24 July 2013

C is for Canada Monthly

The October 1912 issue of Canada Monthly, purchased late last year for the humour – black humour – of its cover:
Agnes Deans Cameron's Last Article
In fact, Miss Cameron survived, dodging sailboats and steamers, only to succumb to pneumonia shortly after her return home to Victoria.

"The liveliest, most entertaining, most thoroughly Canadian of the magazines published in Canada" was owned, edited and published by Herbert Vanderhoof, a Chicago publicity agent who made his fortune pushing land in our four westernmost provinces. The District of Vanderhoof – "Geographic Centre of British Columbia" – was named in his honour.

It makes perfect sense that Miss Cameron was one of Herbert Vanderhoof's writers; she spent much of her forty-eight years encouraging western settlement. That trip down the Thames was made possible in part by an Ottawa that was eager to promote British immigration.

Agnes Deans Cameron isn't the biggest name in this particular issue; Isabel Ecclestone Mackay contributes a particularly bad poem. For my money – I paid $2.80 – the most interesting offering is this bit o' verse by Dorothy Livesay's mother:

Most writers in this "most thoroughly Canadian of the magazines published in Canada" are American. Lesser names like Wilbur D. Nesbit, best remembered for "A Song for Flag Day", a jingoistic ode to the Stars and Stripes, populate its pages. Canada Monthly was never intended to be a showcase for this country's writing, but as a means to sell the West. Nesbit's countryman Arthur I. Street contributes "How Many More? What the Business Man Can Make in Canada", in which he appeals to our greed:
An increase of nine and three-quarter millions in population, a million and a half in dwellings, and three-quarters of a million in the number of farms would mean an increase in farm values of nearly two billions. And that's your particular "baby", isn't it? Increase your land values? Isn't that where you make your money? Isn't that the temptation that leads you into a new country?

A century later the West is still chasing that "increase of nine and three-quarter millions in population".

The caption on this accompanying W.C. Sheppard [sic] illustration reflects Street's optimism...

...as do the advertisements.

Twenty-two months later, on August 4, 1914, everything changed. It seems oddly appropriate that the pitch for property in Fraser Lake is followed by this advert for the infamous Ross rifle:

"You Buy a Rifle to Last Your Life-time..."

The cruelest joke of all.


  1. I dunno Brian, my Ross Rifles (both the .280 & the .303) are still shooting tight groups 100+ years on, and I'm the fourth generation that has owned them. The .303 in particular is a dandy to shoot. Much nicer (at the range anyway) than the Lee Enfields that replaced it.

    I've often thought that if I win the lotto I'd like to revive the Ross brand and take out a full page advert in the Globe & the Post. All of your advert blurbs would have to be from Sam Hughes, and at the very bottom in very small type you add, "not recommended for trench warfare."

    1. James, I wonder if the time is not right to revive he Ross brand. Seeing that the wartime government expropriated the company, it would seem that the name belongs to us all. As we know all to well, the current government doesn't believe in public ownership - history be damned! It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the Ross Rifle Co. name could be purchased cheap. I'd be willing to chip in a few dollars.