“Lord, how this world is given to lying!” Shakespeare hit the nail square on the head. David, the sweet singer of Israel, in one of his Psalms, suggested the same thought before William became the Bard of Avalon, when he said: “I said in my haste all men are liars.” David and William were pretty good judges of human nature in their days, but if they had lived till the twentieth century, they would have made the indictment still stronger. Once it was that when a respectable man or manufacturing company offered to the public an article of food, and certified by endorsement on the package that it was what it was represented to be, the confiding purchaser bought it and used it, fully believing in its purity. In these days of adulterations, it is a pretty difficult matter to tell the spurious from the genuine; and, probably, there is nothing in which the public is more humbugged than in the jams and jellies that are put on the market by so-called reputable fruit preservers. The other day an examination was made of the product of one of the jam factories in Montreal, and all but two or three of the ten or twelve specimens examined were innocent of bot raspberries and sugar. An analysis of the jams showed that they were made of turnips, glucose, salicylic acid and other preservatives. This is the kind of stuff that was sent to South Africa as delicacies for the brave boys who were fighting under the British flag, and the same jams are sold to the retail dealers of Canada for people who depend upon the store to furnish luxuries as well as necessities for the table. And when these Montreal jams are exported to countries with which Canada has trade relations, no wonder that honest manufacturers have to suffer for the rascality of men in the same trade. With fruit and sugar cheaper now than they have ever been in the history of Canada, it is an outrage upon humanity to palm off turnips, glucose and salicylic acid as jam made from raspberries, or other fruit, and sugar. It is said that in London, England where oranges are cheaper than they are in the Hamilton market, nearly all of the orange marmalade is made in part from the orange peel gathered in the streets. The manufacturers buy the orange skins from people who make a living by gathering them. Thousands of bushels of turnips are shipped from Burlington, Copetown and other stations not far from Hamilton to Chicago every year to be made up in the most delicious jams and jellies.
Almost every thing one eats, except fresh vegetables and meat, is more or less adulterated. In France and Italy, the selling of adulterated food in the home market is punished severely, but there is no law against selling the stuff in foreign countries. Chicory in coffee, alum in bread, starch in cocoa, and flour in mustard may be perfectly harmless, but why not let the purchaser do their own mixing? Wood alcohol is a poison, yet it is used by many manufacturers of alcoholic beverages. Whiskey made in the regular way is bad enough for the one who has an unfortunate appetite for it, and will bring the victim down in due course of time. The manufacturer who uses wood alcohol should be satisfied with his profits made in a legitimate way. Newly-made beer is given age by being adulterated with salicytol and other drugs of the same nature. Why will distillers and brewers deliberately kill the goose that lays the golden egg? At least give him pure whiskey and beer while his money lasts? But any kind of budge will satisfy the poor drunkard.
In no one article of diet should boards of health be more particular in looking out for adulteration than in milk. Every family uses more or less of it, and there is nothing in the way of food that the vendors make freer to doctor and tamper with than milk. Many of them begin at the pump and then methyol or formaldehyde to give the milk a rich, creamy color, and keep it from turning sour. These preservatives may be all tight for embalming dead bodies, but they are tough on stomachs of living bodies. The exposure of the bogus jam factories in Montreal should call attention of the Dominion authorities to the adulteration of nearly everything we eat and drink.
Some of the chroniclers of the ancient history of Hamilton give credit to Terry Branigan for the authorship of the Branigan Chronicles, that were first written and published some time about 1855, Old Terry was a quaint character in Hamilton in those days, and represented one of the wards in the City Council for a number of years. He was a banker by trade, and carried on that business, diversifying it by keeping a tavern. If he had any educational ability, he must have kept it to himself, although there was an impression that in early life he had been destined to the holy calling of the priesthood. Be that as it may, Terry’s oratory in the City Council was not such as would carry away an audience or even carry conviction that the matters he advocated were for the best interests of the city. Hamilton’s aldermanic wisdom along during the early fifties was not always of a high order, though, now and then, a good man would by accident be elected to represent some of the wards. Terry was gifted with a vein of wit that occasionally sparkled out and illuminated the old council chamber, which was then over the market house. Terry Branigan, Larry Devanny and Owney Newlon were a trio that kept things lively for local lawgivers at their weekly session, and they were always sure of a crowded house of citizens who attended the meetings to enjoy the fun. Dodger Gray was an aldermanic feature for two or three years, representing St. Patrick’s ward, but Dodger got the Corktowners down on him, through his braggadocio in saying all he had to do was bend his walking stick up into Corktown and they would vote for it as loyally as they did for him. When the next election came, the Dodger was down at the bottom of the pool, and that ended his aldermanic career.
The Growler was the name of a little paper that was published weekly about 1855, edited by Tom Fleming, better known as Tom Pluff. Tom was a printer, and the only schooling he had was a few years in the Central school when he was but a young lad. In those days, the Hamilton boys had to begin the battle of life earlier than they do now, and before Tom was 15 years old, he was a printer’s devil and learned to stick type. What he lacked in schooling, he made up in practical experience in a printing office, and while he was no grammarian equal to Lindley Murray, nor could he write as smooth paragraphs as Goldwin Smith, yet he was gifted with native Irish wit that made the Growler quite interesting and in great demand. Tom had no capital with which to pay printers to set up the paper, so the boys who worked in the other offices in town used to gather in on Thursday and Friday nights to put the matter into type. Reporting the proceedings of the City Council was Tom’s “best holt” and Terry, Larry and Owney furnished a bright paragraph for each issue. More than one printer’s boy gained his first experience in writing in the columns of the Growler. One Saturday, the whole town was convulsed with laughter when Branigan’s Chronicles was duly credited to Terry in the paper, and the readers took it as a matter of course that Terry’s hidden genius as a literary man was being suddenly developed. The Chronicles were an exact imitation of the book of that name in the Bible, and in them were depicted all the foibles of the day, and more than one man who supposed himself prominent in a public way had the conceit knocked out of him. The Chronicles were a hit, a palpable hit and Tom Fleming and the Growler were lifted out of poverty, and became self-sustaining and able to pay wages to printers to get the type. Terry Branigan at first disclaimed the authorship, but when the chapters were repeated week after week in the Growler, he was modestly content to receive the honor. However, Terry never wrote a line of the Chronicles, nor had he the ability to do so. The true author was a bright, young Scotsman who was a porter in a wholesale crockery and glassware house on the south side of King street. He was a close student of the Bible, and was thus enabled to paraphrase the sacred history and deal some telling blows at the way Hamilton public affairs were being managed. It is very doubtful if Terry knew enough about the Bible to tell the difference between the Chronicles and the Revelations. The old fellow was not a business success, so he stepped from the chambers of the City council into the profitable job of market clerk, where he had a life tenure. The volumes of the Growler during the years of its publication would furnish much history of the times in Hamilton during the fifties. Tom Fleming served as a sergeant in a cavalry regiment during the civil war in the United States and made a good record as a brave soldier. He died a few years ago over in New York state.