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Get into the holiday spirit with vintage TTC ads

Posted by Chris Bateman / December 5, 2012

toronto ttc christmasThough some of its staff might occasionally be lacking in the charm department, the TTC was once a perennial source of thoroughly endearing artwork and ideas. In the 1950s, the Commission not only published beautifully illustrated etiquette suggestions for its riders, when December rolled around it wished them a merry Christmas too (this being the '50s, there wasn't a whole lot of attention paid to non-Christian holiday celebrations).

Several of these cards were hung in the advertising gantry around the inside of PCC streetcars at the time the city was preparing to launch its first subway line. The drawings prominently featured a hard-working Santa Claus helping hoist steel girders and popping out of the wooden street cover with a pickaxe and shovel on his back.

toronto ttc christmasThe vaguely constructivist style shows the optimism that surrounded the coming modern era of rapid transit and gives an insight into the mentality of the TTC at the time, that is to say a sense of pride and excitement for the future. They were building a better city, and everyone would benefit.

toronto ttc christmasThe festivities weren't limited to happy artwork. Each year a special bus service toured the city's best Christmas illuminations in the downtown core and residential streets, giving eager onlookers a chance to see parts of the city they might not otherwise be able to visit. Special commemorative tickets and token holders were also part of the seasonal fare.

Enjoy these little pieces of nostalgia and think back to a time when a dusting of snow all it took to make the city look convivial and calm.

MORE IMAGES:toronto ttc christmastoronto ttc christmastoronto ttc christmastoronto ttc christmastoronto ttc christmastoronto ttc christmastoronto ttc christmas

Images: City of Toronto Archives

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman



iSkyscraper / December 5, 2012 at 08:24 am
Great find. They should just run these as is, would bring a lot of charm to the commute.
Rob K / December 5, 2012 at 08:30 am
I don't understand why the TTC doesn't bring back, and sell, merchandise. That one lonely store at Union could have been better, plus they could get into online shopping by selling cards like the ones above. They could sell so much stuff, if they wanted to.
Paul D. / December 5, 2012 at 08:58 am
These are absolutely wonderful. I would buy any one of these as a large print if the TTC had a shop, even an online shop.

Rick / December 5, 2012 at 09:03 am
Such yummy vintage goodness. These images are lovely!
the lemur replying to a comment from Rob K / December 5, 2012 at 09:03 am
Yes, but when it's not their idea, they don't want to. They are incredibly resistant to outside suggestions and they are kind of OCD about doing things their way. They wanted to shut down the Spacing station buttons project, they're stalling on another merch idea that I know of ... and on top of that, their own sense of aesthetics now (as opposed to these ads)frankly sucks: they have no sense of typography or signage design, no idea of how to work with their design heritage the way that a system like the MTA or TfL does.
Alex / December 5, 2012 at 10:17 am
Everyone complains so much about the TTC I think they feel there would be no market for TTC merch. Though we do the same for the Leafs and they sell like hotcakes.

I love Santa holding blueprints and physically building the subway. What a guy!

A dusting of snow is still all it takes to make the city look calm and beautiful, I love snowy nights. We just haven't had one in a long time.
Ford4ever replying to a comment from the lemur / December 5, 2012 at 10:45 am
"...their own sense of aesthetics now frankly sucks"

Agree. TTC recently hit its aesthetic nadir with those ads currently in the subway featuring the scowling Transit Enforcement officer in the ill-fitting uniform, checking passes.

Gonzo / December 5, 2012 at 10:47 am
Can we make these politically correct? Christmaquanzakonakah?
Marina / December 5, 2012 at 11:02 am
I also think they look great. Wordology offers vintage style Subway Sign Art, if anyone loves a little nostalgia.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Ford4ever / December 5, 2012 at 11:53 am
Those are meant to dissuade you from behaving badly, you dumbfuck. What's the point of having a nice ad about transit enforcement?
pianowerk / December 5, 2012 at 11:59 am
These are very nostalgic. Re the comments about art/merchandise, the London tube continues, amongst all the advertising posters,to have a thriving art policy (see here if interested;

And of course over the last century and more the London tube used some of the best contemporary artists to design their posters.

(see here: Also we have a Transport Museum in the centre of London which has a thriving gift shop.

To me this type of quality art never dates or goes out of fashion.
Ford4ever replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / December 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm
You have no creativity, friend.

Skye / December 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm
I love #1 and #7. They're both easily recognizable as the entrance to Eglinton Station (looking north from Davisville Station). At the time (presumably Christmas 1953) everyone would've had their eyes on this section of the city: the first station on the brand spanking new subway. The ad speaks to an exciting, hopeful time.
Cyril Sneer / December 5, 2012 at 01:26 pm
That "Christmas Light Tours" one has a remarkably modern feel to it.
Jaclyn / December 5, 2012 at 01:42 pm
These images and ads are truly a great find! I think TTC would be crazy to not run these Holiday ads. Sadly, the TTC has a lot of negativity surrounding it and I really think this would warm the hearts of some TTC riders.
the lemur replying to a comment from Ford4ever / December 5, 2012 at 02:43 pm
I think that's a budget issue. The ads for the transit employees' union look a lot nicer, for some reason.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Ford4ever / December 5, 2012 at 03:59 pm
You have no life, if all you can get offend about is a poster telling you about the role of transit security.
rick mcginnis / December 5, 2012 at 06:04 pm
I've said it before and I'll say it again - get Red Canoe to make TTC clothing merch and it'll sell like mad. Also, get a decent stationer/graphic firm to do these as cards/prints/posters and they'll have a whole new revenue stream.
Rabecca / December 5, 2012 at 08:50 pm
They need to install breast poles.
Lynnea replying to a comment from Gonzo / February 24, 2013 at 08:33 pm
No! They are the day when being politically correct wasn't such a big deal! Personally, I think with freedom being given to all, Christmas cards are Christmas...and if someone else wants to make a Kwanza poster of the TTC go to it...and make it just as charming please!!!!

They really are lovely, and I would love to own one! In the meantime, will adapt to a lesson plan for my little darlings in grade school.

A / December 14, 2014 at 11:23 pm
These ads MAKE me want to switch back to tokens just for the handy holder!
bring these posters back, im looking at you Drake General Store (they have old Toronto shirts) and other independent print shops!!
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