A few idle minutes rooting around in a book bin at the thrift store turns up a snapshot of Winnipeg life circa 1914.
The sub-title is intriguing, but the only spice in A Perpetual Honeymoon for the Winnipeg Bride is in the recipes. This household guide was essentially a promotional tool for local businesses of all kinds.
Leafing through the guide, you get a good picture of the wants and needs and dreams of Winnipeggers on the eve of the Great War.
This is not the modern bride’s idea of a perpetual honeymoon. This household guide cum business directory has its 224 pages stuffed with recipes, beauty tips and advertisements – detailing everything from the butler’s duties to where to buy your wood stove to how to cook a three-week-old pig.
Many articles are paired with corresponding advertisements for businesses. Care of the eyes (“never read on a moving train”) is paired with an optometrist. On the next page, tooth decay and its causes face the dentist’s ad (“gold medal in Brussels for bridge-work”).
Product placement is definitely on the horizon.
Some names are familiar. This volume is book-ended by ads for the Hudson’s Bay Company and Blackwoods.
In an era before the Winnipeg Aqueduct, clean water is more important than soda pop. Blackwoods is touting Blackwood’s Aero Distilled Drinking Water:
“The purest water on earth…The celebrated Surgeons, Drs. Mayo, Rochester, Minnesota, say most of the cases which come to them for treatment from Winnipeg and vicinity are the result of the water, which is full of lime. By drinking Distilled Water these dangerous operations may be avoided.”
Medical ads are wildly optimistic. Want some tonic? Dr. Dermoux’s Disgestional Discovery is guaranteed to cure “weak stomach, billiousness, sick headache, dyspepsia, indigestion, loss of appetite, constipation, dropsy, heart, liver and kidney trouble, rheumatism, saltrheum, eczema, piles, skin disease, female weakness (!), prevents typhoid and appendicitis.”
Most businesses are more modest.
From Winnipeg Laundry: “a trial will convince you of the many excellencies of our service which our modesty forbids us to bring to your attention.”
Or more practical. For the apparently new pastas available: “a strong point in their favor is that while they make wholesome and toothsome dishes, they are inexpensive.”
Or rooted in traditional roles: “The good housewife knows that a well managed table will help Hubby’s natural good nature.”
Businesses are serious, humour in advertising has yet to arrive. Robertson’s Meat Markets are “purveyors of high-class meats.” Coal and wood providers “respectfully solicit your patronage.”
On the cultural side there are only two booksellers listed in the guide. Both are Bible stores: “You can not expect to develop a taste for Christian literature without reading ‘THE BOOK’ that has stood the test of time.”
Buying on credit is not a new idea. The “”Hoosier” Store offers the latest concept in kitchen cabinets for a mere $1.00 cash down payment and $1.00 weekly.
No boomtown would be complete without real estate boosters. St Vital is pronounced the most rapidly developing and most beautiful suburb of Winnipeg: “If you wish to double your investment see me at once.”
Some businesses seem downright peculiar today. Several offer cleaning, dying and curling of ostrich feathers. R. C. Lee & Company advertises Dr. Watson’s Invalid Port.
The inevitable civic boosterism is offered by the commissioner of the Winnipeg Industrial Bureau.
Along with the banks and schools and churches, he endlessly enumerates the city’s skyrocketing assessed value.
As well as its 246 miles of sewers. And the new library that cost $140,000. The electric street railway operates 300 cars on 101 miles of city tracks and 51 miles of suburban lines (which may annoy present-day supporters of light rail transit).
27 railway lines radiate from a city, he reports, where not long ago “the Indians chased herds of buffalo across the prairie.”
The first version of The Real Home Keeper guide appeared in Vancouver around 1911-1913 and was followed by versions for Hamilton, Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal.
The guide was distributed for free, financed by the advertisers. Users are encouraged to mention the guide when patronizing the businesses.
Trolling Abe Books, the popular booksellers’ website, only yields a single copy of the Toronto version for sale in Canada. Initial searches of local libraries drew a similar blank, unless this tome is tucked away in archives.
This little volume appears to be a rarity. But local brides probably won’t miss it.