Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada 1925-1960

Project Themes: Consumers

This gallery presents a cross-section of advertisements from Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Canadian Home Journal, Mayfair, La Revue Populaire, and La Revue Moderne as they appeared over four decades.  We have selected advertisements for consumer goods that employ travel as a theme in promoting products as various as nail varnish and pâté, although we have also included some advertisements that speak more directly to the construction of middlebrow tastes and aesthetics, so as to provide a wider context for the images and text that make up travel-themed consumer advertising.  Very often, advertisers (such as Seagram’s, Kodak or Community Silver) ran the same materials across all six magazines, suggesting that they saw the different target audiences for each magazine as fundamentally connected at the level of consumer desire.  Whilst we cannot presume to know precisely who read the magazines, or how and why they read them, the advertisements do communicate much about how readers were constructed as part of a broadly-defined audience.  Within this construction, however, key differences across the magazines can also be discerned – for example, companies such as the high-end clothing retailer Holt Renfrew advertised exclusively in Mayfair, telling us not only that Mayfair had a certain elite slant, but also that its audience was presumed to be centred in Ontario, and therefore capable of visiting the department store on Bloor Street, Toronto.

But why use travel as a theme for advertisements?  On one level, travel was portrayed as a pleasurable use of one’s leisure time, and was therefore an end in itself.  The association of goods with images of ease and fulfilment cast those goods in a rosy glow that was meant to boost sales.  On another level, advertisers keyed their imagery and text to the anxieties of the emerging middle class to whom they spoke and, accordingly, offered the cultured worldliness that was seemingly instilled by travel as a means of assuaging those anxieties.  Whether it was skin cream that could give skin an elegant “English” complexion, or coffee that could demonstrate, literally, the good taste of a hostess, advertisers invoked travel – and, in particular, European notions of sophistication – as a means of appealing to their public.

Links to our resources:

Selected consumer-themed articles

 

Gallery of all consumer-themed images

Gallery of consumer-themed images in Canadian Home Journal

Gallery of consumer-themed images in Chatelaine

Gallery of consumer-themed images in La Revue Moderne

Gallery of consumer-themed images in La Revue Populaire

Gallery of consumer-themed images in Maclean's

Gallery of consumer-themed images in Mayfair

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Arts and Humanities Research CouncilUniversity of Strathclyde CWRC