Through the Years with the Canadian National Exhibition 6: CNE ’27

Poster, 1927. Art possibly by Stanley F. Turner. Canadian National Exhibition Archives.

It would be fatal for the big fair to stand still. It must keep on expanding in order to attract and accommodate new patronage. It means much to Toronto. The citizens cannot well refuse it the increased accommodation which a careful and successful management declares to be necessary.

Editorial, Toronto Star, December 21, 1926.

On New Year’s Day 1927, Toronto voters approved by a vote of 34,889 to 10,484 to provide the CNE with $415,000 in infrastructure funding, including money to build what became the Princes’ Gates in time for that year’s fair. Both the Globe and the Star backed the ballot question, noting that recent surpluses were proof that CNE directors could be trusted to manage public money wisely. Editorials also stressed the need to expand the ground to meet the growing demand for exhibition space and handle growing crowds.

The fresh stream of funding helped the fair prepare for a landmark year. Plans were underway to make the CNE a centerpiece of celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Confederation. It would be a long overdue party, as 50th anniversary commemorations had been downplayed or cancelled a decade earlier due to the First World War. Beyond the pent-up celebrations, there was a general feeling that the festivities would honour the accomplishments made since the end of the war.

The Globe, July 29, 1927.

As opening day neared, the CNE suffered a major loss when general manager John Gowans Kent died from heart issues on July 28. Kent had a long association with the fair, stretching back to winning greyhound competitions in the early 1880s. He served as president of the CNE prior to the war, then became GM in 1920. His expertise at running fairs led to a term as president of the Exhibition Association of America. “He was a natural showman,” the Star reflected. “It was his delight to please people and to interest them. He was rarely ruffled or out of temper.” A patron of youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Kent was known for providing comfort to panicky kids at the Lost Children’s Tent, and would ensure that those left at the end of the day got home safely.

Above all, Kent had believed that the public should be treated with honesty and respect. “P.T. Barnum may have thought he was right when he said that the public liked to be fooled,” he observed, “but that is not the way we do things. Here we will not make misleading statements or publish advertising we cannot back up.” Assistant GM H.W. Waters was appointed his replacement.

Baltimore Sun, August 1, 1927.

The CNE was advertised across North America, spurring articles in some American newspapers on how to travel to the fair. The Detroit Free Press recommended taking the recently-numbered Highway 2 across southwest Ontario. Highlights along the way included Moraviantown (“where Canada’s most interesting Indian ally, Tecumseh, was slain by United States troops in 1813”), Paris (“a town famous for its knitted goods”), the Dundas Valley (“a wonderful panorama famed throughout Ontario”) and Hamilton (“better known to Canadians as the ‘Ambitious City’”).

There were some visitors from south of the border local officials were less eager to welcome. During the Prince of Wales’s trip to the city earlier in the month, Toronto police chief Samuel J. Dickson was alarmed by the number of American pickpockets who stole thousands of dollars from those attending ceremonies outside City Hall. The force decided to send a squad of special plainclothes officers to mix with the crowds at the CNE to catch pickpockets, especially when the Prince returned to dedicate the Princes’ Gates.

The Globe, August 27, 1927.

On opening day, the Globe published a 24-page preview of the CNE, with an additional 24-page section dedicated to the National Motor Show. It outlined the new attractions, including the Princes’ Gates and livestock pavilion, along with pages of information that feel like they were purchased by certain industries—it’s doubtful most fairgoers cared so much about the home heating oil industry that it deserved four pages of coverage.

The Globe, August 29, 1927.

The fair officially opened with a speech by prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King that was also broadcast across the country via radio. He pressed a button to set off a series of 60 aerial bombs which released miniature flags from across the British Empire.  Though an opening day attendance record of 104,000 was set, officials felt it would have been higher had there been better weather.

During the fair, special days were set aside to honour each of Canada’s nine provinces. In the Women’s Building, cooking demonstrations highlighted dishes from each of them. Among the items were salmon loaf with jellied salad (British Columbia), sardine sandwiches (New Brunswick), muffins with marmalade (Nova Scotia), jellied chicken (Prince Edward Island), birthday cake for children (Quebec) and lobster, cheese and pineapple sandwiches (Saskatchewan…wait, lobster and Saskatchewan?).

Other women’s activities included many displays from provincial branches of the Federation of Women’s Institutes outlining local histories and women’s contributions to agriculture. Manitoba’s representatives offered nutritional advice, while Ontario, the Globe observed, “will attempt to put romance into ordinary living by showing the most approved way of spending an average income and conducting an average home.”

The Globe, August 27, 1927.

Rain delayed the opening of the evening Grandstand spectacle until August 30. “Canada” was designed to celebrate the development of the country from pioneer days onward. “Never, probably, in the great spectacles which have been presented at the Exhibition in the past,” the Globe declared, “have the producers had a subject richer in dramatic material and patriotic interest.”

The Globe, August 27, 1927.

Based on this preview description, this spectacle was highly problematic from a 21st century perspective, especially in its depiction of Indigenous peoples.

Reviews were positive. The Globe enjoyed the opening number, “The Dance of the Provinces,” which featured ballerinas dressed in costumes representing each province. It also felt the Jacques Cartier sequence, which include a native war dance, was “depicted in a way to warm the heart of an Imperialist.” Though the Star enjoyed the production, it noted a few opening night screwups, such as mismatching dancers and background slides during the provincial dance – Mounties symbolize Nova Scotia and naval officers scream Saskatchewan! Maybe the projectionists were still munching on those Saskatchewan lobster sandwiches.

Toronto Star, August 29, 1927.

Indigenous people participated in the fair but, if a photo caption in the Star was any indication, they were objectified with the era’s stereotypes.

Toronto Star, September 2, 1927.

Music was a vital component. “How can we stand the long ordeal of endless night-seeing, without the refreshment of music,” observed Globe music critic Lawrence Mason. “How can we be our better selves amid the petty rubs and jars of crowds and weather, if music be not there to soothe and inspire us?” A series of choral concerts featuring classical selections and patriotic British songs were held in the Coliseum, with over 2,200 singers conducted by H.A. Fricker of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. September 1 was designated Music Day, highlighting traditional songs and costumes from the British Isles and eastern Europe. Musicians and singers strolled the grounds. A old-timey fiddle contest drew contestants aged 50 and up.

The start of the 21-mile swimming marathon, August 31, 1927. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 11411.

Among the most anticipated events, and the one that received the most coverage outside of Toronto, was the Wrigley Swim Marathon. The 21-mile event, sponsored by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, drew some of the world’s top competitive swimmers. Check out my old Historicist colleague David Wencer’s account of the race.

Art Gallery, 1925. Toronto Star Photo Archive, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0111996f.

Over at the Art Gallery, controversy was brewing. Among the works chosen for display was John Wentworth Russell’s painting A Modern Fantasy, which depicted a reclining nude woman. The Star described the mixed reactions the work provoked:

Some, caught in the web, let it go at merely “batting an eyelid” and passed on to the next surprise with a display of exemplary self-control; others hesitated, collected to the best of their ability their startled wits and, seeing other people gazing upon it unharmed, timidly joined the throng; still others strode in, remained transfixed as if frozen by a vision from another world and with an expression of disgust, stepped on with the greatest expedition; and finally those who regarded the apparition for a moment in startled silence and then fell into raptures of encomium and applaud.

“Well,” one middle-aged woman observed, “he must have a nasty mind—for I think it is just beautiful.”

Prudes quickly made their objections known. CNE president John J. Dixon received a deputation representing women’s organizations from around the city, letting him know that the fair was an inappropriate place for nudes to be shown, especially with so many children, adolescents, and working-class men around. They feared that it would warp young minds and potentially cause an increase in attacks on women. Dixon told them he didn’t like it either, but the piece was chosen by committee whose job was to pick works based on artistic merit. He also indicated that he believed beauty contests involving scantily-clad contestants were more harmful to women than nude paintings. Deputation leader Mrs. J. Patrick MacGregor backtracked a little, claiming Russell’s work was far more sensual than more refined nudes displayed at the CNE in previous years and in fine European galleries. When the fair ended, Dixon stated that art would be strictly censored in the future.

When asked about his painting, Russell told the Star that his work should stand on its own merits. “Why make a vulgarity about a divine thing,” he said. “Criticism should lead the public, not coerce it. Don’t prosecute the public. Allow the public to think for themselves. It is hard to make them think, I know, but they should be guided not dissuaded. They need to be helped along.” He later dismissed the complaints from Toronto the Good as a “backwoods” attitude. He went to Paris, where the painting had previously been praised.

The Globe, August 27, 1927.

The growing popularity of radio was reflected in several displays, including demonstrations of the Rogers Batteryless set tuned into company-owned station CFRB. Manufacturers displayed their equipment, while the city’s growing number of radio station broadcast special programming. Industry news from both sides of the border was shared, including word that Buffalo’s WMAK (later WBEN) had joined a new system that immediately became America’s second largest network: CBS.

Automotive and Government Buildings, 1925. Toronto Star Photo Archive, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0111801f.

The National Motor Show was spread out between the increasingly inadequate Automotive Building (whose replacement would open two years later) and the Coliseum. While most manufacturers displayed their 1928 models, the most anticipated vehicle was absent. Despite the best efforts of Ford’s Canadian staff to secure an example of the long-rumoured replacement for the Model T, head office refused to send one for display. The Model A would debut later that fall.

Surveying the new vehicles, Globe automotive editor W.R. Campbell felt the best development was smaller cars with a shorter wheelbase. “For some time there has been an insistent public demand for models that, in this days of increasingly congested traffic, would be more easily operated.”

Overall, attendance rose from 1,573,000 in 1926 to 1,870,000. Officials looked forward to the CNE’s golden anniversary in 1928, and to continuing its modernization program, with plans for new automotive, electrical, and federal buildings.

Sources: the August 28, 1927 edition of the Detroit Free Press; the April 17, 1926, January 3, 1927, July 29, 1927, August 24, 1927, August 27, 1927, August 29, 1927, August 31, 1927, September 2, 1927, September 12, 1927, and September 14, 1927 editions of the Globe; and the December 21, 1926, July 29, 1927, August 29, 1927, August 31, 1927, September 6, 1927, September 8, 1927, and September 9, 1927 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Ensure Stable Government (1926 federal election)

Originally published on Torontoist on April 12, 2011.

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The Globe, September 13, 1926.

“Ensure stable government.” Isn’t stable government what the present-day Conservative party is promising if you vote for them during the 2011 election campaign? Some things never change…

Mind you, the situation when voters went to the polls on September 14, 1926, was volatile. It was the second election campaign in less than a year, thanks to a highly unstable parliament. Despite coming in second place after the vote on October 29, 1925, William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberals clung to power with the backing of Progressive party MPs. King’s government faced a never-ending series of non-confidence votes launched by the Conservatives, which finally looked like they were going to succeed after a report regarding a scandal over booze smuggling at a federal customs warehouse was presented to the House of Commons in June 1926. What followed was the constitutional crisis known as the King-Byng affair, which one usually needs a scorecard to follow.

In the midst of procedural mayhem, Conservative leader Arthur Meighen assumed power for three days before falling to another non-confidence vote and being granted the dissolution of parliament that Governor General Lord Byng had just refused to give King. During the campaign, King worked out arrangements with the Progressives and strong farmer/labour candidates so that in ridings where one party was stronger, the other wouldn’t run (hence the reason for the majority of the 48 blacked-out ridings in the map above).

As John Duffy noted when he profiled the campaign in his book Fights of Our Lives, “For many reform-minded electors, the three-day Meighen government of 1926 had shown that the hated Tories had a chance at power as long as the Liberals and Progressives remained divided; voting Progressive seemed a luxury to be indulged when the Tories were safely off in third place, as in 1921, but not now.” Meighen initially focused on attacking Liberal corruption, but when that ran out of steam he pulled out the patriotism-to-Britain card and attacked King for being a rebel like his grandfather William Lyon Mackenzie.

Meighen’s plea for a stable government succeeded…for King, who, with a handful of Progressives who ran under the Liberal-Progressive banner, easily formed a majority. Toronto did not succumb to King’s charms, as all of the Conservative candidates listed in today’s ad won. The tightest race was in York North, where Thomas Herbert Lennox defeated Liberal Henry Arthur Sifton by less than 300 votes (King had held the seat from 1921 to 1925). Others on the local Conservative slate included three former mayors of Toronto (Church, Hocken, and Geary), and a rookie whose parliamentary career lasted into the space age (McGregor, who served as an MP until 1962).

Additional material from Fights of Our Lives by John Duffy (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2002).

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

In an earlier post, I covered the nasty fight for the Conservative nomination in Toronto Northeast in 1926, which played itself out in newspaper advertising.  And stay tuned for another tale of the ’26 campaign in Toronto…

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The Globe, September 11, 1926.

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The Globe, September 11, 1926.

Ads published on the same day for the Conservatives and Liberals. The Tories harped on the previous year’s customs scandal (which involved corruption at the federal customs department), while the Liberals touted their achievements and upcoming goals.

Happy Anniversaries, Globe and Mail!

Besides reading this piece, check out my article for Canadaland on some of the rougher moments of the Globe and Mail’s history, and the related podcast.

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Reprint of the front page of the first edition of the Globe from March 5, 1844, published in the March 5, 1994 edition of the Globe and Mail. It should be noted that ProQuest and many microfilm runs begin with the May 8, 1844 edition.

The Globe and Mail turns 175 today. Like any institution around for that length of time, it has celebrated many milestone anniversaries, in ways that reflect the views of the times those celebrations were written.

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The largest ad on the 50th anniversary editorial page. The Globe, March 5, 1894.

For the Globe’s 50th anniversary in 1894, a lengthy retrospective editorial was published. It began by celebrating George Brown’s role in Confederation and the development of Canada, then discussed the political evolution of Great Britain over the previous half-century. Those hoping for any insight into the development paper itself will be disappointed—instead, there’s a whole paragraph devoted to how British colonization spread civilization around the world:

Though in the extension of her colonial empire grave faults can be ascribed to Britain, it must be conceded that her aim has been higher than conquest and plunder. The aim of her statesmen has been to plant colonies, to extend civilization and to establish free institutions. Under this policy Canada has grown into complete self-government, and so have the Australian colonies, whose growth since the discovery of gold has been phenomenal. A far more difficult problem for statesmanship is India, with its teeming population diverse as to race, religion, caste, education and intellectual power, jealous of each other and of the dominant race, and as yet far from being prepared for self-government. The progress of exploration and discovery in Africa has been marvelous and has involved Great Britain in new and weighty responsibilities.

After discussing European history, the editorial ends with scientific and social changes. This section has a distinctive whiff of “Toronto the Good” about it, such as the observation that “the temperance movement has brought about an immense improvement in the drinking habits of the people.” It concluded by noted that “scientific theory and theological dogma have sometimes clashed; but the mightiest achievements of the age are due to the happy union of practical science with practical Christianity, and what has been done is only an earnest of what may yet be done by the combination of these forces.”

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Illustrations by C.W. Jefferys, the Globe, March 5, 1919.

The paper was in a far more celebratory mood when it marked its 75th anniversary in 1919. A special section kicked off with a series of C.W. Jefferys illustrations marking changes in agriculture, commerce, industry, and transportation. Globe president William Gladstone Jaffray wrote a statement. A pair of excerpts:

It costs over $2,400 per day to produce The Globe. This amount has to be found, and something more for interest on capital. It is obvious, therefore, that a paper must earn money, and a goodly amount thereof, to meet its daily expenses. If to make ends meet, and something more, is necessary to every successful enterprise, it is particularly necessary in the newspaper business, because the daily paper is entrusted with the guarding of public interest as well as the influencing of public opinion. Such great responsibility can be successfully undertaken only by that newspaper which rests upon a firm foundation. If handicapped by deficits and debts, sooner or later it is in danger of falling into the hands of or becoming the prey of those who will use it more or less against the public welfare.

We have seen many times over the ensuing decades the mischief resulting from media which fell into those who use their publications to harm public welfare.

In this second excerpt, Jaffray describes how he tried to keep the Globe financially independent and less susceptible to outside influence:

It is my conviction as publisher of The Globe that I should hold aloof from any financial investments, the advancement of which possibly might conflict with the public interest. As chief owner of The Globe, it has been urged upon me to state, in the first place, that the control of the capital stock of The Globe is in the hands of myself as the largest shareholder, and that the remaining shares necessary to constitute the majority holding are held by other members of the family of the late Senator Robert Jaffray; in the second place, that my holding of stocks other than Globe stock is limited to a very few shares of small value in two or three privately owned companies, which shares have been and still are for sale at the first reasonable market. This statement should convince readers of The Globe that there are no financial relationships to influence its direction and its policies.

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Next, editor Stewart Lyon provided a retrospective, reflecting on the Brown era, followed by a vow that the paper, even though it supported the Union government during the 1917 federal election, “has not gone over to Toryism.” As Lyon put it:

That would be a betrayal of all for which this paper has stood during seventy-five years. Its association with Liberalism is not that of a mouthpiece, but of an ally in the promotion of all good causes, and of an honest critic when the leaders of Liberalism lag in the advance, or turn aside into what seem to be unprofitable by-paths.

Lyon also notes the social ills the paper would like to vanquish:

The Globe most sincerely believes that in this land of opportunity the door of hope should be flung wide open. No child should be permitted to go hungry or unlettered. No one in the vigor of life should be without useful occupation. No aged person having faithfully performed the duties of a good citizen should be neglected and forgotten when the shadows begin to fall. To the furtherance of these and all other good causes the Editor pledges his best endeavors.

There was a greeting from Brown’s son. Biographies of the paper’s directors. A tiny reprint of the first front page. More greetings from Canada’s three oldest newspapers (Quebec Chronicle, Montreal Gazette, and Halifax Recorder). Accounts of the life of farmers in Canada West in 1844.

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Excerpt of Mackenzie King’s contribution to the March 5, 1919 Globe.

Among the dignitaries asked to provide their memories of working for the Globe was William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was just months away from becoming federal Liberal leader. King joined the paper in fall 1895 as one of several reporters hired in preparation for the upcoming federal election. By the mid-1920s, King’s relationship with the paper was strained.

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The Globe, March 5, 1919.

Music and drama editor E.R. Parkhurst recalled an incident early in his career which happened at a rival paper (which later merged into the Globe) when a prank went horribly for the local food industry. Cat lovers may want to skip this one.

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The Globe, March 5, 1919.

One of several articles about families who had read the Globe since the paper began. The section also included a long list of “charter subscribers whose descendants are on the Globe’s lists to-day” or whose patronage of the paper stretched back at least 50 years.

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Globe and Mail, March 4, 1944.

The paper’s 100th anniversary celebration in 1944 began with a front page salute from publisher George McCullagh.

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There was an editorial cartoon…

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…the inevitable poem…

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…and a history of the paper’s physical locations. It would subsequently move to the Telegram’s former offices on Front Street west in 1974, and its current location on King Street East in 2016.

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Click on image for larger version.

C.W. Jefferys returned for an anniversary illustration, depicting the paper’s original home on King West. If you look carefully, you may notice a top-hatted George Brown emerging from the office with a paper under his arm. Below the drawing, veteran journalist Hector Charlesworth outlined the paper’s history. In the sports section, columnist Jim Coleman noted that the paper ignored sports during its first quarter-century, as “the only game in which George Brown…was interested was politics, and he confined his athletic activities to throwing curves at his political opponents.”

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Globe and Mail, March 4, 1944.

A few words from the “oldest Globe reader” Sir William Mulock, who passed away a few months later. At the time, the Mulock (who, depending on the source, was either 100 or 101) was still serving as chancellor of the University of Toronto.

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Advertisement highlighting the Globe and Mail’s staff and syndicated features, March 4, 1944. 

I’d share material related to the paper’s 125th anniversary in 1969, except that there isn’t any. A search for “George Brown” during the anniversary week that March only finds articles related to the college bearing his name. There was a lone article in November 1986 marking the 50th anniversary of the merger of the Globe and the Mail and Empire.

For the 150th anniversary in 1994, Cameron Smith wrote a three-page story outlining the paper’s biggest stories, followed by a masthead listing 800 employees.

Unfortunately, an anniversary magazine celebrating the occasion does not appear to have been preserved on ProQuest, leaving us with the editorial above, and a Margaret Wente column on women and the G&M. “The world can change fast,” she concluded. “Back when we were 16 years old, none of the women who write and edit the ROB ever dared imagine we would be here, doing this. I hope I’m still around 20 or 30 years from now when today’s 16-year-olds are running the paper, to see whose stories they’ll be telling then.”

The Death of Warren G. Harding

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Sample of an American front page noting the death of Warren G. Harding. Pittsburgh Press, August 3, 1923.

Warren G. Harding does not rank among the great American presidents. For years, he resided with the likes of James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce at the bottom of scholarly rankings. Much of what soiled Harding’s reputation emerged after his death—corruption galore, the Teapot Dome scandal, mistresses, etc. At least he was aware of his weaknesses (“I am a man of limited talents”).

But the murkiness of his presidency was not widely known when he died in office on this date 95 years ago. None of it was present in the respectful coverage found in Toronto’s newspapers.

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The Globe, August 3, 1923.

Given what we now know about Harding’s extracurricular love life, I wonder if the headline above the picture of the president and his wife was sincere or a winking joke. The Globe’s coverage also included a passage which summed up Harding’s strong desire to be liked:

A trait that endeared President Harding to millions of his fellow countrymen was a certain quality of homeliness. This was the quality that made him liked by his fellow townsmen, Democrats as well as Republicans, and the President knew no politics where his personal relations and neighbours were concerned.

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Editorial, The Globe, August 3, 1923.

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Toronto Star, August 3, 1923.

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King issued an official statement.

Though Mr. Harding had been in office a little more than two years, during the course of which time the tragic memories of years immediately preceding continue to overshadow current events, he had come to be known to Canadian as a man essentially of goodwill and of unassuming, earnest and kindly purposes.

Flags were lowered to half mast at all federal buildings.

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Editorial, Toronto Star, August 3, 1923.

The province also sent its condolences:

The executive council on behalf of the government and people of the province of Ontario tender to the government and people of the United States of America a sincere expression of their sorrow and sympathy in the national loss that has befallen them through the death of their president whose wise and broad-minded attitude to other nations has done so much to promote international goodwill and co-operation.

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The Telegram, August 3, 1923.

The official reaction from mayor C.A. Maguire. Note the delay in lowering the flag in front of City Hall.

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Toronto Star, August 3, 1923.

Many Torontonians first learned about Harding’s death through the emerging medium of radio.

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The Telegram, August 3, 1923.

The Telegram was the only paper not to feature Harding’s death on its front page, as it was still locked into running classifieds and incomprehensible-without-deep-historical-knowledge editorial cartoons on page one. Readers had to flip to page 14 to find the details.

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Editorial, The Telegram, August 3, 1923.

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Cartoon by George Shields, The Telegram, August 10, 1923.

Not until a week after Harding died did the Tely move away from its cartoons on local political matters and note the president’s passing.

A History of Newspaper Endorsements in Federal Election Campaigns

Originally published on Torontoist on October 16, 2015.

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Cartoon urging readers to defeat Louis St. Laurent’s Liberal government, the Globe and Mail, August 10, 1953.

In the offices of Toronto’s major dailies, editorial boards have been cracking their knuckles tapping out each paper’s official election endorsement. As this article was being written, those which have been published for the 2015 campaign have not strayed from their traditional stances: Liberal for the Star, Conservative for the Sun (which we also expect from the National Post based on other Postmedia papers), and head-scratching caveats from the Globe and Mail, a paper whose choices depend on who’s running the presses and which side of the bed the editorial board woke up on.

During the Victorian era, endorsements were hardly necessary. Party organs pushed their backer’s platform. The Globe filled this role for the Liberals under founder George Brown, while the Conservatives bounced from paper to paper (usually the Mail) as owners developed independent streaks or were deemed useless. Feistier, populist papers like the NewsTelegram, and the World supported the Conservatives, but did so on their own terms.

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Toronto Star, November 6, 2000.

Occasionally, a paper rose above the fray, determined to appear impartial by backing nobody. Having declared itself independent of the Tories prior to the 1887 election, the Mail used its editorial page to criticize hyper-partisanship in ways which are still relevant:

The party organs furnish some extremely entertaining reading just now. All agree that what the Mail says favourable to their side is correct, and all are equally of the opinion that what the Mail says against their gods is wrong. If the party press is to be believed, the sheep and the goats have already been separated. The righteous are in one political camp and the wicked in the other. This being the case, the people, it seems, have no right to enquire further into the merits of the applicants for their suffrages. They must be content with such one-sided information as they can get from the partisan press, and the journal which tells them the unvarnished truth is criminal, except, of course, when the truth it relates is pleasant to the taste.

Several 19th-century newspaper proprietors ran for office, which affected their picks. For example, when Telegram owner, John Ross Robertson, was approached to run by Tories in Toronto East disgruntled with leader Charles Tupper in 1896, the paper backed fellow “independent Conservative” candidates.

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How to fill out a ballot in Parkdale for the 1917 federal election. Graphics such as these were used by many papers to depict how they felt readers should vote. Toronto Star, December 14, 1917.

Wartime united all the major dailies together for the first time in 1917. Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden’s successful overture to pro-conscription Liberals to form a Union government was viewed as a patriotic act. The degree of jingoism varied between papers, with the remaining Liberal rump depicted as an unpatriotic bunch spreading Quebec’s evil influence. The World’s endorsement gives a flowery idea of where our media stood:

No Canadian will ever be able to look another American in the face again, nor a Briton either, if the soldiers’ cause and the new government is not sustained on Monday. It is the duty of every voter to cast his ballot for that sacred resolution taken by the whole civilized world that the sword will never be sheathed until the cause for which it is unsheathed has been won. Let us stand apart from those who wait, with infamous treachery to our gallant dead, ready to sheathe the sword of Canada on Monday. Let us be a solid phalanx to stand behind our armies to give them good courage, good faith, and good cheer.

Until the 1920s, the Globe stood solidly behind the Liberals. When the Brown family sold the paper during the 1880s, the new owners understood that the Globe would be “in perpetual trust for the Liberal party to act as its mouthpiece.” This disintegrated when William Gladstone Jaffray gained control. He despised William Lyon Mackenzie King, partly because he felt our longest-serving prime minister was an opportunist who’d do anything to stay in power, and partly because King failed to push through bills banning what Jaffray saw as one of the greatest evils plaguing humanity: the publication of horse-racing results. The Globe refused to back anyone during the tight campaigns of 1925 and 1926, but returned to the Liberal fold during the Great Depression.

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Advertisement for George McCullagh radio speech where he supported the Tories and attacked the Toronto Star. The Telegram, June 23, 1949.

The Globe’s lasting break with the Liberals came after George McCullagh merged it with the Conservative Mail and Empire in 1936. The new owner had a messianic complex, regarding it his personal destiny to save Canada, a worldview that didn’t mix with the federal Grits. He naively believed the country needed a non-partisan, pro-imperalist government, which citizens would unquestioningly rely on to solve all of its problems. In 1940, McCullagh’s Globe and Mail officially backed nobody, urging voters to elect MPs willing to eventually participate in a coalition government as the Second World War wore on.

By war’s end, McCullagh backed the newly renamed Progressive Conservative party. His hyper-partisanship grew after purchasing the Telegram in 1948, as did his goal to drive the Liberal Star out of business. “I’m going to knock that fucking rag right off its pedestal,” he told his staff. The 1949 federal election showed both sides at their worst, as news coverage was distorted in a partisan manner unseen for decades. McCullagh puffed up Tory leader George Drew, and attacked the Star for being a Commie rag, which allegedly dodged sales tax payments. The Star responded by depicting Drew as being in league with wartime isolationists like Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde. One headline was so over the top that Star execs scratched it for late editions. When the campaign was over, editors at all the papers agreed to exile excessive partisanship to the editorial page.

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Dief as Nero. Cartoon by Duncan Macpherson, Toronto Star, April 6, 1963.

Endorsements rolled out as usual until 1963. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives were in disarray: an election the year before reduced them to a minority government, cabinet ministers fled the sinking ship, and the thin-skinned PM’s paranoia was operating at full tilt. The press’s desire to ditch Dief was so strong that, for the first time in its history, the Telegram backed the Liberals. In its March 30, 1963, editorial, the Tely declared that Diefenbaker had compromised the Progressive Conservatives’ principles so much “that Canada’s position at home and abroad will immeasurably deteriorate under his continued leadership.” The move confused longtime readers; one told columnist Douglas Fisher that the act was as if “devout Christians have had to face the fact that the Bible is a false, spurious document.” Publisher John Bassett’s decision also resulted in something that hadn’t happened since 1917: unanimous support for one party among all major Toronto dailies.

Bassett felt bad about the situation and sent Diefenbaker an apologetic response. Dief called him an SOB.

If the Tely’s support of the Liberals came as a shock in 1963, its rival’s turn in the opposite direction a decade later was equally stunning. The headline atop the Star’s October 19, 1972, editorial said it all: “After 50 Years—Liberals have forfeited our support.” Publisher Beland Honderich observed that the state of the Canadian economy under Pierre Trudeau was a shambles, and that poor management of foreign ownership threatened our nation’s independence. While dubious about both Progressive Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield and the NDP’s David Lewis, the Star sided with Stanfield (“an honest, sincere man”) for promising tax stimulus measures. “The easy way for a newspaper, as for a citizen, would be not to support any party in this election,” Honderich wrote. “But this is not a responsible course for a citizen in a democratic society—or for a newspaper that believes it has a responsibility to provide comment and opinions on the issues of the day.”

The Sun, covering its first election, hailed Honderich for “courage and the strength to break tradition. Canada may be better because of it.” Ironically, the Sun has never shown similar courage as federally it has never officially endorsed any party, other than the Canadian Alliance, which didn’t have “Conservative” in its name.

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Front page, Toronto Sun, February 3, 1980.

While the Globe backed Trudeau in 1972, it joined the Star and Sun on Stanfield’s side in 1974. Unfortunately for Stanfield, he literally fumbled the ball during that campaign. In 1979, the Star became the first Toronto paper to back the NDP (admiring its stands on social justice), but returned to its traditional Liberal support the following year.

As the political landscape realigned itself during the 1990s, our papers seemed lost. Both the Globe and Mail and the Sun continued to support the Progressive Conservatives after the party collapsed in 1993. But reading between the lines, it’s easy to see the editorial writers at both papers really wanted to back Reform and the Canadian Alliance, but felt they weren’t quite ready to hold power—they went out of their way to show that the new right movement weren’t evil, just occasionally wrong. Conducting strategic voting on the right passed for endorsements.

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Cartoon of Jean Chretien by Theo Moudakis, Toronto Star, November 25, 2000.

For elections where editorial writers united in feeling “meh” about the choices at hand, it’s hard to top the 2000 campaign. All endorsements came with heavy caveats. The Globe and Mail backed the Liberals as long as the party dumped Jean Chrétien in favour of Paul Martin ASAP. The Star, disappointed by a divisive campaign where none of the leaders impressed them, reluctantly stuck by the Grits; while Chretien was “an impediment to the renewal that Canadians seek,” the party “provided competent government and reflect the values Canadians cherish.” Though the Sun despised the Chrétien government, it believed Stockwell Day’s Canadian Alliance still wasn’t ready for prime time. It recommended right-wing strategic voting, backing whichever Canadian Alliance or Progressive Conservative candidates had the best chance of knocking off Liberals. Sun editor Lorrie Goldstein offered a list of 50 reasons voters should choose the “ABC” route: Anybody But Chretien.

Internal fissures were evident in the National Post, which was covering its first election. While columnists like Andrew Coyne, David Frum, and Mark Steyn favoured the Canadian Alliance, the paper officially endorsed a Liberal minority, while owner Izzy Asper penned a separate editorial promoting a Grit majority. The Post hoped that the NDP would lose their official party status “and one hopes their will to survive might go with it.” In the following elections, the Post lined up behind Stephen Harper.

Recent years have seen little deviation from traditional party lines, with the exception of the Star’s backing of the NDP in 2011. Sticking with the known has raised hackles among readers, especially when choices don’t mesh with public opinion. How much they still matter is debatable, but they offer an opportunity to argue about the role of the media in politics.

After having gone through nearly 150 years of election coverage, we’ve compiled stats on endorsements in Toronto’s major papers:

Globe/Globe and Mail
Elections: 42 (1867-present)
Liberal: 20; Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 17.5, Nobody: 3; Unionist: 1, Reform: 0.5
Endorsements realized: 21

Mail/Mail and Empire
Elections: 17 (1872-1935)
Conservative: 14; Nobody: 2; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 6

Telegram
Elections: 25 (1878-1968)
Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 23; Liberal: 1; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 11

News
Elections: 9 (1882-1917)
Conservative: 6; Nobody: 2; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 4

World
Elections: 9 (1882-1917)
Conservative: 8; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 5

Toronto Star
Elections: 35 (1896-present)
Liberal: 30; Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 2; NDP: 2; Unionist: 1
Endorsements realized: 20

Toronto Sun
Elections: 14 (1972-present)
Conservative/Progressive Conservative: 13.5; Canadian Alliance: 0.5
Endorsements realized:6

National Post
Elections: 6 (2000-present)
Conservative: 4; Liberal: 1
Endorsements realized: 4

Additional material from Scrum Wars by Allan Levine (Toronto: Dundurn, 1993); the February 7, 1887, edition of the Mail; the November 27, 2000, edition of the National Post; the October 19, 1972, May 21, 1979, and November 25, 2000, editions of the Toronto Star; the October 20, 1972, and November 26, 2000, editions of the Toronto Sun; the March 30, 1963, edition of the Telegram; and the December 15, 1917, edition of the Toronto World.

Scenes of Toronto: Spring 2011

Anti-Harper Commentary

Originally published on Torontoist on April 6, 2011.

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WHERE: Bayview Avenue, north of Eglinton Avenue.
WHEN: Approximately 9 p.m. last night. (Photographed at approximately noon today.)
WHAT: One North Toronto voter’s public commentary on the federal election. The message appears to resurrect the “Anything But Conservative” campaign backed by former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams during the 2008 federal race. We suspect that the author won’t be allowed to attend any upcoming Conservative rallies.

Flowers for a King

Originally published on Torontoist on May 6, 2011.

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WHERE: West section of Mount Pleasant Cemetery
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon; photographed 7:00 p.m. Thursday
WHAT: A large bouquet of flowers beside the tombstone of William Lyon Mackenzie King. While it may simply be a springtime memorial to Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, the imagination runs wild as to other possible motives behind the placing of these flowers. In light of the poor showing by the Liberal party on Monday night, could this be a memorial for the “natural governing party” that King helped build?

Election Results, 1930s Style

Originally published on Torontoist on April 29, 2011.

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Newsstand at the northeast corner of King and Bay, November 9, 1931. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 1289.

How will you discover the latest election results on Monday night? Watch them on television? Head to the neighbourhood bar? Follow Torontoist’s coverage? Take the matter into your own hands and tweet the early returns to the entire world? OK, maybe you should be careful with that last option—if a tattletale rats you out, an Elections Canada official may reward you with a hefty fine, since social media is off-limits while the west coast is still voting.

Back in 1930, early reporting wasn’t a problem. The internet hadn’t been invented yet, Canada didn’t have a national broadcasting network, any telegraph and telephone operators who sent early results to the west wouldn’t have faced any harsh legal penalties, as section 329 of the Canada Elections Act wasn’t enacted for another eight years.

How did Torontonians satisfy their election night curiosity at the dawn of the Great Depression? Thanks to the city’s four daily newspapers, voters who cast their ballots on July 28, 1930, had two options: listen to special radio broadcasts in the comfort of their homes, or join the crowds gathered outside the cluster of press buildings around King and Bay to find out if Conservative leader R.B. Bennett would topple the Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King.

For those in a partying mood, the liveliest festivities were found at the Star’s new headquarters at 80 King Street West (now the site of First Canadian Place). Four screens were set up: one for typed bulletins with the latest results, one utilizing a telautograph (an ancestor of the fax machine) “by which the actual writing of the operator at the telegraph wire is made visible to the crowd,” and two movie screens. To soothe those who were anxious and to entertain those who were bored waiting for the results, a 22-piece orchestra was on hand. For readers who couldn’t make it downtown, the Star set up two screens at Fairmount Park at Bowmore Road and Gerrard Street East (one featuring the latest bulletins, the other comedies), which were accompanied by diversions ranging from a military band to a ladies’ softball game. Coverage on the Star’s radio station, CFCA, was anchored by hockey broadcasting pioneer Foster Hewitt.

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Mail and Empire building, northwest corner of Bay and King streets, December 30, 1913. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 2037.

A few doors east of the Star at the northwest corner of King and Bay, the Mail and Empire didn’t add any frilly touches to its offerings, apart from a loudspeaker that played music and a platform for candidates to address the crowd. Results were screened across the street on the side of Cawthra House. The paper promised that during its four hours on air over radio station CKNC, there wouldn’t be any breaks from its election coverage for regular programming—“lulls, if any, between results will be filled in with music.”

The opposite was true of the Telegram’s radio plan. Listeners of CKGW were promised that there would be little disruption to the programs they normally enjoyed on a Monday night, as updates from the Tely intruded for three brief election bulletins. Meanwhile, down at the Tely’s office at Bay and Melinda (now occupied by Commerce Court), results were flashed on the side of the building. Breaks were filled by movies, projected drawings sketched on the spot by the paper’s cartoonists, and live music courtesy of the 48th Highlanders. (We wonder if any of the pro-Bennett blurbs the paper used as space fillers during the campaign—such as “British Bankers Back Bennett…So Should You” and “Vote Bennett and a Boom/Oust W.L.M. King and Gloom”—were projected on “the old lady of Melinda Street.”)

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Advertisements, the Globe, July 26, 1930 (left); the Globe, July 28, 1930 (right).

The Globe, then located at 64 Yonge Street, projected returns for the public via a stereopticon (or magic lantern) onto a canvas hanging on the Melinda Street side of the Dominion Bank Building (now One King West). Seven phone lines were set up to provide returns for eager callers. The paper promised that for its radio coverage on CFRB, “Special preparations have been made to make the radio newscast as rapid and accurate as human ingenuity and the super-powered equipment of CFRB will permit.” Regardless of which way the vote went, readers were promised that Prime Minister King would provide a short radio message once the results were in.

That speech turned out to be a concession address, as Bennett emerged the victor. While the result may have disappointed ardent followers mulling outside the Liberal-leaning Globe, we suspect the crowd was jubilant outside the staunchly Tory Telegram. Despite each paper’s fierce partisanship, no fights between neighbouring left-leaning Star readers and right-leaning Mail and Empire fans were reported. If there were any bitter feelings, voters bottled them up until the internet comments section was invented.

Additional material from the July 28, 1930, edition of the Globe; the July 26, 1930, edition of the Mail and Empire; the July 26, 1930, and July 28, 1930, editions of theTelegram; and the July 28, 1930, edition of the Toronto Star.