Monday, July 27, 2015
Crisco, WWI and the Cost of Living
100 years ago there was World War I. I know because I just watched Parade's End on TV, with Benedict Cumberbatch, and I liked it very much.
It's embarrassing, but before I discovered the Nicholson Family Letters I couldn't have told you the dates of WWI, or the date women, in Canada, got the vote.
(In 1917 Premier Borden gave women limited suffrage so he could pass a Conscription Bill. Suffrage was limited to women with close relations active on the War Front.)
And I'm well read enough.
I could have told you about the Pre-Raphaelites and Oscar Wilde and La Belle Epoque, and about the Epicurians but not the dates of the WWI. I must have skipped History Class that day in high school.
My husband, who doesn't read much, could have told you though. He likes to watch War TV.
So, about 10 years ago, when I found that family trunk with the Nicholson letters and opened the top about 5 inches (and the trunk was stuck under a shelf) and bravely reached in and pulled out (first thing) an advertising for Crisco from 1916, addressed to someone called Margaret Nicholson of Richmond, Quebec, I didn't understand the significance of the date.
I just thought the flyer was cool because it contained such slick advertising copy.(I've worked as a copywriter.)
It was a 3 fold card with a friendly letter on the back that pretended to be from the local grocer, in this case Mr. Mac Rae, but was really from the mind of a Madison Avenue advertising professional. (Well, a Chicago advertising professional.)
I grew up in the 60's eating my mother's delicious cakes made from Crisco shortening. This advertisement contained a panel for a coupon (in the signature style of woman advertising pioneer Helen Landsdowne Resor) that Margaret likely used. Waste not want not.
My husband's great grandmother wasn't hooked at all. I know because her 1917 butter bills were also in the trunk! The price of milk and butter skyrocketed during the WWI years, the reason why this 3 panel direct mail advertisement was sent around to women like Margaret, who were usually loathe to change their culinary ways.
Not Bonne Over Here, the Nicholson Letters from WWI can be find here on Kindle. There are lots of complaints about the rising cost of living in the letters..