Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Edwardian Christmas Advertising

by Anita Mae Draper

Pssst - this isn't an official 12 Days of Inkies post but I wanted a Christmas header so I'm pretending - shhhhh...

Seems like I can't peruse a historical newspaper these days without coming across ads for Christmas goodies - with good cause since it's December and Christmas is coming in a couple short weeks.

My main interest in these newspapers is the Edwardian period due to the 1911 Courtship Letters I post on my Author Memories blog each week. Also -- blatant promotion coming up -- it's Christmas 1911 in my first published story, Riding on a Christmas Wish found in A Cup of Christmas Cheer pictured on the right.

Truth be told, I've been looking for an excuse to post these ads and this seems like the ideal time, basically for historical reasons to see what was available back then, or what certain items were called. The ads look blurry here, but if you click on them they should enlarge on a new screen.

The Newmarket Era, Newmarket, Ontario. December 18, 1908

The Newmarket Era, Newmarket, Ontario. December 9, 1910 

This following ad was hard to read originally, but I'm including it here because it's the only one I found for sleds (called coasters) and ice skates.

The Newmarket Era, Newmarket, Ontario. December 10, 1909

The Newmarket Era, Newmarket, Ontario. December 6, 1912

The Kingsville Reporter. December 14, 1911

While the above ads were all from Ontario in the East, these next ones are from The Morning Leader out of Regina, Saskatchewan - where I go if I want a Tim Horton's or Starbucks coffee or anything close to fast food.

The Morning Leader, Regina, Saskatchewan - Dec 9, 1910 

The Morning Leader, Regina, Saskatchewan - Dec 9, 1910 

The Morning Leader - Dec 20, 1911
The Morning Leader - Dec 14, 1911

The Morning Leader - Dec 23, 1911 

The Morning Leader, Regina, Saskatchewan - Dec 23, 1911

Late 19th century advertising card. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library, Baldwin Room

I've tried to show a variety of Christmas ads snipped from 1908-1912 newspapers from Ontario and Saskatchewan. I specifically stayed with the 2 provinces covered through my 1911 Courtship Letters and although the prices are in Canadian dollars, the difference between Cdn and US currency is usually within 15% of par either way at any time.

One thing I noticed was the lack of Christian images, carolers, etc but then, there wasn't many images at all to speak of - possibly because of the cost of lithographs? Whenever an actual photograph is included, the image is usually too dark to make out so perhaps that's why they didn't bother adding them. The Newmarket Era was a weekly, labor intensive production whereas The Morning Leader was a daily that needed to be out in a hurry.

Do you have any ideas why there aren't many images? Did anything catch your attention here - anything that made you wonder and think? 


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae  semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.  Anita Mae's short story, "Riding on a Christmas Wish" is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013.  Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at   http://www.anitamaedraper.com/


  1. Wow. The safety razor cost more 100 years ago than it does now -- without even factoring inflation into the cost. It must have been an expensive gift back then.

    Fun post, Anita. We used to live in an Edwardian era house. Well, actually, it was built during the Victorian years, but it had been extensively redone in the Edwardian era (1913), so the interior reflects that time period more. I miss that old house :(

    1. Oh wow, right back atcha, CJ. I love character houses. We lived in a 1913 house for 5 years before we moved to the farm and although it was tiny and way too small for our family, I loved the mouldings and shape of it.

      I have to admit I don't miss it though - not enough outlets for today's technology.

    2. Anita, our old house was kind of interesting from the standpoint that it was about the size of an average modern house -- 4BR/2 BA, just a little over 2000 sq ft. Seems like most of the houses from years ago were either huge mansions (owned by the wealthy) or tiny cottages/bungalows (lived in by the rest of us). At least, that was my impression when we moved and were trying to find an old house that wasn't so tiny we'd have to sell off furniture (and children) or so huge we couldn't afford it. (Hence the reason we now live in an oh-so-ordinary vintage 1992 residence.) Ours had been a school in the 1800's converted to a house in 1913 by the man who owned the local lumber company. Okay, the 12' ceilings were a little hard to heat in the winter, even in Virginia, but the woodwork in that place is fantastic.

      Did I mention I miss that place? Especially at this time of year. Those old houses are really the best for Christmas decorating.

    3. Oh, please don't mention having to heat it. A few days ago we hit -50 if you include wind chill gusts and since C and F are equal at -40, what's 10 degrees more.

      You know, I went to an auction once when we lived in Eastern Ontario and up for bids was an 18th century manor house and a whole lot of gorgeous house contents which they'd brought out and packed in under tents. It was the only time I've been in a house with separate servants' stairs and quarters, except it was mostly a shell as the interior walls had been gutted. Huge, yet still beautiful with all the beams and woodwork. I'm really glad I had a chance to see it although it was sad to see.

    4. Oops - typo - make that a 19th century vice 18th. Had a moment there when I reverted back to the time I thought 1860 was the 18th century. :D

  2. I love these old ads. It seems like Christmas shopping was much simpler in those days. *sigh*
    As far as the lack of pictures, my best journalistic guess is that they were so focused on squishing as much info as possible into as few pages as they could, drawings of items simply took up too much space, making adding illustrations cost-prohibitive to most advertisers.

    1. Niki, you might be onto something there because all the newspapers before the turn of the century shows very small print and everything jam-packed together - like sardines - my family would say. Thanks for the explanation. :)

  3. Great post, Anita. I loved reading through these and seeing what things cost. And the variety of toys and dollies! I also noticed the ad for oranges (from Japan, CA, and FL). I used to get an orange in my stocking every year. Nobody else I knew got one, but it's an old tradition.

    1. We got a Japanese orange in our stocking every Christmas, too. Our mom made our stockings with a plastic liner in case the orange squished, the chocolate melted, or the candies got sticky. I'm glad I never had any of those mishaps, though because it would have been icky to clean.

  4. Loved it as well, Anita. I didn't dare take time to read it at work (wink wink) so I came back and tried to read all the small print. I was also amazed at the cost of the razor. I swear it looks like the one my dad had, so I think they were very consistent for many decades.

    Susie, I also used to get an orange in my stocking (because my mom used to.) frankly, not my favorite item...what can I say?

    Nki is probably on to something with the ads. now we want a full page photo and three words in our ads! Plus the newspaper was a luxury to read completely!

    I love this decade, too, Anita. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Deb, and you're welcome.

      We still put Japanese oranges in the Sunday school bags at church along with toys and candy. Sort of like we're evening out the nutritive value because of all the sweet stuff. Ha!

  5. You always have the most interesting historical posts, Anita! Love all the ads. For me that kind of thing puts you concretely in touch with the past.

    Love the sweet little birdie card. :)


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