Vintage Toronto Ads: Self-Denial or Lighting for Tourists?

Originally published on Torontoist on February 23, 2010.

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Toronto Star, May 2, 1930.

Picture yourself as a downtown shopkeeper heading home after a busy May afternoon eighty years ago. After locking up, you stop by the corner newsstand to pick up the evening edition of the Daily Star. Looks like it’s your lucky night: there’s an empty seat on the streetcar. Making yourself comfortable, you flip through to see if there’s any word on how last night’s Board of Education vote on the confirmation of a director at your son’s high school went…ah, there it is, wedged onto page thirty-three between accounts of a car wrapped around a telegraph pole at Bloor and Parliament and a woman who suffered a fatal “illegal operation.” Before you dive into the article, two ads on opposite sides of the page catch your eye.

On the left side of the page, there’s the Sally Ann urging you to deny yourself some small pleasure in life so that their enlistees can rescue a shifty man reduced to liberating boxes wrapped in plain brown paper. On the opposite side, there’s the Toronto Hydro Electric System urging shopkeepers like you to invest in fancy window-display lighting to draw eager tourists ready to spend money into shops like yours. You ponder both of these pitches for a moment—despite the worsening economic climate, your business is doing well enough to have extra money to toss around. In the battle between your commercial and humanitarian instincts, which will win?

The answer is neither. You read about the school vote, then flip to the sports section and decide which horse races to consult on with your bookie.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Here are the other stories this post alluded to, all taken from page 33 of the May 2, 1930 edition of the Toronto Star.

star 1930-05-02 page 33 illegal op

During this era, “illegal operation” tended to be code for an abortion.

star 1930-05-02 page 33 brown

Northern Vocational School welcomed its first students later that year. It evolved into today’s Northern Secondary School. One of the trustees mentioned in the article, Adelaide Plumptre, had a distinguished public service career. Her milestones included serving as superintendent of supplies for the Canadian Red Cross during the First World War, a city councillor, and the first female chair of the Toronto Board of Education.

star 1930-05-02 page 33 ironized yeast

I’m kind of dubious about the true benefits of ironized yeast.

star 1930-05-02 page 33 must pay

Finally, this piece of advice/words of wisdom/space filler appeared in the middle of the page, below the illegal operation story.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 3

Listerine Kills Germs and Body Odour

Originally published on Torontoist on July 21, 2009.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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: Be Modern—Cook Electrically!

Originally published on Torontoist on May 7, 2007.

Vintage Ad #229 - Cook Electrically!

Source: Official Souvenir Program, City of Toronto Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Celebration, 1927.

Today’s homemaking hint: tossing out the old gas or wood stove or abandoning the fireplace for a sparkling new electric range will improve household cleanliness, make your food taste better and produce a happier chef! That’s not just dinner our average housewife is holding, it’s the taste of progress!

The closing line about buying Canadian goods to “bring better times” was good advice but poorly timed, given the financial rollercoaster of the next decade. At least one could drown their sorrows in another piece of electrically-cooked pie.

The Toronto Hydro-Electric System was created in 1911 and gradually took over a number of private operators that had provided the city with power. The book this ad appeared in provides a short history, which mostly provides a list of dignitaries associated with company, several with “Esq.” attached to their name (no doubt to prove just how important they were).

From the same source, a few facts about Toronto in 1927:

  • City area was 40 square miles (the boundaries were the pre-amalgamation City of Toronto, minus Forest Hill and Swansea, which were not merged into the city until 1967)
  • 3,521 industries
  • 216 “branches of American industries”
  • 560 miles of streets
  • 227 miles of street railway (streetcars)
  • 49,000 street lights, which are touted as the “best street lighting system in America and at the lowest cost.” Have the egos of our city fathers ever known any bounds?
  • 68 parks that contained 1,978 acres of park area and 40 equipped playgrounds
  • 20% of Ontario’s population lived in Toronto
  • 64% of residents owned their homes
  • 11 public hospitals
  • 17 libraries
  • 117 public schools, 40 separate