Vintage Toronto Ads: The Dapper Debt Collector
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Vintage Toronto Ads: The Dapper Debt Collector

But what if stylish uniforms and gentle persuasion failed to move economic delinquents?

Source: The Toronto City Directory for 1890 (Toronto: R.L. Polk & Co., 1890).

Despite dressing him up in glistening brass buttons and a dapper waxed moustache, we doubt that these stylish touches increased the popularity of the friendly neighbourhood debt collector. We also doubt that pinning a “Collector of Bad Debts” badge persuaded delinquent accounts to settle up, unless the sight of such adornments struck shame in the hearts of 1890s debtors.

The “music in the air” ranged from the sweet sounds of songbird Madame Gruntly outlining, via a jaunty tune, the continued residency of the debtor in her rooming house, to the chin music that accompanied the debtor’s bouncing of the collector. A debtor unmoved by those tunes waited until the collector’s larger, hulking brute of a colleague came to the door to deliver a performance full of operatic fury.

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