You won’t know your own “figger”

Here’s an ad from the May 4 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention for a number of reasons:

I am not sure which is more startling: that the ad thought that the word “figure” was too fancy for its target audience, or the very idea of a corset, which presumably was a very unpleasant experience for its wearer. I did learn, though, that back-lacing corsets were cheaper than front-lacing corsets.

I took a look in the Toronto city directories and discovered that Woolnough Corsetiers and Woolnough Shops were listed in the 1934 Toronto city directory with F. J. Woolnough as their proprietor. Mr. Woolnough had been in the business of corseting a long time: the 1910 directory lists him as the manager of the Corset Specialty Company.

However, he was about to retire: the 1936 directory lists him (with an occupation of “corseter”), but there is no listing for Woolnough Corseters, and the Woolnough Shops now has Kate J. Nicol as its manager. Sadly, Mr. Woolnough did not survive long out of harness: the 1938 directory does not list him.

The Woolnough name was well-known enough that the Woolnough Shop, as it became known, continued to live on after its namesake had passed on. It is listed as a ladies’ wear shop; I’m not sure whether it specialized in corsets or whether it offered less restrictive options. The firm continued under Ms. Nicol’s stewardship at least until 1948; I didn’t trace it after that.

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