Vancouver’s first electric lights were switched on in 1887, but two decades later, some homeowners still hadn’t installed them.
So B.C. Electric started an ad campaign.
“ELECTRIC LIGHT,” reads the ad in the March 16, 1905 Vancouver World. “No lamps to clean! No smell of coal oil! Just press the button, we do the rest.”
The company was confident of its success, noting “electric light once used is always used.”
Electricity was seen as a wonder at the time. There were two ads in The Province for an “Electric Belt” that promised a miracle health cure.
“Electricity dispels gloom, because it vitalizes the blood, and strengthens the red corpuscles from which the human body draws its energy and activity,” read one.
“If a man’s blood is impure he feels low-spirited and depressed; all the world seems to be against him, and everything seems to go wrong in business, in love, and in play. He becomes morose and taciturn, and by degrees so ill that disease gets a firm hold on him at last, and brings him to an untimely end.”
The ad from Dr. N. MacDonald of Montreal offered a free trial for 90 days.
“This modern Belt is the only one that generates a powerful therapeutic current of electricity without soaking the battery in vinegar, as all other belts do, and it is guaranteed not to burn,” it claimed.
“It is a certain and positive cure in all cases of rheumatism, varicocele, dyspepsia, losses, weak back, nervousness, kidney, liver and stomach troubles brought on by abuse and excess.”
Oddly there is no price attached to the ad — interested parties were to write the good Doctor in Montreal and he would send a belt. The other electric belt ad was for a Dr. Sanden, who offered a belt with a 60 day free trial “for as low as $4.”
There were a lot of miracle cure ads in the Vancouver papers that week. An ad for Dr. MacKay’s Specific proclaimed that “Drunkenness Can Be Cured” if you purchased the $25 remedy, which also came from Montreal.
“The government of Quebec through the judges ordered over 500 boxes of the medicine for prisoners appearing in the courts in 1904,” stated a Dr. MacKay ad. “Official reports establish 80 percent of cures within these cases.”
Dental ads were also big in 1905.
“Do you need teeth?” asked Boston Dentists, which was located at 411 West Hastings. “A full set only five dollars.”
To illustrate, the ad featured a drawing of some scary looking dentures where the teeth resemble elephant feet.
The most inventive slogan in the ads that week was “Canada for the Canadians, but Hunyadi Janos for constipation.”
The Hunyadi Janos in the ad was a “natural laxative mineral water.” The name is an inversion of Janos Hunyadi, a Hungarian military leader in the 15th century who became a hero after he scored victories over Ottoman forces.
The other great company name in the ads was Semi-Ready Tailoring, which was located at 515 Granville. It offered suits that were “semi-ready finished to the trying-on stage — all the parts blasted and the seams left with outlets. Ready to be accurately adjusted to your physique and delivered two hours after fitting!”
In the news, there was a story about a new $50,000 theatre at the southeast corner of Hastings and Abbott.
“The building will be four storeys in height, and will be designed so that it will have stores in front on the ground floor, besides furnishing accommodations on the corner for a hotel of 40 rooms,” said the World. “In design the theatre will have seating accommodations for 1,500 persons.”
Construction was to start in a month, but the theatre never seems to have been built. A four-storey building did go up on the site in 1908, but it was an Imperial Bank, with offices above.
There were a number of theatres on the block at one time, however. The Cameraphone was listed at 58 West Hastings in 1908. It became the National in 1910, and then a Wosk’s store in 1937.
In 1910 the Royal Theatre went up at 70 West Hastings, which was later called the Columbia. The grandest theatre was the Pantages, which was built at 20 West Hastings in 1917. It was also known as the Beacon and Majestic, and was torn down in 1967.
All three theatres have been demolished, but the Imperial Bank building at 84 West Hastings is still there. The old offices are now an SRO hotel, Abbott Mansions.