Dismembered body mystery

The front page of the December 11 1930 Toronto Daily Star included this photograph of a young woman who had been found, dismembered, in a cavity in a wall in Birmingham, England.

It took several Google searches to find a reference to the unfortunate Mrs. Thick, but a search for “ivy emma Birmingham 1930” revealed that she appears in a chapter of a book titled More Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths in Birmingham, an excerpt of which appears in Google Books here. Her husband, Edwin Claude Thick, was convicted of her murder and consigned to a lunatic asylum for the rest of his life.


Successful in by-election

In 1930, Canada was still closely enough linked to Britain that a picture of an MP who had won a British by-election could be printed on the front page of a Canadian newspaper. Here’s a picture of the successful candidate as displayed in the December 11 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Douglas Douglas-Hamilton (1903-1973) was the Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale when he won the by-election in the East Renfrewshire riding for the Unionist Party (not the Conservative Party) in 1930. He remained an MP until he became the 14th Duke of Hamilton in 1940.

The Marquess, later Duke, was a noted pilot: he was part of the first squadron to fly over Mount Everest in 1933. In 1935, to understand the experience of the workers in his family’s coal mines, he worked briefly as a miner under the name of “Mr. Hamilton”.

In 1936, he was part of a multi-party British delegation invited by Germany to view the Olympic Games in Berlin, during which time he might or might not have met Rudolf Hess. In 1941, when Hess flew to Scotland to attempt to fashion a secret peace treaty with the British, he asked to meet with the Duke, who met with him as requested and then promptly notified Winston Churchill of his arrival.


In middle of winter

Here’s a short human interest piece from the December 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a couple on an epic Canadian walking adventure.

This would have been an epic, and possibly utterly crazy, adventure.

I have no idea whether they got all the way across Canada – I found no reference to Jack Stuart of Favel, Ontario, in any searches. I did wonder whether they bothered to leave Favel again now that they had made it back home.

Favel, Ontario is nowadays listed as an unincorporated town near Kenora, on the main CNR transcontinental line. I saw no reference to its existence on Google Maps. Given that it is such a remote place, it’s not that difficult to believe that Mr. Stuart and his wife were used to walking in uninhabited areas, even in the middle of winter.


A wonderful possession

Here’s an ad from the December 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a collection of the works of William Shakespeare.

This edition included Shakespeare’s sonnets, some uncredited brilliant introductions, and somebody’s unique editorial contributions, but the ad doesn’t actually describe whether any of Shakespeare’s plays were included in whole or in part. $7.50 in cash in 1929 is the equivalent of over $110 today, so this book was not cheap, whatever it contained.

The copywriter for this ad chose hyperbole over linguistic accuracy, as the text refers to “the immortal creations of this myriad mind”. “Myriad” literally means “ten thousand” and is usually used to refer to a countlessly large number. So Shakespeare could have had a myriad of creations, but “myriad mind” makes no sense. So there!

British Books was a new firm at the time of this ad. The 1929 Toronto city directory does not list them. The 1930 directory lists them at units 338 and 339 of 73 Adelaide West; in 1929, this office space belonged to the Presbyterian Church in Canada. British Books eventually moved to 70 Bond Street; they appear in the 1936 directory, but not the 1939 one.


A sunbath every day

Here’s an ad from the December 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for an ultraviolet lamp that was advertised as providing artificial sunshine.

This blog has encountered the Chas. A. Branston, Ltd. company before: a 1920 ad encouraged people to use a Model 25 or Model 29 Branston ozone generator to fight off influenza.

The company was listed as late as the 1957 Toronto city directory as a manufacturer of electrical appliances; in the 1960 directory, they repositioned themselves as selling records, televisions and radios. They are not listed in the 1965 directory.

By the way, modern sun lamps emit fluorescent light with the UV wavelengths screened out, as they are considered harmful.


Snowy white table linen

Here’s an ad from the December 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that contained a rather obvious error.

Not only was there an upside-down headline – the New Method Laundry Limited text was very poorly displayed. (Though I suppose this might be an artifact of the original newspaper microfiche process.)

New Method Laundry was not only in the 1929 Toronto city directory – they had an ad on its front cover (it’s at the bottom):

They also had an ad on the page where their entry was listed:

New Method Laundry was just in the process of opening up a second location at the time of this ad. The city directory listed the phone number of their original location, which was at the corner of River Street and Queen Street East. The ad shown here had the phone number of their new branch at 725 College.

By 1939, the Queen and River location was gone, and they were still listed at 725 College. They remained there for over a generation, as the 1969 city directory listed them there.

I don’t have access to later directories, so I don’t know what happened to them. A Google search turned up nothing, and 725 College is now a shopping center.


Who bought candy store

Here’s one last item from the December 7 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, which has turned out to be an excellent source of material. This is from the Personals section:

I was curious, so I looked up the Toronto city directories from around 1921 to see if I could find out who Jean was. I didn’t have any luck.

Here’s the residents of 88 Givens Street in the years that I searched:

  • 1917 to 1922: Peter Bennett
  • 1923: Racco Iafrate
  • 1924: William Roberts, butcher
  • 1925 and 1926: vacant

I suppose that the Personals entry could have been some sort of code, or perhaps Jean was the wife of one of the residents in this list. Sadly, I’ll never find out.

Nowadays, Givens Street is known as Givins Street: the changed name first appears in the 1947 city directory. According to Google Street View, 88 Givins looks to have been updated sometime since 1931. I can’t tell whether it has been rebuilt or just remodelled.



The December 7 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad for a newly-opened chain of cleaners.

I love the use of capitalized words for emphasis. And they used exclusive English formulas!

Spick & Span Cleaners hit the ground running late in 1931: the 1931 Toronto city directory does not list any locations, and the 1932 directory lists all 36 locations shown here. The business more or less thrived, despite being started in the depths of the Great Depression; by 1939, 27 stores remained in business, and the company had spawned one imitator, Spick & Slick Cleaners at 2388 Bloor West.

The firm persisted at least into the late 1960s. In 1955, there were 27 stores in the chain, but their numbers started to gradually dwindle after that. In 1960, there were 23 branches; in 1965, there were 13. There were also 13 branches in 1969, the last year for which I can access the online Toronto city directory. A Google search turned up no reference to the chain, so I do not know when they went out of business.


Here is value

Here’s an ad for a restaurant from the December 7 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star. The restaurant featured a full course dinner for 50 cents:

Sparfel’s New English Grill was the brainchild of Joseph and Louis J. Sparfel. Joseph arrived in Toronto first, taking over the Hotel Florence at 30 King West in 1930. His brother first appears in the 1931 city directory as co-manager of the grill.

Sparfel’s New English Grill last appears in the 1935 directory. By then, the brothers had shifted their responsibilities: Louis is now listed as the sole proprietor of the grill and the hotel, and Joseph was now managing the Blackstone Restaurant, located in the basement of 112 Yonge Street.

In 1936, the Oxford Hotel is now at 30 King West, Joseph is involved with the Blackstone Restaurant and with the Normandy Restaurant at 12 Queen East, and Louis has no listed occupation. Louis didn’t give up, though: by 1938, he was running the Claridge Restaurant, while Joseph was still with what the directory called the Black Stone Restaurant. In 1940, they were both still at their respective posts, and Margaret R. Sparfel was working as a cashier at the Blackstone; presumably, she was Joseph’s daughter.

I was curious, so I kept going. In 1945, Louis does not have a listed occupation, but Joseph was now the manager at Chez-Paree Limited, a restaurant at 220 Bloor West. This restaurant was successful: by 1955, Joseph was the general manager there, his son Roland was manager, and Louis was working there as a cook.

A Google search for the Chez-Paree restaurant turned up a Twitter thread on it, including a copy of a menu. The restaurant lasted until 1969, when the building it was in was demolished.


Announced his engagement

Here’s an item from the photo page of the December 7 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, featuring a couple that were about to be married.

Unfortunately, the couple separated after only four months, and neither of the two had a long or happy life.

Horace Liveright (1884-1933) was a publisher and stage producer. He was a founder of the Boni & Liveright and Modern Library publishing imprints, and he produced a successful adaptation of Dracula in 1927. Business failures and alcoholism led to death by pneumonia in 1933, and Wikipedia claims that only six people went to his funeral.

Elise Bartlett Porter (1899-1947), who used the stage name of Elise Bartlett, appeared in a production of Show Boat in 1929. Mr. Liveright was Ms. Porter’s second husband; she had married actor Joseph Schildkraut in 1923. She had apparently so enchanted Mr. Schildkraut that he proposed on the day that they met. They divorced in 1930. Like Mr. Liveright, Ms. Porter drank heavily, dying of delirium tremens in 1947.