The gift of gifts

Here’s an ad from the April 29 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that offered a free guide with every Parker Pen.

After reading this, I wanted to know: who was Princess Rostislav, and did she actually write a “Guide to Correct Social Correspondence”?

It looks like “Princess Rostislav” might refer to the first wife of Prince Rostislav Alexandrovich (1902-1978), who was born Princess Alexandra Pavlovna Galitzine. The prince and princess were married in 1928 in Chicago, and were divorced in 1944. The National Portrait Gallery has photographs of the princess that were taken in 1922, when she was 17.

I have no idea whether this is the princess in question, or whether she actually did write a guide to correct social correspondence. I could find no reference to the guide anywhere, except in a reference from another ad in a Vancouver newspaper. If she had actually written such a guide, she would have had plenty of time to revise and republish it, as she passed away in 2006 at the age of 101.

Prince Rostislav, a nephew of Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, probably considered himself lucky to be alive and married to anyone: he escaped being assassinated by the Bolsheviks when German troops freed him in 1918. After he and the princess divorced, he went on to marry Alice Eilken and then Hedwig Maria Gertrud Eva von Chappuis; she married Lester Armour, who was almost certainly not a prince (at least not literally).


Gives evidence

The February 4 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad for Fruit-a-tives, a “fruit liver tablet”:

The ad included a testimonial that included a sworn statement, apparently made before a notary, and on file in Ottawa. I wonder if anyone ever asked for it?

I looked Mrs. Grace Sansone up in the Toronto city directories. The 1935 directory listed Samuel Sanson working as a barber and living at 233 Melita; in other years, his name was listed as Sansone, so I think that the Fruit-a-tives company did have the name right. There was also a Grace Sanson in the 1940 directory, working as a ward aide at the Toronto Hospital for Consumptives and also living there; this might have been someone else.

Samuel Sanson or Sansone continued barbering into the 1960s. The 1962 directory lists him still working as a barber and living at 233 Melita. The 1964 directory lists him with no occupation, which presumably meant that he had retired. The 1965 directory, however, lists Grace as the widow of Samuel and living at 233 Melita.

233 Melita Avenue is a semi-detached house near Dupont and Christie; it looks pleasant enough.

Fruit-a-tives seems to have been used for a variety of purposes; besides clearing up Mrs. Sansone’s pimples, it was apparently also a laxative. A search yielded references to a 1931 pamphlet entitled Secrets of Health and Long Life and a medical handbook from about the time of the First World War.


Christmas in 1920

The Toronto Daily Star did not publish an edition on Christmas Day one hundred years ago, so advertisers that wanted to wish their prospective customers a Merry Christmas had to do so in the December 24 1920 edition. Here’s the ones that I found:

Mayoral candidate Sam McBride placed an ad that appeared on the front page of this edition:

Despite the non-partisan tone of this message, Mr. McBride still lost the 1921 mayoral election to Tommy Church. (In those days, municipal elections happened every year on New Year’s Day.) He did eventually become mayor from 1928 to 1929 and then again in 1936, passing away while in office.

The Toronto Globe did publish an edition on Christmas Day 1920, but it didn’t contain many ads. The front page did contain a Christmas wish from the Globe:

Both papers included this ad from Eaton’s on their back cover:


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.”



The October 4 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained perhaps the most sparsely-written ad I’ve ever seen:

I suppose that there is no need to say anything else.


Upper Canada Tract Society

Here’s an ad from the June 27 1928 edition of the Toronto Globe for religious tracts:


A telephone is reserved for your use!

I’m fascinated by “God’s Minute”, which featured 365 prayers by “approximately 350 saintly men”. Did some of the saintly men write more than one prayer? Or were approximately 15 writers not saintly? I suppose it’s just that they didn’t bother to check that closely, and I guess there’s no reason why they should.

I was also intrigued by “Silken Threads” by Wilhelmina Stitch – could that possibly have been her real name? Apparently, it wasn’t – it was a pen name of Ruth Collie (1888-1936), and “Silken Threads” is a collection of her poems. In 1930, she would undertake a tour of North America, speaking every day for 50 days.

Fay Inchfawn, the author of “Verses of a House Mother”, also turns out to be a pen name, this time of Elizabeth Rebecca Ward (1880-1978). Ms. Ward, like Ms. Collie, was a prolific writer of verse. She was known as the “Poet Laureate of the Home”.

As for the Upper Canada Tract Society: the ad claims that it was founded in 1832, and I found a reference to them in the 1867 Toronto city directory (as the Upper Canada Bible and Tract Societies), located at 102 Yonge. In 1900, they were listed as the Upper Canada Religious Book & Tract Society at that location, and J. M. Robertson (the manager mentioned in the 1928 ad) was listed as one of the “joint depositaries”.

By 1933, the society had moved to 406 Yonge, where they stayed until at least 1948. The 1950 directory lists the society as having relocated to 112 Richmond West. By then, there was clearly less demand for religious publications, as the firm rebranded itself as The Book Society of Canada, educational publishers. They were in the 1954 directory at that location, but not in the 1957 directory.


The Farragut House

Here’s an ad from the June 22 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


The Farragut House was an enormous old hotel that was built in 1883, replacing an earlier hotel that had burnt down. It was closed in 1974 and torn down in 1975. There are a number of sites that discuss this hotel, including a New Hampshire history blog and the New Hampshire Then and Now Facebook group.


A limited amount of teaching

The June 22 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this brief and somewhat mysterious ad:


I looked Ms. Bates up in the Toronto city directories. She was listed as a musician; in later directories, she is listed as a music teacher. She remained at 519 Jarvis for a long time; she is listed in the 1960 directory, and I didn’t check after that.

519 Jarvis Street is a heritage building: it’s one of the two Massey Houses. The other, 515 Jarvis, is currently a Keg Steakhouse. 519 Jarvis stayed in the Massey family until at least 1925; Ms. Bates was one of the people living there in 1930. (515 Jarvis, among other things, was the home of Ryan’s Art Galleries and a convalescent military hospital.)


New and enlarged

Here’s an ad for a new restaurant on Bloor Street, from the May 16 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


This seemed like quite an ambitious undertaking, particularly in the middle of the Great Depression. Sadly, it did not survive long: the Express Coffee Shoppe appears in the 1931 Toronto city directory, but does not appear in the 1932 directory.

Out of curiosity, I cross-referenced the listing in the names section of the city directory, to see if I could find out more. The entry for Express Coffee Shoppe listed, among others, T. B. Smyth as president and J. T. Hulse as the manager:

  • When I looked up Mr. Smyth, I discovered that he was both president of the Express Coffee Shoppe and a plumber, so he had a Plan B in case the restaurant failed. And, sure enough, Plan B went into effect in 1932: Mr. Smyth was now listed as the president of T B Smyth & Co. Ltd., plumbers. I guess it’s admirable to fall down eight times and get up nine, or whatever the saying is.
  • When the Express Coffee Shoppe failed, Mr. Hulse’s plan B was to work as a builder, which is what he was listed as in the 1932 directory.

Oh, well. I hope what customers they had enjoyed the Caulfield dairy milk and cream and the Nasmith’s bread and rolls.