Friday, May 18, 2012

Spoilt Reputations: Swine metaphors in Joseph Flavelle's profiteering scandal

The Edmonton Bulletin,

 July 13, 1917, Page 1

In 1917, Joseph Flavelle ran what was effectively the largest business in North America through his chairmanship of the Imperial Munitions Board.  Flavelle's reputation was never to fully recover from an expose of his business interests in the William Davies meat-packing industry.

On 13 July 1917, the Ottawa Journal was the first newspaper to leak news of Flavelle's profits which they headlined as "Huge Margins Shown on Bacon Trade".  Michael Bliss' biography of the capitalist takes a sympathetic approach to the scandal, noting the government report which fuelled the outrage in the press was "in a many ways...a misleading, in fact stupid, document", which showed no comprehension of the  meat-packing industry.

Bacon Export Trade examination.  Flavelle far right.  Redcliff Review, November 8, 1917, Page 3

The press couldn't resist the metaphors on a scandalous profiteering in industry whose product was synonymous with gluttony.  As Bliss writes,

Foods That Will Win The War And How To Cook
Them (1918), by C. Houston Goudiss
 and Alberta M. Goudiss Gutenburg

the bacon scandal was prime fare for editorial writers.  The Globe was glad to see that the O'Connor report had generated too much heat to be put in cold storage.  The Star  thought the order of Baronets needed to be supplemented by a class for Baconets; the Ottawa Citizen accused the packers of having hogged everything but the squeal.  The Regina Leader, on of the most bitter Liberal papers, wrote of "price hogs" and the need to treat profiteers as traitors. (Bliss, p.343-44)


On 6 September 1917 William Henry Taylor of the Toronto World waxed poetic in a piece he titled "The Patriotic Hog".

He swallows all the food that he can hold-
When presto! change! the meal is turned to gold;
No doubt his pride will swell when he has found
That bacon sells for fifty cents a pound.

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