The Lingering Ghost

British Consol cigarettes

On a bright summer day in 1996, Kate McDonnell was wandering through an alley in the eastern Plateau when she spotted the remnants of a hand-painted tobacco ad on the wall of an old triplex.

Fifteen years later, Kate ventured down the same alley and, sure enough, the ad was still there, a bit more faded than before but otherwise intact. Unfortunately, the bottom of the ad is now blocked by the tall wood fence of a terrace built on an adjacent garage.


The ad appears to read “Primes British Consols cigarettes,” suggesting that the smokes were being given away as a prize. According to the Cigarettespedia (a Wikipedia for cigarettes — who knew?), British Consols were unfiltered cigarettes introduced in the 1920s by the Montreal-based Macdonald Tobacco. They were discontinued in the 1970s, around the time that Macdonald was sold to an American company and relocated to Toronto.

(Incidentally, the Cigarettespedia article states that “in the province of Québec, this brand was marketed as Consols, without the references to British colonialism, which would have proven offensive to Québeçois [sic] sensibilities.” That was clearly not the case given this vintage wall ad.)

Like other ghost ads from the early twentieth century, this one reflects Montreal’s linguistic divide. But I’m perplexed by its placement. Most such ads were painted on walls next to vacant lots, or above the adjacent building’s roofline — prominent spots where they were bound to be seen by passersby.

But this one is hidden in a back alley. As you can see below, it’s visible only from a quiet residential sidestreet. Strange. But in the 1996 photo, you can see traces of an even older ad — look for the cursive script below “Consols” — so I guess it was a popular spot.

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This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday June 05 2011at 11:06 am , filed under Art and Design, Canada, Heritage and Preservation, Public Space and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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