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French art collection

Here’s an ad from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for what was billed as an auction of French art.

It was a very valuable and artistic French art collection!

I wanted to find out: was there really a Comte De Richemont, and did he really live at the Chateau de Verneuil? And, if so, why on earth was his estate being auctioned off at an art gallery in Toronto?

When I searched the Internet, I discovered that there was a Comte De Richemont whose title was hereditary, but the third Comte passed away in 1912, and his son died in 1941. There seems to be a Chateau de Verneuil in Moussy-Verneuil, but this French Wikipedia entry seems to indicate that the chateau had been owned by the same family since the 17th century. The family apparently is now extinct, but one member of it lived until 1948, which makes it less likely that the contents of the chateau had been spirited away to Toronto. I also could find no reference to an art expert named R. G. Sussman. So while I don’t know for sure that the text of this ad is all made up, that’s my best guess.

The Toronto city directory listed Jenkins B M & T, antique furniture dealers, at 28-30 College Street. The listing was in bold face, so they had paid for a premium entry in the city directory. Not only that: Thomas Jenkins, its president and manager, had paid for a bold-face entry for himself in the directory. So, clearly, he wanted to make an impression! Thomas E. Jenkins, the secretary-treasurer (and probably Thomas’s son) was also listed, but with a normal-sized entry.

I discovered that the firm had been in existence a long time: I found a Jenkins B M & T listing in the 1900 directory. Thomas Jenkins was still the proprietor. A comment in this post in the Occasional Toronto blog states that the firm was founded by Bridget Mary Burns Jenkins and her son, Thomas; this would explain the initials. (Oddly enough, the 1895 directory lists the firm as M B & T Jenkins; this might have been a typo.) The 1890 directory lists Thomas Jenkins with an occupation of “furniture”, so the firm was started after that.

I could find no listing for Bridget Jenkins in any Toronto directory. This might be because of sexism, or perhaps she might have started a branch of the firm in Montreal: the WorldCat global library catalogue website lists a book from 1900 that references a Montreal location for the Jenkins art galleries. The book is titled Jenkins’ palatial antique & art galleries, and is apparently ten pages of illustrations that were to serve as a “record of our activities during the past sixty years”. So either the Jenkins Galleries started in Montreal and branched out to Toronto, or this was all made up too. I could find no references to a Jenkins art gallery in Montreal, so I have no way of knowing.

Interestingly enough, there was a Thomas Jenkins who was a British painter and antiquities dealer who lived in Rome in the 18th century. So it’s either a coincidence that our Mr. Jenkins had the same name as a more famous antiquary from the past, or perhaps our man even made up his name. Either way, he dreamed and thought big, which makes him more interesting.

Jenkins Galleries is listed in the 1935 and 1940 directories, but in normal type, with Thomas E. Jenkins as proprietor, and located at 840 Yonge. Presumably, his father had passed on to the great art gallery in the sky.

The Jenkins Gallery is listed in the Art Canada Institute’s glossary of Canadian art history. The original facade for the gallery is still preserved at 23 Grenville Street; the building is now a condo named The Gallery. The Toronto Public Library has photos from 1927 from inside the gallery.

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Eminent Danish baritone

Here’s an ad from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring a prominent Danish baritone and the piano that was to accompany him at his upcoming concert.

A Google search for Poul Bai revealed that he had immigrated to Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia’s entry on Danish music in Canada states that Mr. Bai arrived in 1927, taught at the Toronto Conservatory of Music from 1927 to 1932, and taught privately until about 1960. He also conducted a 20-voice Scandinavian male choir for many years.

I also found a Canadian wartime propaganda pamphlet from 1941, Canadians All, that lists Mr. Bai among noteworthy Canadians of Danish extraction. The introductory sentence of the foreword to this pamphlet was:

Before the Nazi attacks with military strength, he attempts to undermine the moral and physical resistance of his victim nation by termite tactics.

That’s overwrought, but probably not wrong.

When I realized that Mr. Bai had settled in Toronto, I looked him up in the Toronto city directories. I couldn’t find him in the 1928 or 1929 directories; the 1930 directory lists a Paul Bai as a salesman, but I’m not sure whether this was him and he was briefly taking on a day job. He’s not in the 1931 directory, so I don’t know for sure.

The first definite sighting of Mr. Bai in the Toronto city directories is in 1932, when a Puol Bai is listed as an artist. In the 1933 and 1935 directories, he is listed as Poul Bai; in 1940, he’s back to being listed as Paul Bai. I sense that this was an ongoing struggle.

Moving forward: because the Canadian Encyclopedia listed him as teaching until about 1960, I looked him up in directories from about that time. I found him in the 1958 and 1960 directories listed as Paul Bai and working as a singing teacher; perhaps, by then, he had given up and had anglicized his first name. He does not appear in the 1961 directory, so maybe the Canadian Encyclopedia researched him the same way that I did.

The ad mentions in small type that Muriel Gidley was to accompany Mr. Bai on the piano. I didn’t trace her in the city directories, but I did find her obituary – she passed away in 2004 at the age of 98. Under her married name of Muriel Stafford, she has a Canadian Encyclopedia entry. She also has an Internet Movie Database entry, as she appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1963 as a guest, and appeared on the TV series We the People twice in 1949.

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Petite and popular

Here’s a publicity photo from the photo page of the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.

Bessie Love (1896-1986) had steady work in movies from 1916 to 1930, including an Academy Award nomination for Broadway Melody (1929). Film roles dried up for her after that, so she married, had a child, moved to England in 1935, and then divorced.

Starting in the 1940s, she was steadily employed in British films and television, sometimes playing an American tourist (and why not?). Her career lasted through the 1980s, and her list of career accomplishments was so extensive that it needed a separate Wikipedia page. There is no record of her playing Peter Pan, though – perhaps this was just a gimmick for a publicity shot.

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Lady Lindsay, arrived, recently

Here’s a picture from the photo page of the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star whose caption, might, have, contained, an, extra, comma, or two:

Elizabeth Sherman Lindsay (1885-1954) was a grandniece of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman. She became a landscape gardener at a time when this was an occupation that was not normally open to women, and she was also a leading figure in the American Red Cross during the First World War.

Ronald Lindsay (1877-1945) was a career British diplomat. He had previously been the ambassador to Turkey and Germany before being appointed the ambassador to the United States. He stayed in the post until 1939, an unusually long tenure for an ambassador; apparently, he was quite good at the job. When he returned to England, his wife was unable to join him due to wartime travel restrictions and her own poor health.

Sir Ronald seems to have had a fondness for grandnieces of William Tecumseh Sherman. He married Martha Cameron in 1909; she passed away in 1918. He then married her cousin, born Elizabeth Sherman Hoyt and pictured here, in 1924.

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Snubbed by society

Here’s a bit of filler from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a woman who was snubbed by Cleveland society.

The Midwest Guest blog has an article on Jimmy and Laura Mae Corrigan. She had inherited her husband’s fortune when he unexpectedly dropped dead in 1928. After returning to England, she lived on an income of $800,000 a year in London during the 1930s.

When war broke out, Mrs. Corrigan raised enough money for wartime relief efforts that she earned the nickname “The American Angel”. After the war, England awarded her the King’s Medal, and France honoured her with the Croix de Guerre, Legion of Honor, and Croix de Combattant. She passed away in 1948, and is buried in the same Cleveland cemetery as John D. Rockefeller.

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H-E-double hockey sticks

Here’s a two-part article from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star in which various people interviewed by the paper condemned the use of the word “hell” in the House of Commons.

The people who were opposed to the use of the H-word seem to have been divided into those who thought it was blasphemous and those who thought it was just plain vulgar. But no one seemed to think it was a big deal to be using this word in the newspaper.

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Interesting photographic study

I’ve seen this several times before, but I’m still astonished that newspapers from the 1930s would publish photographs of girls and young women and include their names and addresses. Weren’t there stalkers back in those days?

Anyway, here’s a photograph of twin girls that appeared in the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

When I looked in the 1930 Toronto city directory, I discovered that the caption had their surname wrong. G. Douglas Wilson is listed at 21 Parkwood Avenue, and was the managing director of the Bowes Company, Limited. You’d think that the paper would have gotten this right, as the very same edition had a photograph of Mr. Wilson being honoured by his company:

Moving forward:

  • By 1935, the Wilsons had moved to 16 Elderwood Drive in Forest Hill.
  • By 1940, Mr. Wilson was the head of his own firm, the appropriately named G. D. Wilson & Company Limited, which had a bold-face listing in the directory. Their line of work was bakers and confectioners supplies. He was still at 16 Elderwood Drive.
  • By now, Mary and Isabelle are old enough to have listings of their own: Mary D. Wilson is working as a clerk at Imperial Life, and Isabelle has no listed occupation.
  • In 1945, the G. D. Wilson & Company firm was still going strong. The twins are still living at home. Isabelle C. Wilson is listed as a stenographer at her father’s firm, and Mary D. is still at Imperial Life.
  • The listings were the same for 1950 and 1955 as well: the firm was still going, and the sisters were still at 16 Elderwood in their same jobs.
  • The 1960 directory finally brought change. G. Douglas Wilson is listed as “with” G. D. Wilson & Co., which suggests that he was semi-retired. There is no listing for Isabelle, and there is no listing for Mary at 16 Elderwood (she has a common name, so it was difficult to trace). This suggests that the sisters had gotten married and thus disappeared from the city directory.
  • By 1965, the last year that I checked, G. D. Wilson was listed at 16 Elderwood with no occupation, which suggests that he had retired. The G. D. Wilson Company was now the Bakery Division of Rose & Laflamme, Limited. Isabelle and Mary were not listed.

16 Elderwood Drive still stands. It doesn’t appear to have changed much over the years.

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Showing up nicely

We’re getting closer to the start of the baseball season, so this photograph from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star seems relevant:

There was a Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team before there was a hockey team of the same name. The baseball Maple Leafs played in the Eastern League from 1902 to 1911 (and briefly in 1899). Moving to the International League, the Maple Leafs existed until 1967.

Robert Petrie did become a member of the Maple Leafs in 1930, but it doesn’t look like he made the starting lineup: he appeared in 63 of the team’s 139 games, sometimes as a pinch-hitter, and batted .259. He played for two International League teams in 1931 – Reading and Jersey City – but then disappeared from organized baseball and from history.

In more recent times, the name “Robert Petrie” was more commonly associated with The Dick Van Dyke Show.

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Cooking school winners

The March 19 1938 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained some articles and advertisements related to a cooking school that the paper had recently sponsored. Firms that participated in or sponsored the cooking school raffled off prizes that could be won by attendees.

Here’s the results of one raffle:

Rosemounts (or Rosemounts Registered, as they were officially then known), was a jewellery store. In 1938, they had two locations: 280 Yonge and 1048 Bloor West. The Yonge Street location was gone by 1948, but the 1048 Bloor West location remained in business into the 1960s – it was listed in the 1963 directory, but not in 1968.

And here’s a photograph of a woman who was lucky enough to win the stove that was used during the cooking school:

According to the 1938 Toronto city directory, Thomas Cade was living at 255 Wellesley Street when his wife won the range. He had no listed occupation in the directory. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he was unemployed; but, if he was, I’m sure he was grateful that his spouse had struck it lucky.

I wasn’t able to trace the Cade family after that. There is a Thomas I. Cade in the 1939 directory, working as a “stkpr” (my best guess is stockkeeper) at Lever Brothers and living on Maitland Street, but I have no idea if this was the same person. Thomas I. Cade is listed as being on active service in 1941, but is not listed in the 1943 directory.

I also briefly looked up W. J. Packham, the man who presented the stove to Mrs. Cade. He is listed in the 1938 directory as a divisional manager at Canadian General Electric, living at 11A Bingham Avenue. I checked ten years later, and he was listed as an appliance sales manager at CGE and living on Chaplin Crescent in Forest Hill. I didn’t trace him after that.

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For monthly lessons

Here’s a photograph from the March 19 1938 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of two brothers who travelled a long way once a month for music lessons.

Elsas, Ontario, is an unincorporated town near Kapuskasing. It hosted a Continental Wood Products Corporation mill between 1920 and 1928; the town was named after CWPC’s president, Herman Elsas.

It’s quite a trip from Elsas to Toronto. Nowadays, it takes 12 hours and 44 minutes to drive between them. The railway that would have taken the brothers to the city would have travelled on a slightly straighter route; still, it’s a very long trip to take, and it showed that the Wilcox brothers (or their parents) were seriously committed to music.

Google searches for the brothers didn’t turn up anything; they never made a career in music. Since Werdin Wilcox had an unusual first name, I was hoping to at least find out something about him, but unfortunately he appears to be lost to history.