I’ve been spending a lot of time in the archives of The Review*, the 117-year old, Vankleek Hill-based weekly broadsheet newspaper — I’m writing a series of pieces on how the people in my village survived the Great Depression**.
The good news is, most of them did. At least so far, I’ve only just finished with the issues from 1929 and 1930, I still have to get to 1936 before I know for sure.
The weird news is, they were also going through the first serious attempts by corporations to use mass media to sell crap to naive people who only wanted to listen to Amos & Andy, or read about whose niece was visiting town from Ottawa for the week.
Last year I researched the effects of the 1918 Spanish Flu on the Vankleek Hill region, and it was actually the advertising that told most of the story. Tonics and potions from 1917 that were advertised as cold remedies with superpowers, were repackaged as cures for the Spanish Flu by the fall of 1918.
It was the same stuff, same package, same illustrated and weirdly happy face attached to the copy, just new claims.
I’ve found a lot of advertising so far this time that’s worth taking a look at on it’s own… mostly this time it’s the banks who are telling the story, as they desperately try to get people to invest their money in a savings account. Or the mining company’s using fairly sophisticated advertorials to sell stock.
Then there are the odd ones, including one from Kellogg’s claiming “Corn Flakes” are “One of the finest dishes you ever tasted!”. I’m not sure a better case could be made for a consumer protection agency.
This is the copy from the ad:
You don’t know how much flavor you can add to breakfast till you fill a bowl with crisp Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, pour on milk or cream and add fruits or honey. One of the finest dishes you ever tasted!
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
This is the smaller print:
More than 12,000,000 people daily demand Kellogg’s Corn Flakes because of that famous Kellogg flavor!
Enjoy Kellogg’s for lunch as well as breakfast. Just try a bowlful late at night!
Look for the red-and-green package at your grocer’s. It brings you oven fresh Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in the patented inner sealed waxtite wrapper. Served by hotels, cafeteria’s — on diners. Made by Kellogg in London, Ontario.
I’ve got a bunch of stuff from the archives that are just odd — a photo of a 3-year old boy smoking a cigar, for example — that I’ll leave here over the next few weeks.
*Back in the day “The Review” was known as The Eastern Ontario Review.
**I wrote a post about a book called “Ten Lost Years: Memories of Canadians Who Survived The [Great] Depression” (1973) by Barry Broadfoot… it has to be one of the best books written about that era of Canadian history. If you’re interested, it has a few excerpts, as well as directions on how to find a copy.