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?