Goodbye 1919, Hello 1920

world 1920-01-01 cartoon

Toronto World, January 1, 1920.

“Toronto folk, old, young, and middle-aged, will celebrate this New Year’s Eve as they never have before,” the Star predicted on its December 31, 1919 front page. Noting that, with most veterans home from the aftermath of the First World War, it was the first true peacetime New Year’s Eve, “so that money and time have been cast to the winds and they are going at it with feathers flying and goodwill bubbling over.”

“People in Toronto want a wholesome good time tonight if they never had it before or never expect to again, and I am going to do all in my power to give it to them,” King Edward Hotel manager George O’Neil told the Star. He expected 1,500 partiers to ring in the new year. Revelers at the Balmy Beach Club witnessed an eight-year-old girl dressed as 1920 driving “Father Time across the ballroom and out of the door, then come back herself and give an exhibition toe dance.”

me 1920-01-02 new year opened in staid manner

Mail and Empire, January 2, 1920.

The Mail and Empire also covered the happenings in the city on New Year’s Day.

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Cartoon by Fontaine Fox. Mail and Empire, January 1, 1920.

The Globe’s year-end editorial focused on the “Week of Prayer” organized by the World’s Evangelical Alliance, as well as some sort of prayers suggested by “The Great Commission Prayer League of Chicago.” One sensed the rambling piece about the power of prayer had the deep religious convictions of Globe publisher William Gladstone Jaffray, a man who some employees believed gave more to his church than them. As the piece concluded, “the new year will prove one of unspeakable blessing to every life if not a day is permitted to pass without going aside with God for solitary prayer.”

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The Globe, January 1, 1920.

The New Year’s Day Globe editorial contemplated an issue still plaguing us a century later, widening economic disparity. The third and fifth paragraphs feel especially relevant.

globe 1919-12-31 editorials on new year and municipal elections

The Globe, December 31, 1919.

The Globe also suggested voters casting their ballots in the municipal election on New Year’s Day should re-elect mayor Tommy Church based on his support for the city’s takeover of the privately-operated Toronto Railway Company streetcar system (a goal finished with the establishment of the TTC in 1921). The paper gave other reasons why to deny pugnacious city councillor Sam McBride the mayor’s chair.

tely 1919-12-31 ridiculous headline

The Telegram, December 31, 1919.

The Globe’s dislike of McBride was muted compared to the Telegram’s. As with many positions held by the Tely during the long editorship of Black Jack Robinson, its hatred of McBride bordered on the pathological. Given the Tely’s fierce support for Tommy Church in general and Adam Beck’s plans for the expansion of the provincially-owned hydro system and electric interurban railways, and its suspicion that McBride supported private ownership of both, its election headlines were, like the one above, were ridiculous. It may not have helped Robinson’s mood that Beck was seriously ill with pneumonia during the campaign.

tely 1919-12-31 page 16 anti-mcbride cartoon

Cartoon by George Shields, The Telegram, December 31, 1919.

During a December 29 speech at the Central YMCA, McBride observed that since the death of Telegram founder John Ross Robertson the previous year, the paper had “changed and has become as different as night from day. If the old gentleman were alive and could see the amount of ink and paper that is being used to revile honest public men he would turn over in his grave.” Cue an outpouring of vitriol on the paper’s New Year’s Eve editorial page two days later which declared Robertson’s regrets over supporting continued private ownership of the streetcars when the TRC won its contract in 1891, and his support for Beck and Church.

me 1919-12-31 council endorsements mcaree on 1919'

Mail and Empire, December 31, 1919.

The Mail and Empire took a more balanced position, declaring in its New Year’s Eve editorial that a mayor who combined the strengths of Church and McBride “would be nearly as possible a perfect Chief Magistrate.”

star 1919-12-31 front page

Toronto Star, December 31, 1919.

The Star favoured McBride, as evidenced in this front-page endorsement, and scattered as many pro-McBride articles in its pages as the Tely had blasting him, depicting him as a defender of public ownership despite occasional disagreements with proposed radial railway plans.

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Toronto Star, January 1, 1920.

Ultimately, the 1920 municipal election is remembered not for its mayoral contest (which Church won), but the results in Ward 3’s aldermanic race, where Constance Hamilton became the first woman elected to city council in Toronto and Ontario. But that’s a story for another day…

As editors were so wrapped up in the municipal election, apart from the Globe there was less reflection on Toronto’s editorial pages on what had been an eventful year around the world. Maybe they felt events like the Paris Peace Conference, the Winnipeg General Strike, and the election of the UFO government in Ontario had seen enough type. Maybe they were weary of the strife which dominated the headlines.

But there were plenty of reflections elsewhere. Here is a sampling of cartoons and comment from across Canada and the United States.

Canada

kdt 1919-12-31 front page cartoon

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Kitchener Daily Telegraph, December 31, 1919.

 

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The Albertan, December 31, 1919.

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Sherbrooke Record, December 31, 1919.

United States

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Brooklyn Eagle, January 2, 1920.

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New York Herald, January 2, 1920.

Figures depicted in this roundup of the year include Lady Nancy Astor (the first sitting female British MP), Mexican president Venustiano Carranza (who would be assassinated in 1920), American army general John J. Pershing, Emma Goldman (who was deported along with 248 other radicals), the Prince of Wales (who stopped in the US after his Canadian tour). I’m guessing the “Palmer” cowboy with the long lasso is US attorney-general A. Mitchell Palmer, who was notorious for his anti-radical Palmer Raids. The “King and Queen” visiting Uncle Sam might be Albert I and Elisabeth of Belgium, who paid their respects at Theodore Roosevelt’s grave that year.

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New York World, December 31, 1919.

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Omaha Bee, December 31, 1919.

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Pittsburgh Press, December 31, 1919.

This cartoon appeared in numerous papers on both sides of the border.

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Pittsburgh Press, December 31, 1919.

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Seattle Star, January 1, 1920.

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Washington Star, December 31, 1919.

washington star 1920-01-01 front page cartoon

Washington Star, January 1, 1920.

A Collection of Editorials About the 1919 Toronto General Strike

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Before diving into this post, check out my article for TVO about the 1919 Toronto General Strike.

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Toronto World, May 22, 1919.

Mayor Tommy Church, who held numerous meetings with employers and labour in the lead up to the strike. The messsage on the wall refers to the Labor Temple at 167 Church Street, where many of the organizational meetings for the strike were held.

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Toronto Star, May 23, 1919.

A major Star editorial on the Winnipeg General Strike and the battle between employers and labour, which treats the disputes as labour disputes, not a rise in Bolshevism.

The Star‘s competitors, especially the Telegram and the Times, saw this editorial and others the paper published at this time as an opportunity to attack and ridicule.

tely 1919-05-23 criticism of star coverage of wgs

Evening Telegram, May 23, 1919.

This editorial refers to an old timey tune, which you can hear a 1926 recording of via the Internet Archive.

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Cartoon by George Shields, Evening Telegram, May 27, 1919.

Star publisher Joseph Atkinson is standing in the doorway. Not entirely sure who the other two men are supposed to be, though I’m guessing one is socialist activist and future Toronto mayor Jimmie Simpson (another favourite target of the Tely).

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Toronto Times, May 23, 1919.

This is one of the few opportunities for me to browse the Toronto Times, the short-lived final incarnation of the Toronto News. Debuting on March 27, 1919, it was a Conservative daily in a market filled with several shades of Conservative dailies. Its death in September 1919 demonstrated the city could no longer support six papers.

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Front page cartoon, Toronto Times, May 31, 1919.

The Times didn’t like Atkinson either, and also referred to the dog song.

times 1919-05-27 editorials on strike and rent profiteering

Toronto Times, May 27, 1919.

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Evening Telegram, May 28, 1919.

As the deadline for the general strike loomed, Telegram editor John “Black Jack” Robinson started getting shouty.

Feel free to debate Robinson’s contention that “Toronto is a community of citizens, not of classes,” especially in 1919-era Toronto.

tely 1919-05-29 drifitng to calamity editorial

Evening Telegram, May 29, 1919.

me 1919-05-28 sober men want more editorial

Mail and Empire, May 28, 1919.

There were numerous theories floating around editorial pages as to why labourers were so upset in Toronto and across the country. This one uses an unnamed source claiming prohibition was making workers smarter now that their access to booze was (theoretically) restricted.

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Toronto World, May 28, 1919.

 

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Toronto Star, May 29, 1919.

And now, a word from our sponsors…

star 1919-05-28 lawrence bread ad about strikes

Toronto Star, May 28, 1919.

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Cartoon by George Shields, Evening Telegram, May 30, 1919.

 

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Toronto Times, May 30, 1919.

times 1919-05-30 woman's page jewish girls among strikers

Toronto Times, May 30, 1919.

In all of the papers, the only women’s page to offer strike coverage was the Times‘. This piece about garment workers makes special note of their dress and religion in ways that feel off in a modern context.

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Toronto Star, June 2, 1919.

The Star‘s attempt to refute claims that “Europeans” were leading the strike effort…

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Toronto Times, June 2, 1919.

…while the Times continues its fearmongering tactics.

The “men we blame” were Jimmie Simpson (labour activist, future Toronto mayor, and whom the park and rec centre on Queen Street are named after), Reverend Salem Bland (a Methodist minister who preached Social Gospel, later became a Star columnist, and was the subject of a portrait by Lawren Harris), and William Ivens (editor of the daily workers bulletin during the Winnipeg General Strike).

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Toronto World, June 3, 1919.

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Globe, June 3, 1919.

This editorial, and the next one, revolve around the roundup of 12 suspected subversives, and federal legislation that would deport anyone (especially those “Europeans”) arrested for Bolshevist tendencies.

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Mail and Empire, June 3, 1919.

times 1919-06-03 editorial

Toronto Times, June 3, 1919.

And now a pair of pieces celebrating the strike’s end. The Metal Trades Council remained on strike for another month.

times 1919-06-04 editorial on strike being beaten

Toronto Times, June 4, 1919.

globe 1919-06-04 editorial

Globe, June 4, 1919.

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Toronto World, June 5, 1919.