m996x.2.512.1-2 | Candy box

Candy box
1920-1950, 20th century
6 x 22.2 x 12.8 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Box (44)
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Keys to History

Canada's shift to an urban-industrial society in the early-twentieth century elevated consumer consumption to an position of crucial economic importance. The American economic theorist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) suggested that "conspicuous consumption" - the desire to consume things for the pleasure and social prestige they brought - had become the prime determinant of a modern economy. Branding and advertising products was the key to teaching consumers to consume. Luxury goods - goods beyond the necessities of life - were only purchased at the buyer's discretion. Consumer loyalty had to be cultivated.

Take, for instance, candy. By 1919 Canada was producing 245,861 kilograms of candy. Canadian manufacturers found innovative ways to promote candy sales. The Ganong family of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, perfected the wrapped candy bar in the late 1870s and went on to build a family business that gave the consumer a sweet, hygienic snack. In 1913 Frank O'Connor (1885-1939) opened a candy shop on Toronto's Yonge Street and branded his product "Laura Secord Candies." He styled his candies as "Old-Time Home-Made" and called his chocolate factories "studios." Early advertising agencies, like McKim Advertising in Montreal, helped businessmen plant the reputation of their product in the consumer's mind.

  • What

    By 1920 Laura Secord Candies had "studios" - the name was meant to diminish any sense that his candy was mass-produced - in Toronto and Montreal. Retail shops, where the staff wore crisp white uniforms, soon dispensed the candy across the nation.

  • Where

    The cities were the key market for confections. In 1923 Andre Vachon and his wife Rose-Anna Giroux began producing sweet snack cakes near Quebec City and selling them door to door under the brand name "Jos. Louis."

  • When

    Laura Secord's brand image coincided with stirrings of Canadian nationalism during and after World War I. Candy boxes were decorated with patriotic sketches from the War of 1812, when Laura Secord warned of invading Yankees and General Brock defeated them at Queenston Heights.

  • Who

    Anson McKim (1855-1917) pioneered Canadian advertising by demonstrating the connection between newspaper advertising and brand consumption and loyalty. By 1911 the McKim Advertising Agency in Montreal had 150 corporate clients and soon opened offices in Boston, New York and London. In 1915 McKim helped create the Canadian Association of Advertising Agencies.