To some, history may seem boring and dull, if you think of it simply as the names and dates you might remember from high school. But archival documents, even some created by governments as official record, can be surprisingly funny. Here’s a small selection of funny items in the Region of Peel Archives collection.
While The Brampton Guardian fonds is mostly photograph negatives, there’s a selection of editorial cartoons from Pete Garvey and “Zip”, dating from roughly 1966 to 1978. If you didn’t live in Brampton in the 1970s, many of the jokes might not resonate, but most have stood the test of time.
Former Regional chair Frank Bean’s fonds has a selection of cartoons, and we have 13 “Zincograph” cut transfers of cartoons by Canadian abstract art legend William Ronald for the Brampton Conservator, copied from the original art.
While the vast majority of war posters use serious imagery and messaging to sustain the war effort—think “loose lips sink ships”—a selection of posters collected by Ivan Melhuish during and after the Second World War take a humorous approach. Click to enlarge any of the images:
More war humour
To keep spirits up during the First and Second World Wars, newspapers would publish cartoons and antedotes, like this cartoon that ran in the Bolton Enterprise on the 1 September 1944.
This particular cartoon was by “Bing” Coughlin, and originally published in The Maple Leaf, the Canadian Army newspaper in Italy. The “This Army” panels primarily featured chinless soldier “Herbie”. A book collecting the cartoons was published after the war.
Rewind to 1889, and Brampton had a satirical newspaper, just 13 years after the launch of The Harvard Lampoon, and 63 years before Mad magazine.
Edited by “Quirk, Gammon & Snap”, the paper makes surprisingly personal comments about the moral conduct of a minister. Is it pure comedy, is it based on reality? It’s very hard to tell where the line was drawn. The paper includes a lot of the short jokes typical of real newspapers in the day, fiction, and poetry. A selection of the content is regrettable by modern standards.
Annoyingly, this issue is marked as “No. 2”. We have no idea how long this lasted, or what reception The Growler received from the people it parodied.
The world’s tightest round-about
In 1970, the Town of Mississauga’s commissioner of planning sent a memo to a member of the Engineering department:
“Knowing of your continuous interest in achieving and burning desire to effect traffic improvements in the Town of Mississauga, I am sending you a conceptual sketch which may assist you with your planning of future intersection improvements at Highway 10 and Dundas Street and Dundas Street and Dixie Road.”
There nothing to indicate where the illustration was photocopied from, whether the source was serious, or whether there are 49 other options for roundabout design in the source material. There’s also nothing further, to be able to judge the tone of voice in a response.
And there’s more!
By no means are these the only funny things in the Archives collection. The humour pitched in some of the items not included in this year’s post have not stood the test of time, as previous generations found humour in race, abuse, children born out of wedlock, and other subjects that we know today are not funny.
Other things, like the personal photography of Bolton’s Robertson Matthews, justifies a post to themselves, given not only the timeless visual humour, but the scarcity of such photos in the glass plate era.
posted by Nick Moreau, Archives reprographics specialist