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culture

Vintage Toronto Ads: Selling Sam the Record Man

The evolution of the legendary record retailer's advertising.

Source: (left) the Toronto Star, December 10, 1948 (right) the Toronto Star, December 19, 1952.

Besides the iconic presence Sam the Record Man had on Yonge Street, it was a long-standing advertiser in Toronto’s newspapers. Starting in the 1940s as Sniderman’s Music Hall, the record retailer lured in music lovers with sales on the latest releases and back-catalogue items.

Many of the early ads we found highlighted Sam’s selection of British and foreign-language albums, capturing a city starting its transformation from a staunchly loyal outpost of the British Empire to today’s multicultural landscape. Parlophone Records would aid Sam’s sales from the 1960s onwards…or their major mop-topped act (who was released on an associated EMI label in North America) would.

Source: the Toronto Star, November 15, 1957.

Two major changes occurred to the store’s ads during the fall of 1957. The “Sam the Record Man” name appears to have been adopted at this time, though die-hard customers had been using it for a while. Also taking shape was the ad format Sam’s used for the next half-century, filled with pictures of the week’s major sale items.

Source: the Toronto Star, November 15, 1957.

There was only so much space to show the records, so lists of other specials were included. The store also touted its easy access from the College streetcar.

Source: the Toronto Star, July 20, 1961.

Before Sam’s occupied its best-known location at 347 Yonge Street in 1961, the building housed a furniture store. While Sam’s operated out of a temporary location further south at 219 Yonge, A.R. Collis held a “selling out sale.” Fifty years would pass before the site witnessed another store closing blowout.

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