My favourite Montreal book...

The Bride’s Book: A Perpetual Guide for the Montreal Bride

By Nancy Marrelli

A review of The Bride's Book: A Perpetual Guide For The Montreal Bride by

Published on December 1, 2005

The Bride’s Book: A Perpetual Guide For The Montreal Bride

Brandow Publishing

When asked to choose a favourite Montreal book I checked my shelves for survivors of too-infrequent purges to relieve overcrowding in a decidedly book-oriented house. Possible choices included obvious classics and more recent work, some published by Véhicule Press. But ensconced firmly on the “other” shelf is a book with the price (60 cents) in telltale red pencil, bought many years ago from the Nearly New Shop. The Bride’s Book: A Perpetual Guide for the Montreal Bride is copyrighted 1911/1928 to Brandow Publishing, 407 McGill Street. As an archivist I am fascinated by its incidental documentation of pre-Depression Montreal middle-class domestic life in which the position of women is so strikingly different from my reality.

More than a hundred sponsors advertised in this giveaway volume. Ads appear between cocktail recipes, tips on twelve-course dinners, flower arranging, the care of pet canaries, and the editor’s admonishment to “Go to Church Every Sunday”. Experts explain Quebec’s marriage laws, detail pregnancy complications, and tout painless childbirth using “laughing gas” and “twilight sleep.” Baby and child care instructions include four pages on prevention and cure of rickets. Recipes include boiled mayonnaise, lobster omelet, hot tamales, cheese and walnut sandwiches, roast mutton, invalid gruel, and opera creams.

Graphically gorgeous ads provide many period domestic details. New Maytags included a washtub and hand wringer. A silk brocade pregnancy corset with laces cost $5; the Shirt Hospital mended blouses and shirts, darned socks, and repaired runs in silk stockings. Grocery stores were family-run and independent, and processed foods came from local businesses, including ice cream that could be ordered by phone from the Montreal Dairy at 1200 Papineau. Hires Root Beer came in 24-bottle wooden crates. Phone numbers began with PLateau, UPtown and WAlnut followed by four digits. But some things are almost familiar-Hicks Oriental Rugs and McKenna’s House of Flowers are both on Mountain Street. Construction on the Jacques Cartier Bridge had begun in 1925 and residential lots starting at $25 on the newly accessible South Shore are advertised as a good investment.

The Bride’s Book, thankfully, is only a curiosity for me and my daughters. mRb

Nancy Marrelli is co-publisher of Vehicule Press and Director of Archives at Concordia University.

Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jeannette Labelle

    I have this wonderful book, which had been a gift to my mother when she and my father were married in Montreal in 1936. Every time I visited my mother, I would retrieve the book and read aloud some of the very amusing articles. In fact, during my very last visit with her, just before she died, I read aloud to her from this book and cherish the smile I can still recall that crossed her beautiful face.

    Reply
  2. Deborah Lynn Nokes

    I have my Mum’s Brides book too
    Born in Montreal in 1954 I still use my Mum’s book for ideas and recipes
    Mum passed away nine years ago but every time I look at her book, I feel like she is here right beside me

    Reply

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