Bonus Features: 19th-century NIMBYism and the Typhus Epidemic in Ontario

Before diving into this post, please read the related TVO article.

The coverage of the court case in the October 6, 1847 edition of the British Whig against Kingston city officials for allowing the emigrant sheds to obstruct traffic is dense, so here are some highlights.

british whig 1847-10-06 complaint about sheds 1 opinion

First off, the paper’s opinion, which praises the efforts of the city officials, and references the recent death of Toronto bishop Michael Power.

The indictment contained four counts: obstruction of Emily Street by erecting a building upoin it; the “erection of privies, near that street and near King Street, and also near the waters of the harbour, to the nuisance of all persons in the street, or dwelling in the adjacent houses, and whereby the waters which were generally used by the neighbourhood became unfit for use;” erecting emigrant sheds near King Street, filling them with the sick and dead to the nuisance of all; and that the sheds were built by unknown people and emigrants and assembled on site.

british whig 1847-10-06 complaint about sheds 1 nimby testimony

A sampling of complaints, including the NIMBY I quoted in the article (a John P. Bower, Esq.).

The defence attacked several of the complainants, while holding up the noble aims of the city officials offering assistance to the emigrants. For example:

The Baron de Rottenburg, who bears no love to Emigrants, had to board the west windows of his house to keep away an imaginary infection; and, more serious than this, the amiable Baroness had to make liberal use of lavender water, and was put to the unendurable trouble of placing scent bottles to her fastidious nostrils. To be sure, the great inconvenience which the noble Baron and Baroness have sustained, is of more consequence and greater weight, than if thousands of these pooe Irish Emigrants should die for want, with hunger, and disease.

Kind of reminds you of arguments surrounding relaunching the economy versus preventing potential deaths, doesn’t it?

british whig 1847-10-06 verdict 1

british whig 1847-10-06 verdict 2

The verdict. Note that while the defendants were judged guilty, the jury appreciated their conduct.

packet 1847-07-17 medical advice about typhus 400px

From the July 17, 1847 edition of the Bytown Packet (which evolved into the Ottawa Citizen), advice on how to prevent catching infectious fevers like typhus.

bc 1847-07-20 grasett obit

An editorial eulogizing Dr. George Grasett, from the July 20, 1847 edition of the British Colonist.

bc 1847-10-05 power obit 1bc 1847-10-05 power obit 2

Portions of Michael Power’s obituary from the October 5, 1847 edition of the British Colonist.

the times 1847-10-30 power obit 500

Power’s death was noted on the other side of the Atlantic, in pieces such as this roundup of the typhus situation from the October 30, 1847 edition of the Times.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Take a Troche on Me

Originally published on Torontoist on January 5, 2010.


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: Why Take a Risk With Your Teeth?

Originally published on Torontoist on May 12, 2009.


Toronto World, April 26, 1899.

Would you trust a doctor whose name carries an element of danger with your next bridge work? Especially when they advertise a half-price offer? At least Dr. Risk tried to make his patients as comfortable as possible by focusing on small details and a comforting environment. In an ad that ran in The Toronto Star throughout most of 1899, the good doctor claims that:

From the day on which the Mentha Dental Parlors were opened it has been our aim to do everything well. It’s the little things that count in dentistry as in any other business. The smallest detail of every operation is done with the utmost care. We do our very best to make every patient satisfied. The reward for such care comes in the way of increased patronage, and it is doing things well that makes the Mentha Dental Offices the busiest and most popular Dental offices in the city.

From what we can determine, the Mentha Dental Office began advertising in local newspapers during the fall of 1897. Dr. Risk operated the business until January 1900 when, with no explanation, ads listed Dr. A. Rose as his successor, followed by news of an office makeover. The practice moved to 230 Yonge Street in April 1901, an event marked by ads boasting of well-lit windows in the operating rooms with an excellent view of Shuter Street, which places the office near the current entrance to the Eaton Centre parking lot. Staff may not have had long to enjoy their new surroundings, as ads vanished from local papers after November 1901.

Additional material from the May 20, 1899 and April 20, 1900 editions of the Toronto Star.


Vintage Ad #811: Doing Things Well

Toronto Star, May 20, 1899. This ad ran in the Star throughout most of that year.

Vintage Ad #813: New Boss for the Annual Offer

Toronto Star, January 20, 1900. We’re still not sure what happened to Dr. Risk.

Vintage Ad #814: The Mentha Dental Lady Still Smiles

Toronto Star, November 16, 1901. The latest ad I could find for Mentha Dental Offices.