Canadian National Exhibition, 1878-1978
Date of Issue
August 16, 1978
Perforation or Dimension
Designed by Theo Dimson.
Children, and indeed many adults, eagerly look forward to Canada's annual fairs. The greatest of these, called variously "the world's largest annual exposition", the "show window of the nation", and "the people's university", is the Canadian National Exhibition which will celebrate its centennial in 1978. The CNE evolved from an agricultural fair that began in Toronto in 1846 and rotated between various Ontario cities. Hoping to increase the power and glory of their city, local politicians tried to seize the exhibition permanently when it visited Toronto in 1878. Undaunted by their failure to do this, they set up their own annual exhibition in 1879. Except for interruptions by war, the CNE has thrived ever since. The 1879 extravaganza concentrated on agriculture and offered prizes for a host of farm products, including 44 breeds of chickens and 36 varieties of apples. Nevertheless, various industrialists showed off their wares and within a few years the fair was displaying the world's newest and most astounding technical advances. Visitors could also immerse themselves in music, art, or even sport. There was everything from track and field, power boat races and karate to the Ontario yo-yo championships. The most famous of these sporting events occurred in 1954 when Marilyn Bell became the first person to swim Lake Ontario. The Exhibition did not neglect domestic sciences and in 1925, for example, presented cooking demonstrations entitled "John's Mother is Coming for Supper", "Mrs. Smith Serves Tea", and "Let's Pack a Basket and Go to the Woods". Since the midway was organized in 1902, it has entertained thousands and continues to grow in popularity, no doubt because (as reported in 1904) it "escaped that vulgarity which so often prevails in such performances". The midway presents a durable combination of innocent thrills and "fun" food. Although such foods are normally avoided by nutrition-conscious people, the fair is one place where tradition renders them not only permissible but also essential. The CNE has injected all these attractions with an exuberant patriotic atmosphere symbolized by the finale to the 1938 grandstand show. "From the far North come the Eskimos, from the hills and valleys come the picturesque lumberjacks, from the Maritimes come the fisher girls, from the West the farmerettes. The Mounties, the snowshoe girls of Old Quebec, the cowgirls and the miners complete the picture. All form up before the pedestal on which stands Miss Canada, and all sing 'O Canada'." The design for this stamp features a simplified rendering of the Prince's Gate, the imposing main entrance to "The Ex". The varicoloured typography recalls the gaiety and excitement of this perennial people's festival. Designer Theo Dimson, a native of London, Ontario, is President and Creative Director of Dimson & Smith Limited in Toronto, where he has established an international reputation for excellence in graphic design.
Canada. Post Office Department. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1978.
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