Vintage Toronto Ads: Ramsay MacDonald

Originally published on Torontoist on May 27, 2015.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.

tely 1929-10-16 front page

The Telegram, October 16, 1929.

tely 1929-10-17 front page u of t photo id

The Telegram, October 17, 1929.

Whacking Whitney While Keeping Drew Out

Originally published on Torontoist on October 5, 2011 with additional material mixed in.

Besides lawn signs and public meetings, newspaper advertisements have long been a preferred method for Ontario politicians to spread their message to the public. Whether it’s a simple promise to provide “good government” or a full platform requiring a magnifying glass to read, the press has offered a forum for candidates to make their case to voters as long as they paid for the ad. Today’s gallery shows the evolution of Ontario election ads from short notices in partisan papers to spots where the reproduction quality barely hides the lines of a candidate’s toupee (sorry Mel).



Richmond Hill Liberal, December 23, 1886.

Back in the 19th century, a candidate generally placed ads in publications slanted toward their political party. Such was the case with G.B. Smith, a Liberal endorsed by the Richmond Hill Liberal. It wouldn’t be a great shock to discover that the paper’s December 23, 1886 editorial portrayed him as “man whose every utterance is straight-forward and fair, for a man whose conduct is open and fearless, for a man whose character and abilities should commend themselves to all.” Voters in York East agreed—Smith represented the riding until 1894.

Results December 28, 1886:
Liberal (Oliver Mowat): 57 seats
Conservative (William Ralph Meredith): 32 seats
Other: 1 seat



Short , sweet, to the point. The voters fulfilled the Globe’s vow, as the Liberals won their eighth consecutive term in office and their first without longtime premier Oliver Mowat at the helm. Conservative leader James Pliny Whitney was whacked again in the 1902 election, then finally won the premiership in 1905.

Results March 1, 1898:
Liberal (Arthur Hardy): 51 seats
Conservative (James Pliny Whitney): 42 seats
Other: 1 seat



News, January 24, 1905.

Liberal candidate Hugh Blain claimed nasty things were afoot in North Toronto as the campaign drew to a close. A poster entitled “Will Hugh Blain Deny” that alleged the candidate took advantage of government subsidies for beet sugar was circulated by Conservative supporters of incumbent MPP Dr. Beattie Nesbitt. Attacks on the Grits were common during an election that saw the end of 34 years of Liberal government. Nesbitt won, but he resigned his seat a year later to accept an appointment as registrar of West Toronto.

Results January 25, 1905:
Conservative (James Pliny Whitney): 69 seats
Liberal (George William Ross): 28 seats
Other: 1 seat



The Globe, October 18, 1919.

The first postwar election was accompanied by a referendum on the prohibition of alcohol, which the province had enacted three years earlier. There were four questions regarding varying degrees of repeal, from dumping the Ontario Temperance Act altogether, to allowing beer to be sold through the government. Voting on each question ranged from 60 to 67 percent against bringing legal booze back.

Results October 20, 1919:
United Farmers of Ontario (no official leader): 44 seats
Liberal: (Hartley Dewart): 27 seats
Conservative (William Hearst): 25 seats
Labour (Walter Rollo): 11 seats
Other: 4 seats


star 1923-06-23 liberal and mrs groves election ads

Toronto Star, June 23, 1923.

Voters didn’t heed Groves’s ad, as she finished second in Toronto Northwest, with 20.9% of the ballots. Her candidacy was attacked by the Telegram for ‘grossly violating” laws which prohibited political activity in schools. Brock Avenue School principal D.W. Armstrong posted a note on a bulletin board urging staff to support Groves, who ran for the Progressive Party. Armstrong accepted all responsibility. “Mrs. Groves did not speak to me about it and in no way have I heard from her in connection with the campaign,” he told the Star. “If it was an error it was mine and I must take the consequences.” Groves she had not campaigned in any schools, but was aware of support from teachers.

Results June 25, 1923:
Conservative (Howard Ferguson): 75 seats
United Farmers of Ontario/Labour (E.C. Drury): 21 seats
Liberal (Wellington Hay): 14 seats
Other: 1 seat



Toronto Star, November 30, 1926.

Alcohol was the key issue of the 1926 campaign. Premier Howard Ferguson ‘s Conservatives proposed repealing the act to allow government sales, which led to ads like this one. Killjoy drys were overruled in this election: Ferguson won a majority and introduced the Liquor License Act in March 1927, which led to the birth of the LCBO.

Results December 1, 1926:
Conservative (Howard Ferguson): 72 seats
Liberal (W.E.N. Sinclair): 15 seats
Other: 12 seats
Progressive (William Raney): 10 seats
United Farmers of Ontario (Leslie Oke): 3 seats



The Enterprise, June 13, 1934.

Proof scare tactics can backfire on a party: Premier George Stewart Henry (whose name lives on in the North York neighbourhood named after his farm) saw his party’s fortunes collapse as the Conservatives dropped from 90 to 17 seats against the populist appeal of Mitch Hepburn’s Liberals.

Results June 19, 1934:
Liberal (Mitch Hepburn): 65 seats
Conservative (George Stewart Henry) 17 seats
Liberal-Progressive (Harry Nixon): 4 seats
Other: 4 seats



Globe and Mail, August 4, 1943.

Governor-generals have to start somewhere. Though unsuccessful in his 1943 campaign against future Toronto Mayor William Dennison, Roland Michener was elected to Queen’s Park two years later.


Toronto Star, August 3, 1943. 

Following its opposition to Canada’s entry into World War II, the Communist Party of Canada was officially banned in 1940. Despite this, candidates continued to run in federal and provincial elections. In Toronto, A.A. MacLeod (Bellwoods) and J.B. Salsberg (St. Andrew), who advertised themselves as “Labour” candidates, won their ridings. Shortly after the election, they agreed to sit as MPPs for the Communists’ new legal entity, the Labour-Progressive Party.

Results August 4, 1943:
Progressive Conservative (George Drew): 38 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 34 seats
Liberal (Harry Nixon): 15 seats
Labour-Progressive (no leader): 2 seats
Other: 1 seat



Toronto Star, June 2, 1945.

Building on the success of MacLeod and Salsberg in the 1943 election, the Labour-Progressive Party ran 31 candidates across the province, some of whom were allied with Mitch Hepburn’s Liberals. They failed to keep Drew out, as the Conservatives returned with a majority government. Part of the Tories’ success may have been due to a radio speech given by CCF leader Ted Jollife which accused Drew of establishing a “Gestapo” within the Ontario Provincial Police to keep watch on the opposition. The speech backfired on Jolliffe, though evidence was found years later to support his claims of government spying.

Results June 4, 1945:
Progressive Conservative (George Drew): 66 seats
Liberal (Mitch Hepburn): 14 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 8 seats
LPP (Leslie Morris): 2 seats


star 1948-06-05 ads 4 ccf temple

Toronto Star, June 5, 1948.

However, Drew lost his own seat to CCF candidate/temperance zealot Bill Temple in High Park. He quickly went into federal politics and won the federal Tory leadership. Peel MPP Thomas Kennedy served as interim premier until Leslie Frost became party leader the following spring.

Other notable candidates featured in this ad include CCF leader Ted Jollifee (running in a seat that another CCF/NDP party leader, Bob Rae, would hold), Agnes Macphail (Canada’s first female MP and one of Ontario’s first pair of female MPPs), Reid Scott (at 21, then the youngest MPP in Ontario history), and William Dennison (future mayor of Toronto).

Results June 7, 1948:
Progressive Conservative (George Drew): 53 seats
Liberal (Farquhar Oliver): 14 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 21 seats
LPP (no leader): 2 seats



Weston Times and Guide, November 8, 1951.

The province didn’t feel the same chill: Premier Leslie Frost’s Progressive Conservatives won all but 11 of the 90 seats at Queen’s Park.

Results November 22, 1951:
Progressive Conservative (Leslie Frost): 79 seats
Liberal (Walter Thomson): 8 seats
CCF (Ted Jolliffe): 2 seats
LPP (Stewart Smith): 1 seat



Don Mills Mirror, September 18, 1963.

Yes, the colour of margarine was once considered a major election issue, though butter-hued oil spread was not 100% legal in Ontario until 1995. The ’63 campaign was the first for John Robarts after succeeding Leslie Frost. Note the promises related to the Toronto area—Robarts flipped the switch when the Bloor-Danforth line opened three years later.


Don Mills Mirror, August 14, 1963.

While Jim Service was unsuccessful in his run for the provincial legislature, he would serve North York as reeve and mayor from 1965 to 1969.


Don Mills Mirror, September 18, 1963.

1963 was the first provincial election for the NDP, having changed its name from the CCF two years earlier. Party leader Donald MacDonald stayed through the transition, remaining in charge until 1970.

Results September 25, 1963:
Progressive Conservative (John Robarts): 77 seats
Liberal (John Wintermeyer): 24 seats
NDP (Donald MacDonald): 7 seats



Globe and Mail, October 16, 1967.

At least two of the “action politicians” were or would be easily recognized by the public. Stephen Lewis would win a second term in Scarborough West. Three years later, he became party leader. Over in High Park, Dr. Morton Shulman ran after he was fired from his role as Ontario’s chief coroner earlier in the year for embarrassing the government over inadequate fire protection in a new hospital. Shulman’s crusading medical career had also inspired a popular CBC drama, Wojeck.

Results October 17, 1967:
Progressive Conservative (John Robarts): 69 seats
Liberal (Robert Nixon): 28 seats
NDP (Donald MacDonald): 20 seats



Don Mills Mirror, October 6, 1971.

The Progressive Conservatives earned their ninth consecutive mandate under new leader William Davis, whose team. All of the candidates pictured in this ad, except for Deane (who lost to veteran Liberal Vern Singer) joined Davis at Queen’s Park. Timbrell ran for the party leadership twice in 1985, losing to Frank Miller in January and Larry Grossman in November.

Results October 21, 1971:
Progressive Conservative (William Davis): 78 seats
Liberal (Robert Nixon): 20 seats
NDP (Stephen Lewis): 19 seats



Toronto Star, September 16, 1975.

Who’s a better provincial candidate than Mel Lastman? EVVVERYBODY! Well, actually former Toronto mayor Philip Givens, who won Armourdale for the Liberals in election that produced Ontario’s first minority government since 1943.

Results September 18, 1975:
Progressive Conservative (William Davis): 51 seats
NDP (Stephen Lewis): 38 seats
Liberal (Robert Nixon): 36 seats

A Crash Course on Toronto’s Black Tuesday

Originally published on Torontoist on August 12, 2011.

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?”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Vintage Toronto Ads: How Dry I Am

Originally published on Torontoist on May 13, 2008.


Mail and Empire, August 30, 1927.

Mention the name “O’Keefe” in association with Toronto and several things come to mind for those over a certain age. A brewery that was a cornerstone of E.P. Taylor’s business empire, which eventually merged with Molson. A performing arts centre that has undergone several name changes. A downtown laneway whose length has been shortened by developments at Yonge and Dundas.

But soft drinks?

Thanks to prohibition measures that were in effect in Ontario for a decade, today’s smiling pitchman had to fill his glass with a non-intoxicating tipple. Distillers and brewers who stayed in business had to find other means to stay afloat, be it industrial or medicinal alcohol production or, like O’Keefe’s, weaker beverages.

Dry forces who had long fought against alcohol consumption, such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, achieved victory in Ontario in 1916, when Premier William Howard Hearst’s government passed the Ontario Temperance Act, ostensibly as a wartime measure. A referendum revisited the question three years later, with two-thirds of voters rejecting four questions that ranged from a full repeal of prohibition to the sale of light beer in hotels. A second referendum in 1924 saw prohibition continue by a 3% margin (51.5% for, 48.5% against), though Toronto sided with the pro-booze forces. This would be the last provincial referendum until last year’s question on reforming the electoral system.

The weak results encouraged Premier Howard Ferguson to include a repeal of prohibition as part of his re-election campaign in 1926. Ferguson’s victory led to the passage of the Liquor Control Act in 1927, which allowed alcohol to be sold under the auspices of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The first 86 stores opened that year, though the public would require permits to purchase booze until 1961. Brewers were allowed to create their own agency to regulate retail beer sales, which evolved into Brewers Retail.