Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada 1925-1960

Magazine name: Mayfair
Years: 1927-1959
City: Toronto (1927-1936); Montreal (1937-1959)
Publisher: Maclean Publishing Company (1928-1945); Maclean-Hunter Publishing Company (1945-1955); Crombie Publishing (1956-1959)
Language: English
Link to our catalogue of selected issues

Downloadable files:
Table of contents, May, 1927. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Table of contents, January, 1930. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Table of contents, May, 1931. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Table of contents, December, 1931. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Full issue, Mayfair, August, 1932. Link to PDF (17mb) Note: As the pdf contains internal links, it is best viewed in Adobe Reader (Win/Mac) or Preview (Mac). Right-click on the PDF to download it and view it this way. See also our additional Mayfair materials on the CWRC repository.

Mayfair (1927-59) was launched in May 1927, with the declaration, by editor J. Herbert Hodgins, that it would be Canada’s magazine of “culture, fashion, and social distinctions.” It featured debutantes and diplomats, society weddings and sporting events. Reviewers hailed the new magazine as “‘a final contradiction to the frequent claim that Canada is not mature enough, not cosmopolitan enough to inspire a publication of this sophisticated type.’” (quoted in the editorial for June 1927). We include Mayfair here as a middlebrow publication because Mayfair balanced a concern with sophistication and fashionableness with conservative values and elitism.

If you did not belong to Canada’s elite, Mayfair tempted you to imagine yourself as part of it. Of the six magazines presented here, Mayfair was the one most focused on travel. This focus took many forms: European travel memoirs; photo-features of Canadians abroad; fashion reporting, particularly from Paris; special issues dedicated to London (April) and Paris (May); and much travel-themed advertising, including direct advertising for cruises, flights, and hotels, as well as adverts for consumer products that employed travel imagery. Mayfair showed the best of what travel could offer, from gourmet meals to private tours of Italian villas.

Aesthetically, Mayfair adopted different qualities throughout its history, moving away from its initial Art Deco style to a streamlined look during the War, and then to a rather whimsical series of cover typefaces and illustrations in the 1950s. In its early years, the price of a single issue of Mayfair was thirty-five cents. The price dropped to twenty-five cents in 1934, and remained there until 1958, when the price of a copy rose to fifty cents. Its circulation peaked at 20 000 subscribers (Sutherland), and its concentration of Toronto-based advertisements hint that the magazine’s intended audience was the very upper-crust Ontario residents that the periodical showcased. For all of its attention to aesthetic trends, Mayfair’s collapse at the end of the 1950s may owe something to its determined consistency of tone and content: changing ideas about social hierarchy and exclusionary practices may have made Mayfair’s attitudes seem outdated. The magazine went out of print in December 1959.

For full references, see our Bibliography page

Please see our timeline to learn more about Mayfair's editors and owners

Accessing the magazine

Among the libraries which hold hard copy are Library and Archives Canada (a relatively complete and well preserved run in bound volumes, held in Special Collections), the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto (a relatively complete and well preserved run, mostly in bound volumes), the Robarts library, University of Toronto (assorted unbound issues, in poor condition but easily accessible), and the Toronto Reference Library (here, the print copies are available only by special permission). Microfilm copies are available in several Canadian research libraries.

  • Mayfair cover, October 1927
    October 1927
  • Mayfair November 1927 cover
    November 1927
  • Cover. Mayfair, July 1928
    July 1928
  • Cover. Mayfair, May, 1929
    May 1929
  • Cover. Mayfair, November, 1929.
    November, 1929
  • Cover. Mayfair, July, 1930
    July 1930
  • Cover. Mayfair, September, 1931.
    September 1931
  • Cover. Mayfair, May, 1932.
    May 1932
  • Cover. Mayfair, August, 1932.
    August 1932
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