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Buy Victory Bonds

As the First World War drew to a close, Torontonians raised millions of dollars in financial relief for the war effort.

City Hall - view from Bay Street just south of Queen Street - showing Victory Bond advertising, 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 41, Item 543.


War is costly. In addition to the horrifying human toll, conflicts rack up a financial bill that needs to be paid one way or another. As the First World War neared its end in the fall of 1918, Torontonians and fellow Canadians were urged to perform their patriotic duty during Canada’s second Victory Loan campaign (and fifth wartime fundraiser) to vanquish Kaiser Wilhelm II and his evil Huns and help smooth the transition to peacetime.

The local campaign was launched in Queen’s Park on October 27, 1918. The Sunday afternoon crowd, which was estimated at between 25,000 and 35,000, heard pitches delivered by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, Ontario Premier Sir William Hearst, and other officials. Out of the $500-million national fundraising target, Torontonians were given a goal of $80 million. According to federal President of the Privy Council Newton Rowell, “The Victory Loan affords the Canadian people an opportunity to show their appreciation of the great and unselfish service of our army during recent months, and their faith in the cause for which that army is so valiantly fighting; an opportunity to demonstrate to Germany and the world that Canada is in this war until Prussian military autocracy is completely overthrown and liberty and peace are assured to the freedom-loving people of the world.” To anyone having doubts about purchasing a bond, Borden reassured the crowd that they were “not asked to give. You are asked to lend, but to lend upon the security of your country and the world doesn’t offer any better today than the security which is given by this fair land of Canada.”

“Lend” was the buzzword of the campaign during its early days, and it was placed on banners adorning buildings, fire wagons, and streetcars. A sign placed in front of City Hall tracked Toronto’s progress in reaching its assigned goal. The city was divided into five districts to which 380 salesmen were dispatched to sell the bonds. As you will see in the gallery of Victory Bond advertisements, there was no soft-pedalling when it came to pushing the public to purchase—if you didn’t shell out for a bond, you shirked your duty to the British Empire and disrespected the bravery and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers. Daily updates in Toronto’s six daily newspapers urged readers to purchase more bonds not only to aid the cause but to beat Montreal in the race to win a flag awarded by the Governor-General to the city that sold the most.

The end of the war on November 11, 1918, gave the campaign a final boost. A Victory Loan parade scheduled for that afternoon turned into a mass celebration of the end of four years of conflict (and an event we will cover in tomorrow’s Historicist column). Images of the Kaiser disappeared from advertising as the focus switched to aiding soldiers who would soon be home and remembering those who wouldn’t return. When the numbers were tallied up after the last bond was sold on November 16, government officials smiled. Nearly $145 million worth of bonds were sold in Toronto, which beat Montreal by just over $1 million.

Additional material from the October 28, 1918 edition of the Globe.

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