Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Haddie, Bananas and Opium: eating 1900.

 Direct mail advertisement Crisco 1916.

Well, back in 2003, the first item I pulled from the old Victorian trunk that contained The Nicholson Family Letters was this Direct Mail Ad, from 1916, addressed to Mrs. N. Nicholson.

Lucky I did, because it piqued my curiosity. I could see it was an interesting item, pretending to be a friendly letter from the neighbourhood grocery, but really part of a slick  advertising campaign. Lots of North American women got this very ad, I'm sure. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps.

It came out of Chicago.

I did some research and decided it was likely an early campaign of female advertising legend Helen Landsdowne Resor of J. Walter Thompson. Apparently her signature style was to appeal directly to the homemaker with a three paneled brochure with a coupon. This Crisco ad fit the bill.

But today I read the small print that said Copyright J T N Mitchell Chicago. Another advertising man.

It is possible that Resor did this, before she was hired by J. Walter Thompson. She would have been a Landsdowne then.

Her Wikipedia entry says that the New York Daily News did a profile of her, as a top  advertiser, but all I can find are wedding and death notices.

Well, I'm glad I found it first. The trunk was under a shelf, so I could only open it a few inches and stick my hand in.

Yesterday, I went over the Nicholson house accounts, 1883-1921, for my book Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl. I am writing a digital trilogy about Margaret's three daughters, all 'new women' of the era.

Margaret did not change over to Crisco, I have her 1917 butter bill.

What struck me this time, was that the Nicholsons ate very well, even when struggling financially. Beef, pork, chicken (a relative luxury) turkey, lamb, canned cod and salmon, fresh fish earlier on. Lots of Haddie (haddock) a national dish. Oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal and I bet it tasted WAY better than the 1 minute crap we buy today. They seemed to sweeten more with molasses and honey than refined sugar. And all that opium in their sodas. Yum!

Pears, apples, bananas! (yes) and all kinds of  berries in season. Fresh veggies from the garden. And Margaret was a master baker, like so many of the Scots. (Now, their garden was not organic; they used  the Paris Green a lot. (It's in my Threshold Girl book.)

In 1908 some local cows trampled their garden and Norman wanted to sue if the damage was over 2.00.

My gosh, everything must have tasted so good. All slow cooked in the wood oven.

When the girls were living in the city, they were always pleased when Mom sent in a "Care Package." They were all becoming de-skilled, and their own daughters would feed their kids canned garbage in the sixties.

I once heard Jamie Oliver say, on the BBC, that the middle class, today, never had it so good, with respect to food. (And the poor are worse off.) He's wrong with respect to the middle class in towns at the turn of the last century. They may not have had the selection of foods, like we have today, but the quality was amazing no doubt.

The back of Tighsolas in Richmond, Quebec, where the garden would have been.