Originally published on Torontoist on November 11, 2011.
War is costly. In addition to the horrifying human toll, conflicts rack up a financial bill that needs to be paid one way or another. As the First World War neared its end in the fall of 1918, Torontonians and fellow Canadians were urged to perform their patriotic duty during Canada’s second Victory Loan campaign (and fifth wartime fundraiser) to vanquish Kaiser Wilhelm II and his evil Huns and help smooth the transition to peacetime.
The local campaign was launched in Queen’s Park on October 27, 1918. The Sunday afternoon crowd, which was estimated at between 25,000 and 35,000, heard pitches delivered by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, Ontario Premier Sir William Hearst, and other officials. Out of the $500-million national fundraising target, Torontonians were given a goal of $80 million. According to federal President of the Privy Council Newton Rowell, “The Victory Loan affords the Canadian people an opportunity to show their appreciation of the great and unselfish service of our army during recent months, and their faith in the cause for which that army is so valiantly fighting; an opportunity to demonstrate to Germany and the world that Canada is in this war until Prussian military autocracy is completely overthrown and liberty and peace are assured to the freedom-loving people of the world.” To anyone having doubts about purchasing a bond, Borden reassured the crowd that they were “not asked to give. You are asked to lend, but to lend upon the security of your country and the world doesn’t offer any better today than the security which is given by this fair land of Canada.”
“Lend” was the buzzword of the campaign during its early days, and it was placed on banners adorning buildings, fire wagons, and streetcars. A sign placed in front of City Hall tracked Toronto’s progress in reaching its assigned goal. The city was divided into five districts to which 380 salesmen were dispatched to sell the bonds. As you will see in the gallery of Victory Bond advertisements, there was no soft-pedalling when it came to pushing the public to purchase—if you didn’t shell out for a bond, you shirked your duty to the British Empire and disrespected the bravery and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers. Daily updates in Toronto’s six daily newspapers urged readers to purchase more bonds not only to aid the cause but to beat Montreal in the race to win a flag awarded by the Governor-General to the city that sold the most.
The end of the war on November 11, 1918, gave the campaign a final boost. A Victory Loan parade scheduled for that afternoon turned into a mass celebration of the end of four years of conflict (and an event we will cover in tomorrow’s Historicist column). Images of the Kaiser disappeared from advertising as the focus switched to aiding soldiers who would soon be home and remembering those who wouldn’t return. When the numbers were tallied up after the last bond was sold on November 16, government officials smiled. Nearly $145 million worth of bonds were sold in Toronto, which beat Montreal by just over $1 million.
Additional material from the October 28, 1918 edition of the Globe.
I’ve added to the gallery several ads that didn’t make the original final cut.
Here’s what one of the Victory Loan flags looked like, as it was being placed on display prior to the opening of the Peel 150 exhibit at PAMA in Brampton in 2017. It is believed that this flag was awarded to Chinguacousy Township (present-day Brampton and a portion of Caledon).
Brampton Conservator, November 14, 1918.
Among the discoveries I made while researching the Victory Loan drives in Peel County was a series of limericks published in the Brampton Conservator on November 7, 1918.
In Caledon lived a wise man.
For the future he mapped out this plan:
I’ll provide for old age–
I’ll save at this stage;
I’ll take all the bonds that I can.
A young lady who lives in the Gore
Was anxious in riches to soar.
She took all her funds
And put them in bonds,
Then borrowed to purchase some more.
There was a young man in Port Credit–
Saving with him was a habit–
Having gathered much coin
Which he wanted to loan,
He bought Victory Bonds to the limit.