Hants History by Holly Hanes

Community Online First Opinions

1926 Miss Canada and her Connection to a Nova Scotia Company

By Holly Hanes

holly.hanes@dal.ca

HANTS NORTH: While many people think of beauty pageants, or the crowing of Miss Universe, few individuals know the story of the first winner of the title “Miss Canada.” Miss Canada began awarding titles in 1923. The winner that year was Winifred Blair, a New Brunswick woman.

What connection could she possibly have to Nova Scotia? It was not until this September when I began doing research for my thesis that I understood the significance of Miss Canada to the Nova Scotia economy. Miss Canada appeared on a Moir’s Chocolate Box, not once but twice! For those of you unfamiliar with the Moir’s company, it operated in the Halifax area, beginning as early as 1815 and continuing to operate in Halifax Regional Municipality until 2007.

For many of you the Moir’s name is most commonly associated with “Pot of Gold,” and childhood memories of chocolates at Christmas time. The box displayed however, is much more important to Moir’s advertising past. Very few real women graced the boxes. Believe it or not – all those women shown on the iconic Pot of Gold boxes between 1928 and 1972 were all designed by a very talented artist. They were not even modelled after real women. This demonstrates one key component of the Miss Canada significance. The box truly depicts a Canadian woman, skates and all.

David Goss has written on the role of Miss Canada, discussing her encounters at the pageant. He writes, “Just before midnight on Saturday, February 10, 1923, at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal, Miss Muriel Harper (Winnipeg), Miss Anna Lois Walsh (Quebec), Miss Pearl Miller (Regina), Mrs. Ora Doherty (Halifax), Miss Eileen Hawkins (Sherbrooke), Miss Leona McIntosh (Edmonton), Miss Gwendolen Shaw (Ste. Anne de Bellevue), Miss Gabrielle Rivet (Montreal), and Miss Winifred Blair (Saint John) waited for the announcement of the winner of the first Miss Canada title. They had arrived in Montreal some days earlier to find neither judges in place nor criteria established for the selection of Miss Canada. They were quickly swept up into a round of social engagements; no opportunities arose for them to show off their winter sports skills as they had expected.

By February 9, several of the contestants threatened to withdraw.

“We did not come here for pink teas,” one of them fumed to the Montreal Daily Star. One of the girls’ chaperones explained: “These girls are essentially athletic girls. They did not enter for a beauty contest … Not only that, but the girls are still in the dark as to what qualifications they must possess in this contest.” This proves just how challenging the contest itself was, and despite this Winifred Blair came out on top.

The advertising gimmick that Moir’s used here has not gone unnoticed during my hunt into their advertising. Her appearance on the cover, shows a white woman (not uncommon of the Moir’s advertising during this period), clearly from an upper-class family based on her clothing.

These boxes are unique works of art that depict a New Brunswick girl representing the women of the nation, and companies across the country took notice.