piling up at level crossings. While Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk formed Toronto Terminals Railway in 1906 to run the new station, two decades would pass before it opened for service.

Over that time, governments, property owners, and railways squabbled over everything, especially track placement. While construction began in fall 1914, the combination of quarrels and First World War material shortages delayed completion of much of the station until 1921. It stood empty for six years, part of the great Toronto tradition of stalled projects like the Bayview Ghost and the Spadina Ditch.

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Row of ticket offices at Union Station, during the period it was unused, June 13, 1923. City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 908.

The delays became such a joke that when the new station received a royal opening on August 6, 1927, the Globe joked that “it took Edward, Prince of Wales just eight and one-half minutes on Saturday morning to accomplish what all of Toronto has been trying to do for the last six years.” When regular service launched four days later, the press gushed about improved passenger amenities and safety. Among the modern conveniences were a lunch counter, large dining room, full telegraph and telephone facilties, barber shop, beauty parlours, and, as the Globe noted, “individual bathrooms containing the most sanitary appliances.” Lingering viaduct work delayed Union’s final completion until 1930.

Stylistically, the new Union benefitted from its Beaux Arts design, especially in illuminating the Great Hall. In their survey of the city’s architectural history Toronto Observed, William Dendy and William Kilbourn praised main architect John M. Lyle’s work with natural light, which “gives the Hall its special character as light floods in through windows set high above the cornice on the south and north sides, and especially through the four-storey-high windows framed by vaulted arches at the east and west ends.”

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The second incarnation of Union Station was also a major transfer spot for the military during the First World War. Here, the 48th Highlanders are returning from Europe in 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 823.

During the Second World War, Union was an important military transfer point. Morley Callaghan described for Maclean’s how a soldier on leave could enjoy Union’s creature comforts, especially while killing time before a hot date:

If someone important is waiting, not there in the station but up in the city, and the date is a few hours off, the soldier can wait there in the station and enjoy all the comforts of a hotel. He can go into the drug store and buy himself a bottle of eau de cologne, if he wants to smell like a rose, and then go downstairs and take a bath. Then he can come up to the barber shop and be freshly shaved. If he is hungry he can go to the main dining room, if he has the money, or he can go to the coffee shop or the soda fountain. He’s not just in a depot, he’s in a communal centre.

After the war, Union’s amenities were among the first tastes of Canada thousands of immigrants enjoyed.

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Toronto Calendar, December 1971.

As intercity train travel waned during the 1960s, and plans for the redevelopment of the railway lands emerged, it looked like a fourth incarnation of Union might emerge. The destruction of Pennsylvania Station in New York City in 1963 to make way for a new Madison Square Garden and a nondescript new train terminal was echoed when the Metro Centre proposal emerged in 1968. Had it proceeded, office towers would have replaced the Great Hall, while train service (including the recently launched GO) would have moved south into a primarily underground structure. Proponents argued that, as with its earlier incarnations, Union could not be expanded to handle projected passenger growth.

By the time local councils approved Metro Centre in 1970, the project faced public outcry over Union’s death sentence. Grassroots preservationist groups, having witnessed heritage demolitions galore over the previous decade, were buoyed by fights over the Spadina Expressway and Trefann Court, as well as the rescue of Old City Hall. “Union Station became a rallying point for those who might not have otherwise become involved in the issue of planning downtown,” John Sewell observed years later. “That planners and city council would be so cavalier about this structure was something that raised the ire of many—to such an extent that the Ontario Municipal Board refused to approve council’s decisions implementing the scheme.”

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Cartoon by Andy Donato, Toronto Sun, July 21, 1974.

With the election of David Crombie and a reform-minded council in 1972, Metro Centre’s days were numbered. Though elements like the CN Tower went ahead, the province killed any notion of demolishing Union when it announced expansion and renovation plans for the station in 1975. Work was carried on as the station’s function continued to evolve into primarily serving GTA commuters.

In recent years, Union has been a construction site, as years of squabbling over how to revamp the facility are finally showing results. GO’s new York Concourse opened in April 2015, while work on the Bay Concourse (last renovated in 1979) is scheduled to finish in 2017. The subway station gained another platform. An outdoor market proved popular this past summer. One can argue that the station will continue to be the city’s pulse for decades to come.

Additional material from The Open Gate: Toronto Union Station, Richard Bébout, editor (Toronto: Peter Martin Associates, 1972); Toronto’s Railway Heritage by Derek Boles (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2009); Lost Toronto by William Dendy (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1993); Toronto Observed by William Dendy and William Kilbourn (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1986); The Shape of the City by John Sewell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993); the July 2, 1873, August 8, 1927, and August 11, 1927 editions of the Globe; the March 15, 1943 edition of Maclean’s; and the May 28, 1975 edition of the Toronto Star.

Shaping Toronto: The Old City Hall Cenotaph

Originally published on Torontoist on November 11, 2015.

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When this photo appeared in the November 12, 1925 edition of the Globe, the caption read: “The picture was taken by the Globe staff photographer shortly after the cenotaph had been unveiled by his Excellency, and before the hundreds of wreaths which now cover the base of the monument had been deposited in token of remembrance by the relatives and friends of the noble dead to whom the memorial is erected.” City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 6584.

Noon, November 11, 1925: Governor-General Lord Byng of Vimy removes a Union Jack flag to reveal the city’s permanent memorial to the soldiers sacrificed during the First World War. As he unveils the granite monument outside Old City Hall, he looks, according to the Star, “not into a sea of faces but a sea of poppies. Miraculously in a few hours the restricted area that does duty as Toronto’s place d’armes had been carpeted with the fragile scarlet blossoms that are more imperishable than brass and marble associated with the glory and tragedy of the greatest of world conflicts.”

As the cenotaph marks its 90th anniversary this Remembrance Day, it’s worth reflecting on the role such monuments play, and, especially in light of current debates on appropriate memorials, what some people have considered to be desecrations.

When a city council special committee contemplated permanent sites for a monument in 1924, its members felt that erecting it in front of Old City Hall would render it inconspicuous due to space limitations and the height of surrounding buildings. While they preferred replacing an old bandstand in Queen’s Park, veterans felt it should remain at Old City Hall, where annual ceremonies had been held since 1920.

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Three of the potential designs for the cenotaph. Toronto Star, October 27, 1924.

A design competition attracted 50 entrants. The $2,500 prize went to architects/First World War veterans William Ferguson and Thomas Canfield Pomphrey (the latter would work on the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant). The cornerstone of the granite cenotaph was laid with a silver trowel by Field Marshal Earl Haig on July 24, 1925. As the unveiling neared, city council ordered a change to the front wording from “To those who served” to a phrase specifically geared to those who fell in battle, “To our glorious dead.”

When city officials arrived at the cenotaph at 6 a.m. on November 11, 1925, they found two memorial wreaths had been left overnight: an anonymous assembly of chrysanthemums and one in memory of Private William Bird from his children. During the ceremony, only wreaths presented by Haig (who, unable to attend, drafted Byng as his stand-in) and the city were allowed to rest on the monument. Dozens of others, representing everything from orphanages to Belgian soldiers in town for the Royal Winter Fair, were banked around Old City Hall’s steps.

“It is true that there is nothing we can do which will add to the honour in which their memory is held,” Mayor Thomas Foster observed during his speech. “But in performing the ceremony arranged for this occasion we follow immemorial usage, and we inaugurate a memorial to the lasting honour of the men of this city who left their homes and the pursuits of peace and gave up their lives for their country.”

One addition was made almost immediately. Members of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Officers’ Association were upset that none of the seven battle names inscribed on the sides involved the Navy. Their suggestion of Zeebrugge was added to the rear.

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Macedonian parade, scene at cenotaph, September 1, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 17805.

The cenotaph quickly became the site of memorials by numerous groups honouring their war dead. Mohawk singer Os-ke-non-ton laid a five foot long “arrow of memory” in December 1925 to commemorate First Nations soldiers. The monument was an official stop during the annual July 12 Orange Parade. Few days went by where there wasn’t a fresh wreath lain upon it.

By the late 1940s, as the dates to another world war were inscribed into the cenotaph, some quarters felt the public wasn’t respectful enough. Letters to newspapers complained about workers resting on it for lunch or smoke breaks, drunks sleeping on it, and the occasional dice game at its base. Police placed “keep off” signs on the cenotaph, while some city councillors wanted to erect spikes to prevent anyone from leaning too close. Some of these efforts to turn the monument into an untouchable shrine echo current arguments on how displaying Christmas decorations too early offends the sanctity of remembering dead soldiers, even if they fought for the freedom to do such things.

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Toronto Star, October 29, 1956.

There’s also the question of whether the cenotaph should just honour the dead from the two world wars, or victims of battle in general. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a group representing 16 ethnicities laid a wreath during a 5,000 person march on October 27, 1956 to honour those killed during the uprising. The wreath was declared a desecration by the Civic Employees’ War Veterans’ Association (CEWVA), whose officials were angered that it represented citizens of a country which was our enemy during the world wars. CEWVA president Al Watson brought a letter to the Board of Control urging the city adopt stricter rules for who could use the cenotaph, preferably for the exclusive honour of Canadian and Allied troops. He didn’t face a receptive audience—controller Ford Brand noted that regardless of Hungary’s past allegiances, its citizens were currently fighting for democratic principles, then asked Watson “how can you distinguish just because of race?” Befitting his nickname of “Mayor of all the People,” Nathan Phillips declared that “the city hall is the centre of the city, a place where all citizens should be able to go express their sorrows.”

But this openness didn’t last long. Following a spat between Croatian and Yugoslavian groups over wreaths that may have honoured soldiers who died while allied to Nazi Germany, the Board of Control ruled in May 1957 that only dead Canadian military personnel would be officially commemorated at the memorial.

Who was considered appropriate to lead a Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph service arose in 2013, when there were calls for Mayor Rob Ford to skip the ceremony a week after admitting to smoking crack cocaine. “That he thinks he has the moral authority to deliver a remembrance address,” observed the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee, “is simply staggering.” Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly observed that it was important for the officeholder to show up regardless of their personal problems. Ford was booed as he took the stage.

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Cenotaph, City Hall, decorated with wreaths, Remembrance Day, view from southeast , November 11, 1925. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 41, Item 549.

But booing figures like our former mayor should not be the point of attending a ceremony at the cenotaph. Standing in front of the site should rise above petty concerns like who can or can’t be honoured there. It provides an opportunity to think about military conflict in general, both in terms of the dead and the grey areas which are always present. Don’t restrict your moment of contemplative silence to November 11.

Additional material from the November 11, 1925 and November 16, 1925 editions of the Globe; the July 24, 1947, September 25, 1947, November 1, 1956, and November 11, 2013 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the May 27, 1924, October 27, 1924, November 3, 1925, November 11, 1925, November 16, 1925, December 4, 1925, October 29, 1956, Ocrober 30, 1956, and November 1, 1956 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Party Nomination Battles, 1926 Edition

Originally published on Torontoist on August 5, 2015.

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Mail and Empire, September 14, 1926.

The 1926 federal election campaign was going to be long and ugly. It was precipitated by a constitutional crisis, two brief minority governments, and a customs scandal involving bribery and booze. The two main party leaders—Conservative Arthur Meighen and Liberal William Lyon Mackenzie King—were mortal enemies whose war began as student debaters at the University of Toronto. Lasting over two months, the campaign witnessed vicious accusations, excessive media partisanship, and all the wonderful sides of humanity elections bring out.

In Toronto, the ugliness manifested itself in several ridings where more than one Conservative candidate ran. The noisiest battle was in Toronto Northeast, which covered the old City of Toronto north of Bloor Street and east of Bathurst Street.

When the election was called at the beginning of July 1926, the Conservatives held every seat in Toronto and York County. Incumbents elected the previous year, such as rookie Toronto Northeast MP Richard Langton Baker, expected to be acclaimed at nomination meetings. The first sign of trouble for Baker’s coronation occurred during a July 27 Toronto Northeast Conservative Association (TNCA) meeting, when Lieutenant-Colonel Newton Manley Young’s name was suggested as a potential candidate during a motion to support Baker. Accusations flew between supporters of both men during the next few weeks over unfair tactics.

By the time the official nomination meeting was held at the Masonic Temple at Yonge and Davenport on August 17, a third candidate had emerged. Speaking last, Baker sensed something was amiss. He dropped a bombshell during the final sentence of his speech. Baker declared, “I will not submit my name to this convention, but I will submit my name again to those who voted for me last October, for I will be nominated and I will be elected again by the 20,877.”

Shouts ranging from “Atta boy” to “He’s a traitor” echoed through the hall. Young received the nomination, thanks to the support of local ward associations and women in the audience. Despite urging party unity and denying rumours he was really a Catholic with Liberal leanings, Young was booed off the stage. The same treatment greeted Young supporter John Currie after he criticized Baker.

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The Globe, August 18, 1926.

Baker immediately bought newspaper ad space stating his interpretation of what had transpired. He filed a protest with the Central Conservative Association of Toronto (CCAT), claiming that neither delegate who nominated Young lived in the riding. He officially launched his campaign a few days later in North Toronto at a TNCA meeting, where some members noted irregularities in the distribution of delegate cards and demanded the resignation of the TNCA’s president. Baker refused to “lie down and allow a steam roller to run backward and forward over him.” He also grumbled that while he had recently heard the concept of “British fair play” uttered 10 times in as many minutes, it wasn’t fair play to dump him for no reason.

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The Globe, August 24, 1926.

The CCAT ignored Baker’s complaints and reaffirmed Young’s candidacy. The ensuing advertising war (a melodrama played out in the gallery above) trumpeted each man’s Conservative qualifications and loyalties. Both insisted Prime Minister Meighen backed their candidacy, though it was claimed Baker only quoted the first half of a telegram from Meighen—the balance stressed party unity.

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The Globe, September 2, 1926.

Baker depicted the party establishment as downtown “bosses” akin to the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine which ran New York City for decades. He also ran splashy rallies, including one at St. Alban’s Square in the Annex that included bagpipers and a cornet player. Alternately, Baker was accused of having paid for 143 party memberships during the 1925 campaign, and of trying to convert the TNCA into his own political machine.

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The Telegram, September 11, 1926.

Newspaper editorials across the political spectrum frowned upon the antics in Toronto Northeast. On the Liberal side, the Globe felt the row was “wholly degrading, and must result in lowering the tone of politics.” The Star observed that the shaky Conservative nomination process “does something to explain the often extraordinary selection of candidates which the Conservatives make in a city that should be able to send half-a-dozen men of cabinet rank to Ottawa, but scarcely ever sends even one.” It suggested that the Ministry of Justice launch an inquiry. The Telegram backed Young for his military service and promises to support veterans’ issues. They went overboard denouncing Baker, painting him as a mere civilian who opposed the public ownership of hydro and provided the Liberals with a wedge to split the Conservative vote. The Telegram saw a vote for Baker as a vote for Mackenzie King, who was frequently depicted as a traitor preparing to sell Canada out to the Americans (while Meighen was the saviour of the British Empire).

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The Globe, September 13, 1926.

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The Globe, September 14, 1926.

As the ballots were counted on September 14, numbers from North Toronto gave Baker a comfortable lead. Around 9 p.m., the faces at Young’s headquarters brightened when they were notified 1,000 votes had been miscounted. The votes from the south end reversed the results, and Young defeated Baker by over 1,100 votes. The Liberals failed to benefit from the split, as the combined Baker-Young total outpaced the Grits by over 12,000 votes.

“My idea of things is to win without boasting, and lose with a smile,” Young told the Globe. When a Telegram reporter visited Baker’s headquarters around 11 p.m. to check if the losing candidate was around, a worker replied “no, but there are a lot of undertakers around here just now.” Baker’s later response lacked grace: “Apparently the people do not want cleaner politics,” he muttered. Reflecting upon the Conservatives’ national loss to the Liberals, Baker observed that “[i]f the same effort had been made by the machine to defeat the forces of Mackenzie King in the other Ontario risings as was expended in Toronto Northeast the Conservative majorities would have brought more honour to the party.”

Baker spent the next few years mending fences with the party establishment. In 1930, he wrested the nomination from Young, and won the riding as part of R.B. Bennett’s national sweep. Moving to the new riding of Eglinton in 1935, he remained an MP until 1940.

Additional material from the July 28, 1926, August 18, 1926, August 19, 1926, August 23, 1926, September 10, 1926, and September 15, 1926 editions of the Globe; the September 15, 1926 edition of the Mail and Empire; the August 20, 1926, August 21, 1926, September 9, 1926, September 10, 1926, and September 15, 1926 editions of the Toronto Star; and the September 9, 1926, September 11, 1926, September 13, 1926, and September 15, 1926 editions of the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Mail and Empire, September 7, 1926.

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Mail and Empire, September 8, 1926.

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Mail and Empire, September 11, 1926.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A&P

Originally published on Torontoist on July 22, 2015.

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The Globe, February 10, 1932.

At its peak, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was the largest retailer on the planet. By the end of the 1920s, the grocer boasted up to 16,000 stores across the United States, Ontario, and Quebec. As late as the early 1960s, A&P could boast about its dominant size. But over half a century of decline may have culminated this week when the 156-year-old grocer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time in five years, leaving 296 stores up for grabs.

Contemplate those numbers the next time you ponder the size of today’s retail giants.

A&P arrived in Toronto in April 1928, a year after opening its first Canadian stores in Montreal. Within two years, 100 small locations dotted the city. Profiling the new stores in September 1928, Canadian Grocer was impressed with A&P’s efforts:

These stores are a combination of groceries and meats, and are pretty well standardized although they are not always exactly the same. They are attractively laid out with meats down one side, groceries opposite, and usually a big display refrigerator at the rear. One of the fundamental principles of the company is to display as many goods as possible in each of their stores. They also make a point of price-ticketing everything so that the customer does not have to ask the price of any line on view. Dotted here and there along the floor and in front of counters are several wire display stands each containing one particular line of goods and usually at a special price. The meat display counter is refrigerated by pipes that are cooled by machinery in the basement. The counter is glass-topped. While the meats on display cannot be touched from the outside, the salesman back of the counter has ready access to them and can easily pick out any cut desired.

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Toronto Star, March 13, 1930.

Many locations were placed near existing Dominion stores. Several press accounts noted how Dominion’s owners had previously worked for A&P, a factor which may have heightened the grocers’ rivalry.

The company invested $175,000 to build a combination bakery/head office/warehouse complex at the northeast corner of Laughton Avenue and Connolly Street in the city’s west end. Opened in December 1929, the facility’s perks included banana-ripening rooms and a laundry for store uniforms. “One is at once impressed with the spaciousness, wide and sunny offices, and the ordered cleanliness of the storage rooms,” the Globe observed.

The following decade saw a few hiccups that caused executives to down more than a few cups of Eight O’Clock Coffee. In 1933, city councillor Sam McBride charged A&P with providing inferior goods to customers using relief vouchers issued during the depths of the Great Depression. While denying McBride’s charges, an A&P official admitted they wash imported carrots. Alongside competitors like Loblaws and Simpsons, A&P was charged in 1935 with short-weighing goods.

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Globe and Mail, July 29, 1966.

By the mid-1960s, A&P’s American operations were declining. An aging board of directors failed to adjust to a changing marketplace, especially the emergence of suburbia. Small, crummy stores reeked of fatigue and wilting produce. Instead of re-investing its profits, management heeded calls to increase already generous dividends. Yet the picture in Canada appeared rosier: its program of store modernization was a model for the rest of the chain. In 1966, 20 acres of land on Dundas Street east of Highway 27 (now Highway 427) in Etobicoke were purchased for a new head office/warehouse/store complex, a facility still used by Metro today. To build local customer loyalty, A&P undertook promotions such as distributing flyers in English and Italian to west-end neighbourhoods.

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The Telegram, August 7, 1952. The Dundas/Browns Line location mentioned in this ad was A&P’s largest Canadian store to date. Perks included a 300-space parking lot, and aisles wide enough to accommodate 500 shoppers in the store at a time.

While American operations contracted following A&P’s purchase by Germany’s Tengelmann Group in 1979, the Canadian division benefitted from the demise of two major rivals. When Conrad Black’s Argus Corporation broke up Dominion in 1985, A&P picked up its Ontario stores, retaining the brand for its GTA locations. Five years later, Miracle Food Mart was acquired from the remnants of Steinberg’s, though that banner was phased out following a lengthy strike in the mid-1990s.

As the 1990s ended, A&P Canada was the company’s only profitable division. This provoked rumours of a sell-off to infuse funds into the flailing American operations. Suitor speculations ranged from Sobeys to Walmart. Quebec-based Metro won out in July 2005, and within five years rebranded all remaining banners apart from Food Basics.

Additional material from The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson (New York: Hill and Wang, 2011); the September 28, 1928 and July-August 1998 editions of Canadian Grocer; the December 10, 1929, May 24, 1933, and March 27, 1935 editions of the Globe; and the July 17, 1952 and August 17, 1965 edition of the Globe and Mail.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, May 7, 1928.

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Toronto Star, January 16, 1930.

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The Globe, May 7, 1931.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Ramsay MacDonald

Originally published on Torontoist on May 27, 2015.

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The Telegram, October 11, 1929.

The train that pulled into Union Station around 6 p.m. on October 15, 1929 was eagerly anticipated. The station was decorated with flags, flowers, and plants to greet the world figure about to arrive. Railway workers ranging from baggage clerks to mechanics lined the platform eager to greet a man who had spent the past week in the United States negotiating terms of naval disarmament with president Herbert Hoover. When the visitor arrived, the workers waved their caps and tools. A shout arose: “Hurrah for MacDonald!”

British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald crossed the border that morning at Niagara Falls. En route to Toronto via a private Canadian National Railway train, MacDonald told the reporters aboard that his mission to promote global peace “cannot be measured in dramatic pronouncements.” He hoped to influence public opinion via methods such as radio addresses. Days before his arrival, the Telegram newspaper arranged the local broadcast on October 11 of a speech originating from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City. Hearing the speech in Toronto didn’t go smoothly; listeners in North Toronto experienced frequent interference, with MacDonald’s message of peace overwhelmed by a music program. When he was heard, MacDonald assured listeners that he would be happy to discuss with other countries disarmament ideas he and Hoover had devised. “There was nothing in address which could irritate an audience in Berlin or Paris,” a Telegram editorial observed. “The speaker seemed to be conscious that he was addressing the United States of Europe as well as the United States of America.”

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Excerpt from an advertisement for Simpsons department store, The Globe, October 16, 1929.

The speeches continued when he reached Toronto. His jam-packed schedule began with a drive from Union to a welcoming dinner at Government House, the lieutenant-governor’s residence which stood in present-day Chorley Park. The next morning began with a 10:30 a.m. address to the American Federation of Labor (AFL), whose 49th annual convention was being held at the recently opened Royal York Hotel. AFL officials hoped that MacDonald, the first Labour Party leader to serve as British PM, would inspire those attending to fight for a united American labour movement. Instead, MacDonald discussed the importance of preserving peace, as workers would bear the brunt of casualties in any future conflict:

In the next war, death will be dealt out not only on the battlefield, destruction will rise from the bottom of the sea, destruction will descend from the heavens themselves; destruction will meet your wives, your children, your own. The civilian population left miles and miles and miles away back from the front—destruction will meet those silently, and they will be touched by the mysterious breath of poison and in a mysterious way they will drop down in the middle of your streets and die.

MacDonald declared himself a missionary of peace, one who, especially regarding the United States, had “come over to try to close old chapters of historical suspicion.” A few hours later, he gave a similar address to a Canadian Club luncheon.

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Ramsay MacDonald and Ontario Premier Howard Ferguson at the University of Toronto, October 16, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 18413.

At 3 p.m., MacDonald was the star attraction of the hottest ticket in town. He joined a procession into Convocation Hall, where the University of Toronto awarded him an honorary doctorate of law. As MacDonald walked toward the venue, shouts of “Atta boy, Mac!” rose from spectators. Seats were scarce for the general public, as most had been claimed by university staff and students. Police blocked several groups of people from charging into the standing-room-only hall. During the ceremony, which was broadcast live on CFRB, chancellor Sir William Mulock jokingly called MacDonald “the university’s youngest graduate” and noted how the world’s hopes were pinned on him and Hoover. MacDonald used golf as a metaphor for the advice he dispensed to attendees:

My handicap isn’t one to lead any of you to envy me, but I know the rules of the game, and know the wise advice, offered again and again by professionals, ‘Don’t pull.’ Hit the ball squarely, quietly, leisurely and with confidence, because when you begin to press, you ‘pull.’

MacDonald spent the late afternoon greeting the public at a reception hosted by the provincial government back at the Royal York. Among those he shook hands with was a five-year-old boy named after him. Ramsay MacDonald Shepherd’s mother was born in the same Scottish town as the visiting leader, and his great-grandmother was the nurse present when the future PM was born. The reception went smoothly until the crowd, which was admitted in small groups, surged into the greeting area. Chaos was averted by five police officers who, the Star reported, “bobbed up and shooed back the swarming crowd with a skill and finish that was almost suggestive of Queen’s Park, only much more gentle.”

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The Telegram, October 16, 1929. The high number of broadcasts associated with MacDonald’s visit, including many speeches aired on CFRB, was an element local radio retailers couldn’t resist exploiting.

Last on the day’s agenda was a men-only dinner held at Government House, the lieutenant-governor’s residence which stood in present-day Chorley Park. This ruled out the presence of his daughter Ishbel, who had accompanied him on the trip and spent her time in Toronto addressing women’s groups on labour and social issues.

At midnight, MacDonald’s train rolled out of Union en route to Ottawa. Summing up MacDonald’s visit, the Globe observed that he must have realized “that no British Prime Minister could spend a restful day in Toronto, none less than a Premier giving immediate and particular thought to the possibilities and reactions of international association.” Unfortunately, the decade ahead would dash his dreams of preventing a global catastrophe on the scale of the First World War.

Additional material from the October 11, 1929, October 16, 1929, and October 17, 1929 editions of the Globe; the October 16, 1929 and October 17, 1929 editions of the Toronto Star; and the October 12, 1929 and October 16, 1929 editions of the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Ramsay MacDonald, Ishbel and Ramsay. - October 16, 1929

Ramsay MacDonald with daughter Ishbel MacDonald, October 16, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 18407.

Ramsay MacDonald, Ramsay and Sir William Mulock. - October 16, 1929

Ramsay MacDonald and Sir William Mulock, October 16, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 18411.

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The Telegram, October 16, 1929.

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The Telegram, October 17, 1929.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Brown Betty Tea Rooms

Originally published on Torontoist on January 7, 2015.

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The Globe, February 26, 1926.

During its formative period in the early 20th century, the Arts and Letters Club rented its first permanent space above the Brown Betty Tea Rooms, across from the King Edward Hotel on King Street East. When the restaurant was evicted around 1910 and forced to move one door east, club members contemplated drastic action to maintain a convenient food source. “This took away our means of support and compelled us to have trays fetched downstairs and up again from next door,” journalist Augustus Bridle recounted a decade later, “till one day the Secretary began to hammer the stairway wall with a view to having a hole punched through for better service—and before the hole could be made the landlord kicked us casually into the street.”

For over two decades, the Brown Betty Tea Rooms offered a comfortable space for Torontonians to meet, dine, and talk—and served as a meeting place for groups such as suffragettes, labour associations, political parties, arts clubs, and dancers.

Opened in February 1908 by three cousins who’d trained as nurses at prestigious schools such as Johns Hopkins, it grew from three small rooms and a tiny kitchen into a complex occupying three floors of 42 King Street East. From the start, its cozy decor and spacious surroundings attracted organizations such as the Heliconian Club, which was on the hunt for lecture space. Staff may have also appreciated the atmosphere—during 18th-anniversary celebrations in 1926, it was noted that many waitresses had worked there for more than a decade, while the chef had been there since day one.

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The Globe (left) January 22, 1924; (middle) March 1, 1924; (right) March 21, 1924.

A sketch of the Brown Betty was offered by the Canadian Jewish Review in 1925:

Whether we are conscious of it or not, it seems that we, most of us, possess the artistic sense which can here be gratified. Pleasant surroundings undoubtedly tend to promote that good digestion which should “wait on appetite.” Upstairs there is a “General” Room, and a room where mere man holds full sway, with more easy chairs and gas fires to minister to his comfort; and still another, the “Yellow Room” so that everyone may suit his passing whim. Visitors gravitate naturally toward the little tables set with Brown Betty ware, flower-decorated and tended by waitresses who move swiftly to and from the serving pantries and the kitchen where lies concealed the machinery of Brown Betty popularity.

Among its advertised pleasures was one frowned upon today: an afternoon smoke break for businessmen. “A fine lunch followed by an enjoyable smoke in our perfectly appointed smoking room,” boasted a 1924 advertisement. “Can you imagine a more refreshing interlude in the day’s business life?”

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The Globe, February 26, 1926.

The city’s literati held court at the Brown Betty. The Canadian Authors’ Association held its annual dinner there during the late 1920s, and the Toronto Writers Club booked a private room for its functions. Participants discussed questions of culture, taste, and professional development. During a 1924 Writers Club session, for example, American drama critic Clayton Hamilton offered the following not-altogether-startling advice to budding playwrights: “Nowadays a play is an immediate success or an immediate failure. There is no royal road to success. The play must be good. If not, neither public nor manager wants it.” At a 1928 dinner, Globe sportswriter Austin Cross urged Canadian writers to lighten up and embrace humour in their work. Press clippings reveal that attendees also engaged in discussions of other issues that remain relevant to writers today, including federal copyright law and new forms of journalism.

Fire struck the site twice. An April 1927 blaze resulted primarily in damage to a top-floor kitchen, but a second fire in January 1931 may have had long-term consequences—from that point on, references to Miss Brown Betty and the tea rooms vanished from the local media.

Additional material from the September 11, 1925 edition of the Canadian Jewish Review; the May 28, 1924, December 6, 1924, February 26, 1926, and May 28, 1928 editions of the Globe; and the December 1919 edition of The Lamps.