Selected excerpts from a Globe newspaper published in Toronto on February 10, 1864

A friend of a friend found an old newspaper inside the wall of a house he was renovating — not an uncommon thing to find, since many people used them for insulation. But this one is really old: it’s a copy of The Globe (a newspaper published in Toronto) from February, 1864. That’s three years before Canada even officially became a country. It was very stiff and damaged by what appeared to be water, but I was still able to make out most of the text on the front page at least.

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One interesting thing is that there are ads all over the front page — for things like steamship travel, houses for rent, and new technology like the steam engine and “self-adjusting spring skates,” whatever those are. One steamship company was offering passage from New York to London: a first-class cabin cost $80, a second-class cabin was $50 and steerage was just $30.

Interestingly enough, most of the items on the front page aren’t what we would consider news stories but are letters from abroad, written in a personal style and frequently with little news at all — one reprinted from the London Telegraph is probably over 1,000 words and mentions that Montreal has a population of more than 75,000 and is therefore “the most populous city in British North America.” It also mentions (no doubt playing to the home-town crowd) that “the assertion that the British provinces are anxious to join the Union is baseless and absurd.”

There’s also a notice to the public of “an imposter, wearing the dress of a Roman Catholic priest… he is a drunken vagabond — an Irishman.” And another notice mentions the wonderful new technology of “coal oil” lanterns, describing how people were endangering their eyesight by reading or darning by the light of the fire or a shared candle, and how with this new technology, “each house can have for the same expense a light exceeding half a dozen candles.”

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When it comes to ads, in addition to the steamship advertisements, there are ads for spectacles, boots and shoes, live hogs and furniture — but the largest ad stretches the length of the page vertically and is for “Dr. Hoofland’s German Bitters,” which the ad says is “not a rum drink but a highly concentrated vegetable extract” that will “effectively and most certainly cure all diseases rising from a disordered liver, stomach or kidneys.” It then lists the symptoms of these diseases as:

“Constipation, Inward Piles, Fulness or Blood to the Head, Disgust for Food, Sour Eructations, Sinking or Fluttering at the Pit of the Stomach, Swimming of the Head, Hurried and Difficult Breathing, Fluttering at the Heart, Dots or Webs before the Sight, Deficiency of Perspiration, Sudden Flushe of Heat and Constant Imaginings of Evil”

The ad also goes on at some length about how other bitters are “compounded of cheap whiskey or common rum,” and that this class of bitters “has caused and will continue to cause hundreds to die the death of the Drunkard.” And it recommends that Dr. Hoofland’s be used specifically for “delicate children… suffering from marasmus, wasting away, with scarcely any flesh on their bones.” One bottle, the ad says, and “they will be cured in a very short time.”

There’s also a large ad about an estate auction to be held at a law office on King Street “in pursuance of a Decree by the Court of Chancery of Upper Canada, at twelve of the clock noon.” The lots to be sold include one at the corner of Queen Street and William Street with “a Blacksmith’s Shop and a small frame Dwelling House” which are being leased for “24 pounds per annum.”

Inside Google’s Canadian HQ

I noticed that Andrew Noyes of Tech Daily Dose wrote about the opening of a Google office in Reston, Va. and provided some pics, so I thought I might do the same and write a post about my recent trip to Google’s Canadian HQ in Toronto. The search giant has had a small office in Toronto for awhile now, but recently moved into new and fancier digs just north of Dundas Square, and I got a tour — and some free lunch — from Tamara Micner a few days ago. After signing in with a touchscreen, I got a stick-on name badge printed out from a small machine and then entered the inner sanctum.

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ImprovEverywhere comes to Toronto

It’s not for everyone, but if you enjoy spontaneous activity with a bunch of strangers, Improv Everywhere is apparently bringing their “MP3 Experiment” to Toronto on September 28. The group, which organizes improvisational events primarily in New York — including the recent Grand Central Station freeze experiment (in which dozens of people froze in place for five minutes) and the Best Buy campaign (in which dozens of people showed up at a Best Buy store all dressed exactly like Best Buy employees) — started the MP3 Experiment in 2004.

People were asked to download an mp3 file and then bring it on a player with some headphones to a pre-arranged meeting place, where they listened to a voice and carried out various activities, including dancing, singing, blowing up balloons and so on. So far, there have been four MP3 Experiments in a variety of places (there’s some video on YouTube of the last few). The news that Toronto was getting one came by way of a group called Newmindspace, which holds similar events in Toronto and New York, such as the Bubble Battle and the Great New York Pillow Fight.

mesh2008 dates — and meshU

Has it been eight months already since mesh 2007? According to the calendar, it has – and yet, it seems like just yesterday we were meshing with Mike Arrington, Jim Buckmaster, Richard Edelman, Tom Williams, Austin Hill and an atrium full of eager participants at the MaRS centre (there are some great pics over here if you want to check them out).

We’ve been getting bombarded with emails about this year’s conference, with many of those coming from people wanting to block the dates out in their calendars. So without further ado, here they are: mesh 2008 is scheduled for May 21 and 22. Info on ticket prices, keynotes, panelists etc. will be coming soon. So book those dates!

In addition to mesh, we’re also planning a little something extra – something we think (and hope) will meet a growing need in Toronto: the need for practical, down-to-earth information about tools, knowledge and expertise for startups, web designers and developers of all kinds.

What we have in mind is a one-day event – which we’re tentatively calling meshU – that will be filled with small, focused workshops by those who have earned their stripes in the startup game; people who can talk knowledgeably about everything from interface design to using Amazon’s S3 distributed server network.

This one-day event – which is scheduled for May 20th, the day before mesh – will be taking shape over the next few months, and we’re hoping you can help program it by telling us what kind of content you want and/or need. Got an idea for a panel? Let us know. Have an expert you think would lead a great hands-on workshop? We’re all ears.

Post a comment here or send an email to stuart@meshconference.com and let us know what you have in mind. More info coming soon on workshop leaders, ticket prices, etc.

Mesh on!

mesh: the hits just keep on coming

I’m getting so fired up about the people we have coming to join us at the mesh conference (May 30 and 31 at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto) that I thought I would list some of them here, just to give you a taste — there’s lots more at www.meshconference.com and also listed on the blog there. But here are some of the highlights for me:

  • Mike Arrington, obviously — the founder and editor of TechCrunch is pretty much the poster boy for Web 2.0 and also at the epicenter of what’s going on with new media.
  • Jim Buckmaster — the CEO of Craigslist, which isn’t just a phenomenally successful social network, but also an incredible story of how the founders have deliberately avoided making money.
  • Rachel Sklar — Toronto-born former lawyer who is now the editor of the Eat The Press section of Huffington Post, a giant in the field of new media and a wonderful writer to boot.
  • Jeff Howe — a Wired contributing editor and veteran journalist who invented the term “crowdsourcing” and is now working on a book about the concept of content produced by users.
  • Simon Pulsifer — Canada’s own “king of Wikipedia,” who has written more than 2,000 entries in the open-source encyclopedia and edited almost 100,000.
  • Mike Masnick — the founder of Techdirt, a key source of creative thinking about Web 2.0 and technology in general, as well as a people-powered consulting company.

There are lots more too: How about Garth Turner, blogger/author and MP? Or Christine Herron, a venture capitalist with The Omidyar Network. Or Scott Feschuk, writer/comedian and former Paul Martin speechwriter. Video-blogger Loren Feldman from 1938media. Andrew Coyne, columnist and gadfly. McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves, creator of CBC’s Zed and now Rapspace.tv. And dozens more. Better hurry — tickets are going fast 🙂