Ill-fated ships

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if there were any newspapers that carried an ad for the Titanic before it sank on its maiden voyage. Sure enough, the April 8 1912 edition of the Toronto Globe contained this:


The body of the ad text misspelled the liner’s name as “Titantic”.

This is actually a two-for-one special: there is also an ad for the Lusitania, which was eventually torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915.

Happy Thought Range

Here’s an ad from the June 22 1907 Toronto Globe:


Happy Thought Ranges had been in existence since at least the late 1890s; a Happy Thought Range Cookery Book was printed in the mid-1890s.

The Richard Bigley building still stands, and is now listed as 98 Queen Street. The side of the building displays his name as a ghost sign – it’s the oldest ghost sign that I know of in Toronto.

Human Butterflies

The June 22 1907 Toronto Globe had two ads featuring the Curzon Sisters, also known as the Human Butterflies or Flying Butterflies. They travelled through the air supported by slender wires attached to their teeth and performed a “serpentine dance”. Here’s the two ads:



I couldn’t find much about the Curzon Sisters. The website has some pictures of the sisters linked to Pearl Kalar (1882-1979), who might have been one of the sisters. But you have to register to view more, and I didn’t want to do that.

1907 was the first year of the Scarboro Beach amusement park; it closed in 1925. BlogTO has more details.

Private diseases

Here’s another medical-related ad from the June 22 1907 Toronto Globe:


If you’re wondering what “gleet” is: it’s a gonorrhea-related watery discharge. (Yuck.) Galvinism (now called electrophysiology) is the stimulation of a muscle using electric current – I don’t know whether it was any use against gleet, but I suspect not.

Dr. Graham had been in business for a while at the time this ad came out: the Toronto city directories list him as having set up shop at 198 King Street West sometime between 1885 and 1890. At the turn of the century, he moved to Clarence Square; the 1900 directory lists his office at King Street and his residence at Clarence Square, but later directories show both his home and residence at the new location. He appears in the 1910 directory but not the 1912 one, which suggests that his career as a physician lasted a bit less than a quarter of a century.

1 Clarence Square is now gone – there is a gas station on the site – but other houses in the square are still standing, and are now nice-looking old houses and businesses.

Scotsmen badly treated

From the June 22 1907 Toronto Globe comes this report:


The article doesn’t go into details about how badly the Scotsmen were treated, or how they were treated badly. It’s interesting that the 250 settlers appear to have all been men.

According to Wikipedia (the go-to source for the lazy!), Portage la Prairie was first settled by non-indigenous people in the 1850s. By 1907, it was established enough that it became a city, having become a town in 1880. The Scotsmen mentioned here weren’t the first Scotsmen in Portage la Prairie, as a Presbyterian church had been founded there in 1881. I guess some unscrupulous person imported some impoverished immigrants and then exploited them.

Electric belts

Recently, I looked up the June 22, 1907 edition of the Toronto Globe. I discovered that older newspapers have very interesting ads, as they are (a) very wordy, and (b) not necessarily constrained by the principle of truth in advertising.

For example, there were two ads for electric belts. I’m not sure exactly what they did – apparently, not much – but the ads suggested that they did a whole lot of wonderful things. Here’s the first one:


And here’s the other:


I looked these fine gentlemen up in the online Toronto city directories, and discovered that neither Dr. Sanden nor Dr. McLaughlin appear to have actually been real people.

The city directory for 1908 lists the Sanden Electric Company at the 6 Temperance Street address, with the proprietor being F. H. Curtis (later replaced by W. E. Burkholder). This company appeared in the 1917 city directory, but there was a fire in the Dineen Building that year, which may have driven it out of business, as I could not find it after that.

The 1908 city directory also has a listing for the Doctor McLaughlin Company, managed by a gentleman named Ira C. Olmstead. The firm had moved to 237 Yonge by 1912, and was gone by 1917.

If you want to learn more about the history of electric belts, this article in the Atlas Obscura web site is for you. It shows that the Sanden and McLaughlin companies were actually Canadian branches of firms based in the United States, as it contains U.S. ads for both belts. The article mentions that ads for belts became less common after 1910, as the American Medical Association began to crack down on this sort of thing.

The BBC has a more general article on the history of self-electrification as a Victorian-era therapeutic tool.

Lazy digestive organs

When looking at old newspapers, I’ve determined that constipation was more of a problem ages ago than it is now. For instance, here’s an ad from the September 28 1927 Globe:


Exercise those bowel muscles and make them strong!

The only references I could find to Tillson’s Natural Bran on the Internet were to other ads from 1920s publications.

Chicken rustlers

From the September 28 1927 Toronto Globe:


So if I read this correctly, two men stole 70 chickens and four ducks from farms in Brantford and Woodstock, and then drove all the way to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, in a 1927 vehicle, with all 74 fowl in the vehicle with them? That was a tremendous, albeit criminal, achievement.

Toronto’s official crest

The June 8 1960 edition of the Toronto Daily Star stated that the “college of hearalds” had approved this official crest for the City of Toronto:


The Wikipedia page for the Toronto coat of arms provides a slightly different version of this crest – the maple leaf and gear have swapped positions, and the indigenous Canadian on the left has been rendered differently. The coat of arms was redesigned in 1998 after Metro Toronto was amalgamated.