While growing up in Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s, I can vaguely recall door-to-door salesmen (and saleswomen) visiting our home. I know we had Fuller Brush products in the house, but I don’t really recall the salesperson. Perhaps he came when I was in school. There was a juice salesman I do recall (but not the company) for he was quite likely the first person of colour I had met in our Loyalist settler town where such things were a rarity. Then, there was Mrs. McMillan, the quintessential Avon Lady who brought her case to the house and left samples in her wake. Eventually, my mother took up selling it herself, as did the author’s Grandmother in Nova Scotia in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Peddlers, while of regional interest to Nova Scotians, will undoubtedly recall to mind travelling salesmen from your past as it did mine (if you are old enough!). Furthermore, it does go beyond provincial borders to look at products such as Buckley’s, Rawleigh’s and Watkins that while developed elsewhere, were sold door-to-door in the Maritime region.
I learned quite a bit from Mr. Henshaw’s research: that Alfred C. Fuller was born in Nova Scotia, as was the founder of Minard’s Liniment. Earl Sloan, of Sloan’s Liniment, married a Nova Scotian woman, and many of the early peddlers were Syrian and Lebanese, who built up successful routes and even opened large stores as time went on.
A little gem of a book, The Peddlers is full of rural Nova Scotian history, and reminiscences of a simpler time. Boomers on up will appreciate the time covered in The Peddlers and will have them searching their medicine cabinets and basements for old bottles of faithful remedies and durable brushes.
The Peddlers: The Fuller Brush Man, the Lords of Liniment and Door to Door Heroes in Nova Scotia and Beyond by Blaine Henshaw
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