East End, West End, on fume tout de même

Ghost ad

Ghost ad

This is what makes ghost ads in Montreal more interesting than in most places: more than just a window into the past, they reveal the city’s linguistic geography, past and present. Here we have two examples of early-twentieth-century tobacco ads revealed by recent building demolitions. One, on east-end Masson Street in Rosemont, is in French. The other, on west-end Sherbrooke Street in NDG, is in English. It’s a pretty straightforward illustration of Montreal’s linguistic divisions, which exist to this day — you’re far more likely to hear English spoken in western NDG than French, and the opposite holds true in Rosemont.

Of course, there’s more than just linguistic history that can be gleaned from these old ads. Turret Cigarettes were produced by Imperial Tobacco in St. Henri, about four or five kilometres from the ad in NDG, and they were marketed as the poker-player’s cigarettes of choice. Enough boxes of Turret made you eligible to redeem a deck of playing cards from Imperial Tobacco’s warehouse in the present-day Gay Village — hence the seemingly cryptic slogan, “Save the Poker Hands.”

Old Chum, meanwhile, was a brand of pipe tobacco, also produced by Imperial, that was popular with the tobacco charities run by La Presse and The Gazette. The tobacco charities raised money to provide tobacco to Canadian soldiers fighting in the first world war. After troops complained of being given inferior tobacco, The Gazette commissioned Imperial to produce packages of Old Chum specifically for the troops. Smoking became a patriotic activity promoted by both the French and English press.

Top photo by xbourque; bottom photo by Guillaume St-Jean

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday May 17 2009at 10:05 am , filed under Art and Design, Canada, Heritage and Preservation, History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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