Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 3

Listerine Kills Germs and Body Odour

Originally published on Torontoist on July 21, 2009.


Maclean’s, July 15, 1923.

If Listerine can freshen your breath and kill bacteria in the mouth, why can’t it do the same to the rest of your body? It’s safe!

Deodorants and antiperspirants were still in their early stages of evolution when Listerine made today’s pitch—the first commercial underarm deodorant, Mum, had arrived on the market in 1888, with the first antiperspirant, Everdry, following fifteen years later. After you read descriptions of the composition and application of early antiperspirants, Listerine’s claims begin to make sense. Early products were wet, clammy, aqueous alcoholic solutions of aluminum chloride that were poured onto a cotton ball before being dabbed on the body, a technique that Listerine’s model appears well acquainted with. Drying was a slow, sticky process that, once you got past the skin irritations and damaged clothing, reduced one’s stink.

Is That Landmark Sealed with Polysulfide?

Originally published on Torontoist on August 4, 2009.


Canadian Architect, January 1985.

These three local towers were…

While searching for information regarding Morton Thiokol and polysulfides that didn’t involve deep scientific analysis of the chemical composition of the sealant used in these Toronto landmarks, we ran into an interesting tidbit from the current manufacturer: the sealant should have a “twenty-year service life under normal conditions.”

Makes you want to watch your head while passing by any of these structures, doesn’t it?

Why You Shouldn’t Steal a White Glove Girl

Originally published on Torontoist on September 1, 2009.


Time, February 10, 1967.

Translation: the “temporary” relationship clause in a White Glove Girl’s contract refers to the amount of time she has remaining on this mortal plane. Until then, we’re happy to shuffle temps around from employer to employer, keeping our White Glove Girls under lock and key until the next call comes in. Sometimes we’ll let them out of the dunge…asset pool for a few minutes to take care of their “happy homemaker” duties. Anyone thinking of stealing one of our assets should be aware that we’ve spent years working on glove-tracing technology—we’ll know when you’ve stolen our assets!

A Toast to Good Hydro Services

Originally published on Torontoist on December 8, 2009.


(Left) The Globe, November 1, 1929, (right) Toronto Star, November 19, 1936.

We’re not sure which of the images conjured up by today’s ads is more disturbing. Is it the trio of factory workers depicted in a manner usually reserved for nursery rhyme characters or World War I casualties? Or is it the deified toaster (whose cost, if translated into modern money, would start at around $228) trained to act with the utmost style and refinement for a classy late-dinner gathering?

Both ads are fine examples of the large quantity of newspaper advertising the Toronto Hydro Electric System bought during the 1920s and 1930s. Besides trained toasters, the utility’s retail arm offered customers technological marvels for the home such as electric ranges.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Sleepless, Stubborn, and Sterling

Originally published on Torontoist on November 17, 2009.


Mail and Empire, November 9, 1931 (left); The Telegram, November 4, 1931 (right).

Pity the person made agitated and restless by drinking an over-stimulating beverage. Because of their tragic decisions, the owl woman fell asleep at her office desk, while the mule man walked up to his boss, a report firmly clenched in his hand, and allowed his overactive nerves to tell the boss what he really thought of the company’s management. By the end of the day, both found themselves facing the harsh realities of the Great Depression. If only they had sent away for a free sample of Postum…

Postum was developed in 1895 by C.W. Post as a caffeine-free alternative. As these ads demonstrate, Postum’s mixture of bran, wheat, molasses, and corn byproducts was targeted to drinkers who wanted to stay cool, calm, and collected. The beverage enjoyed great popularity among religious groups like the Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists, who found its non-stimulating properties did not lead the faithful astray.

Postum’s most infamous advertising icon was the nefarious Mister Coffee Nerves, who was introduced during the 1930s. A ghostly symbol of the evils of mocha-induced jitters, Mister Coffee Nerves found his attempts to wreck careers and romances were inevitably thwarted by Postum. When Kraft discontinued Postum in 2007 due to dwindling sales, devotees scoured the continent for the remaining jars.


Sterling Tower, corner of Bay St. and Richmond St., looking south-west, 1972. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 76, Item 12.

General Foods, in an earlier guise as the Postum Company, was one of the earliest tenants of the Sterling Tower. The sixty-five-metre-tall complex at 372 Bay Street briefly held the title of tallest building in Toronto when it opened in 1928, but that glorious honour was wrested away when the Royal York Hotel opened the following year. Other early tenants included the Campbell-Ewald advertising agency and the Sterling Bank. A 1929 ad in the Globe claimed that “the environment enjoyed in Sterling Tower goes a long way towards making the business day successful. Businessmen recognize the value of good surroundings…and profit by them” (perhaps particles of Postum were wafted through the heating system to induce calm feelings). Restorations made to the building a decade ago earned architect Dermot Sweeny a merit award from Heritage Toronto in 2001.

Additional material from the February 8, 1929, edition of the Globe and the November 16, 2001, edition of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Towering Over Deer Park

Originally published on Torontoist on November 4, 2008.


Bravo, November-December 1982.

How does a company celebrate a century in business? If you’re George Weston Limited, you hire a photographer to shoot corporate headquarters at sunrise, just as neighbours in Deer Park get ready to start their day with fine Weston’s or Loblaws products.

The 20-storey octagonal Wittington Tower opened in the mid-1970s. Architect Leslie Rebanks won an honourable mention citation from the American Institute of Business Designers in 1976 for the artistic touches that were utilized in the lobby. A relative of the Weston family, Rebanks would work on the Loblaws store design rolled out in the late 1990s and serve on the committee that chose Daniel Libeskind’s crystal design for the Royal Ontario Museum.

New for ’82 was Sails, sculpted by Gordon Smith from stainless steel. We wonder if plans were ever developed to produce a collectible version for the public as President’s Choice Memories of Deer Park Mini Sails.