The April 4 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photo of a couple that was about to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.
I was startled to notice that the Murphys had 13 children, 10 of whom were still alive. At the time, this wasn’t all that unusual.
When I see one of these notices, I often indulge my morbid curiosity and look in the Toronto city directories to find out how long the couple remained together. In this case, the answer was six more years: William P. Murphy is listed in the 1935 directory but not in 1936. When I looked up 145 Bellwoods in the Streets section of the 1936 directory, the owner was listed as Mrs. W. P. Murphy, so she outlived him.
145 Bellwoods is a semi-detached house located a little northeast of Trinity Bellwoods Park. It looks like it’s gotten new windows since 1929, but it appears to be the same house.
Here’s a photo from the April 4 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a woman who had just become a Member of Parliament in Britain.
Jennie Lee (1904-1988) won her seat in a by-election in 1929 and then retained it in a general election the same year. At the time that she was elected, women under the age of 30 were not allowed to vote in Britain.
She was defeated in the 1931 election, but returned to the British Parliament in 1945 and served until 1970. She was the Minister for the Arts in Harold Wilson’s government from 1964 to 1970. After she left Parliament, she became Baroness Lee of Ashbridge. She was married to Welsh politician and fellow Labour party member Aneurin Bevan.
Here’s a photo from the April 4 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who had mysteriously disappeared, along with a photo of the house that he lived in.
A Google search turned up this book about Mr. Hendry’s family, which revealed sad news: he was found drowned in Grenadier Pond in High Park on April 8th. Apparently, he died after would nowadays be called an epileptic fit, but was then referred to as “automatism”.
I looked up Mr. Hendry’s address, 104 Kilbarry Road, in Google Street View. It looks vaguely similar to the 1929 version, but seems to have been remodelled.
Here’s a photograph from the March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe of an enterprising man who kept his gas station from being robbed.
Out of curiosity, I looked him up in the Toronto city directories. I discovered that his name was actually George E. MacFarlane; in the 1934 directory, he was listed as working as a service station operator for the Hambleton Company. This company had a service station at 299 Eastern Avenue, which is at the corner of Eastern and Broadview, so I’m pretty sure that this was him.
Looking forward: Mr. MacFarlane is listed in the 1936 directory as an assistant manager at a service station, and in 1938 as a service station attendant. But the 1941 directory lists him as an electrician, so he had succeeded in improving his career prospects.
He seems to have remained an electrician for a long time. The 1948 directory lists him as an electrician at “Burman Elect”. Some of the directories from the 1950s do not list him, possibly because he moved outside of Toronto, but the 1958 directory lists George E. MacFarlane as an electrician at “Burnham Elect”, which I’m pretty sure is the same place. He was there in the 1968 directory too; I don’t have access to directories later than 1969, so I couldn’t trace him later than that.
The March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe featured this one-panel cartoon and write-up of a marathon runner based in Canada.
Taavi Komonen (1898-1978) emigrated to Canada from his native Finland in 1929, with his first name being anglicized to “Dave” at that time. When not struggling to find work, he was competing in marathons, winning the Canadian National Marathon championship in 1932. After finishing second in the Boston Marathon in 1933, he was forced to sell his running shoes to pay for a ticket back to Toronto.
He found employment in Sudbury, and was able to go to the Boston Marathon in 1934 thanks to financial aid. He won that year’s event by almost four minutes.
He lived in Sudbury until 1951, and then returned to Finland. He passed away exactly 44 years after winning in Boston.
Here’s an article from the March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe that discussed the possible creation of a St. Lawrence Seaway.
The St. Lawrence Seaway did eventually open, but not for a quarter of a century after this article, due to political struggles on both sides of the border and the time required to construct its components. The first ocean-going ship made its way through the seaway on April 25, 1959.
Henry I. Harriman (1873-1950) had been a public utility executive before being appointed the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce. He held this position until 1935.
In the March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe, the ad for the upcoming performance at Massey Hall listed the performer by last name only:
I’m not sure why they did this. Did they assume that the culturally sophisticated would already know who Tibbett was without needing to be supplied with his first name?
Fortunately, for the less culturally aware, there was an ad from a prominent Toronto piano maker in the same edition. It boasted that Mr. Tibbett was to be accompanied on one of their pianos:
Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960) was an opera singer and recording artist. He was born Lawrence Tibbet, but his contract with the Metropolitan Opera mistakenly added an extra “t”, and he decided to go with the new surname.
He sang at the Met over 500 times between 1923 and 1950, and appeared in movies briefly in the 1930s. He was nominated for a Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for The Rogue Song (1930), which was his first film role. That’s a good way to start your movie career! (The film is now lost.)
The worst moment of his life might well have been when rehearsing for a role in 1937: he accidentally stabbed Joseph Sterzini, a member of the chorus, during a fight scene. Mr. Sterzini passed away shortly thereafter.
In later years, arthritis and heavy drinking caused him to age prematurely. He passed away after hitting his head when falling in his apartment.
There’s a lot of Lawrence Tibbett on YouTube. The first link that came up was footage of him singing the Toreador Song from Carmen, as filmed in Metropolitan (1935).
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.
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.
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.