Advertising Canada's Past

In fall 2019, students in my Consumer Culture and Canadian Identity course explored the history of advertising in Maclean's Magazine, currently available online at This archives is a treasure trove for Canadian historians.

Each student chose a commodity and a decade to investigate. Then, they crafted posters and presentations based on their findings.

From cameras to cars to dental hygiene to baking powder to the Dionne Quintuplets to cigarettes to boarding schools to alcohol including whiskey, Maclean's advertised it all. Here, we can see that while advertising changed somewhat between the  years 1930 and 1985, it also remained remarkably the same.​

As my students found, themes of status, camaraderie, and excitement dominated Maclean's ads. By buying the products for sale, Canadians could acquire friendship, prestige, and love. 

It was little wonder, then, that consumer culture proved so captivating during the 20th century. And, it was little wonder, too, that commodities in particular -- and business in general -- played such a central role in Canadian life.

As you browse the posters below, ask yourself: which companies were advertising in Maclean's? And, in which countries were such companies situated?

Expanding the Menu

Expanding the Menu: Alcohol Advertising during the 1930s in Maclean's Magazine. By Callen Boutin


Whiskey Advertising in the 1970s-1980s. By Nolan Kuz

Baking Powder

Baking Powder in the 1930s. By Dylan Fredlund

Capturing History

Capturing History: Cameras in the 1930s. By Maryann Gibson

Canadian Holiday Spirit

Canadian Holiday Spirit. By Fabyan Retta

Car Wars

Car Wars. By Moniefa McCausland

Dionne Quintuplets

The Dionne Quintuplets in Colgate-Palmolive Advertising in Maclean's Magazine. By Joshua Switzer


Selling Cancer. By Benjamin Rayner

Boarding Schools

Boarding Schools and Consumer Citizenship in the 1930s. By Kiegan Lloyd

Clean Teeth

Clean Teeth in the 'Dirty Thirties.' By Isabelle French