Lost gun, belt, whistle

The April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this short article about an unfortunate police officer who had a bad day.

Because Officer Drohan had a reasonably unusual name, I looked him up in the Toronto city directories to see what happened to him. It turned out that he got his job back: the 1930 and 1931 directories list him as working at Police Station Number 4.

However, he didn’t remain a police officer for all that long. The 1933 directory lists him with no occupation, and the 1935 directory lists him as working as a driver for Imperial Oil, as does the 1938 directory. Sadly, further misfortune may have afflicted him: the 1943 and 1945 directories list him with no occupation again, and he is not in the 1946 directory.


Buy now and save $2,000

Here’s an ad from the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for houses for sale in the Lawrence Park neighbourhood of Toronto:

Needless to say, these houses would cost considerably more than $10,750 today!

I poked about on Google Street View, and the photo shown here appears to be pretty much an exact match for what 93 Lawrence Crescent looks like today. The other addresses listed here might have used the same layout but, if so, I couldn’t spot it.

H. H. Davis & Co., which was selling the houses, appears to have been a Depression casualty. The 1929 directory lists the company at 36 Toronto Street and Henry H. Davis living at 439 Grace Street; the 1930 directory has no record of either. Someone else is living at 439 Grace, which suggests that Mr. Davis moved out of town.


All England is watching

Here’s another photo from the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, this time of a British peer who apparently had eloped with another man’s wife:

Wikipedia and a site called The Peerage provided details on the people mentioned in this photo:

  • Harold James Selbourne Woodhouse, the 2nd Baron Terrington (1877-1940), married his first wife, Vera Bousher, in 1918. They were apparently divorced in 1926, so he was unmarried when he eloped with Mrs. Humphrey. The two were married in 1927. He was a solicitor and a company director, and was imprisoned for “fraudulent conversion” between 1928 and 1931.
  • Rena De Vere Humphrey Shapland Swiny (1898-1965) had been married twice before eloping with Lord Terrington. She married again in 1938; presumably, she and His Lordship had divorced before then, though this isn’t listed on the website. This page has photographs of her, though it seems to have her year of death wrong.
  • Vera Woodhouse (1889-1973) lost in her first attempt at becoming a member of Parliament in 1922, won in 1923, and then lost again in 1924. The Liberal Party nominated her again in 1925 but she withdrew due to “problems in her personal life”, which I assume were marriage-related. In 1949, she married again and moved to South Africa, returning to Britain the year that she passed away.

An episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus includes a character named Humphrey De Vere; presumably, one of the Pythons found Mrs. De Vere Humphrey’s name and switched it around.


A London beauty

Here’s another picture from the photo page of the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Strictly speaking, it would probably have been more accurate to refer to the former Viola Bankes as a Dorset beauty, as her family were landed gentry from that area. The family estate was known as Kingston Lacy, and Ms. Bankes (who used her maiden name when writing) wrote a collection of reminiscences about growing up there.

A comment on the page for the collection of reminiscences claims that when Ms. Bankes’ father became terminally ill, she was told that he was going to Africa; she and her siblings were not told about his death. The comment also claims that her mother never spoke to her again when she married a “middle-class doctor” (who, presumably, was Mr. Hall).

A search turned up this portrait of the couple on their wedding day and revealed that she passed away in 1989.



The photo page of the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included this photo of a former governor of Wyoming who was about to have a statue made of her:

Nellie Tayloe Ross (1876-1977) was married to William B. Ross, who was elected the Governor of Wyoming in 1923. He passed away in 1924 due to complications from an appendectomy. She ran for the office of Governor herself in 1925 and won, becoming the first – and, to this date, only – female governor of that state. She ran for re-election in 1926 and lost, partly because she supported Prohibition and partly because she refused to campaign for herself.

She was appointed the director of the United States Mint in 1933, and held that position until 1953. She lived for half a century after this photo was taken of her, passing away in 1977 at the age of 101.


25 years ago a circus clown

Here’s an item from the photo page of the January 31 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Billy Merson (1879-1947) was a music hall performer, songwriter, and manager of the Players Theatre in London. He wrote “The Spaniard That Blighted My Life”, which Al Jolson once performed, and which Merson himself performed in 1935 in this video.

There are a number of other Billy Merson recordings and videos on YouTube, including this one of him singing “Desdemona” in 1927.


The Catalina Kid

During the evening and night of January 15 and 16, 1927, a 17-year old Toronto boy, George Young (briefly mentioned previously in this blog here and here), became the only finisher of a 22-mile swimming race between Catalina Island and California. His feat earned him the nickname “The Catalina Kid” and made him famous.

To say that the Toronto Daily Star was following Young’s exploits with great enthusiasm would be an understatement. The January 31 1927 edition of the paper contained five articles, one photograph, and one ad referencing young Mr. Young.

First, there was an article in which William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate who sponsored the swim, asserted that nobody but Young could have done it. Mr. Wrigley claimed that the young man would soon be worth $100,000:

And there was this photograph of two of Young’s family and his trainer, on their way to join him in California:

And there was this article about a dispute between Young and his competitor and former friend, Bill Hastings:

George Young apparently had William Wrigley’s yacht at his disposal:

And there were articles written (or perhaps ghostwritten) by Young and Hastings themselves:

And, finally, there was an ad stating that Young would be making personal appearances at theatres in Toronto:

Sadly, life did not go as well for George Young as he and others would have hoped. He married another distance swimmer, Margaret Ravior, in 1932. They had a son together, but, as the January 22 1934 edition of the Daily Star recounted, he died shortly after birth:

Young and the former Ms. Ravior eventually divorced. The ups and downs of Young’s life are described in detail in this Maclean’s article from 1949. He passed away in 1972.


When baseball was young

The January 31 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a column that appeared to be a regular feature in the paper (I’ve seen it in other editions). It was one of the earlier examples of a frequently-employed theme in baseball writing – namely, that baseball was much better back in the day than it is now.

In particular, note the complaint about modern (i.e. 1927) gloves being like “divan pillows”. (For a sample of what a 1927 glove looked like, see this photo of pitcher Walter Johnson’s glove.)

The Baseball Reference website, the definitive on-line source for baseball statistics, has an entry for the 1883 Boston Beaneaters mentioned in this article. It lists twelve players on the team, not eleven – but one only appeared in fourteen games, so he likely wasn’t with the team for the full season.

I also found information on the two players quoted:

  • John Morrill (1855-1932), nicknamed “Honest John”, served as player-manager for the 1883 team for part of the season. His career as a professional player extended from 1876 to 1890. He hit 16 triples in 97 games in 1883.
  • Joe Hornung (1857-1931) played professionally from 1879 to 1890, and was considered one of the best outfielders of the 19th century. He had a habit of shouting “ubbo ubbo” whenever he got a hit or made a good play; this became his nickname.

John B. Foster (1863-1941), the writer of the article, was a sportswriter, the secretary of the New York Giants from 1913 to 1920, and editor of Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide.


Annual physical examination

Here’s an ad from the November 30 1927 edition of the Toronto Globe for a medical practice:

The Canadian Health Service Institute did not last long into the Great Depression – a listing for it appeared in the 1930 Toronto city directory but not in the 1931 directory.

Searches for James W. Barton in the city directories revealed that the Canadian Health Service Institute was in existence in 1925; before that, Dr. Barton was just listed as a physician. But I also discovered that Dr. Barton was the president of the Matheson Mining Syndicate; apparently, he ran a mining operation when not tending to his medical practice or providing twice-yearly medical examinations at the Canadian Health Service Institute.

I expected the Matheson Mining Syndicate to also have been a casualty of the Depression. But it actually remained in existence for a while, as I found an entry for it in the 1938 city directory. The mining syndicate didn’t survive the outbreak of war, though – the 1940 city directory just lists Dr. Barton as a physician. He continued his medical practice at least until 1951; the 1956 directory lists him, but with no occupation, so presumably he had retired by then.

Just for the heck of it, I also traced Dr. Barton in earlier city directories. I discovered that he had started his professional life as a physician and the physical director for the University of Toronto. He was listed as such in the 1908 and 1910 directories; by 1915, he had moved on to private practice.


Fat is now a folly

Here’s a patent medicine ad from the November 30 1927 edition of the Toronto Globe for a product that claimed to provide weight loss.

Marmola apparently consisted of “a little desiccated thyroid and a lot of laxatives”.

The Federal Trade Commission went after Marmola in 1931, claiming that the false claims of its positive effects could be considered unfair competition. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of Marmola, since there was no record of its competitors being harmed by its claims. (This, ironically, was probably because all of Marmola’s competitors were doing more or less the same thing.) The FTC was more successful when they tried again in 1935, at which point Marmola was driven out of business.

Marmola was an invention of a man named Edward D. Hayes, who had been creating patent medicines of dubious effectiveness for over a quarter of a century by the time this ad came out. Hayes was a serial offender: in 1915, he was arrested, fined, and had his mailing list destroyed for advertising “Dr. Robinson’s Prescription for Nervous Debility, Lack of Vigor, Failing Memory and Lame Back Brought on by Excesses, Unnatural Drains or the Follies of Youth.”