The Daring Canadian Pulps: Oh, My!

Spurred on by a wartime ban on the importation of non-essential foreign goods, including the lurid magazines from below the 49th parallel commonly referred to as “pulps”, the Canadian pulp magazine industry flourished during World War II and the decade after.  Like all good pulp publications, the featured stories often blurred the lines between fiction and reality and routinely served up tales that were risque, grisly, shocking and as often true as not.  Avid readers ate up this stuff!

Adding to its diverse holdings, Library and Archives Canada acquired in the late 1990s a core collection of pulp magazines dating back to the golden post-War era of such publications.  These cover images are from the Archives’s fascinating “Tales From the Vault” exhibition.  Of these covers, I think my favorite might be the fairly simple red-and-black layout above that promises dirt on a Vancouver cult and Winnipeg’s pock-marked Frankenstein. I’ll bite!









55 responses

  1. These pages have something about them that immediately “dates” them in their style. Also, many of the women are of a certain type, as are the men. They almost look the same on each one. A “type” at least.

  2. These are so schlocky – in the best way possible. I remember finding a huge old stash of these in my uncle’s house when I was about 12. I knew they were brain junk but whenever I visited, I avidly (and with a high degree of guilt) combed through them. Great post. I’d forgotten about these.

  3. Wonderful collection. In the early 60’s my little sister and I used to amuse ourselves no end with the True Confessions ones for women. We absolutely loved their excess.

    • Penny, that cult reference is funny because the very idea of a cult was scandalous, even without saying what sort of cult it might be. Nowadays, we’d probably not think as much about such a thing.

      Thanks for the suggestion, although I like straddling the line. A lot of folks here (meaning in the U.S.) and that read my blog think I’m Canadian, and that’s already a sort of honorary designation. Always makes me smile. 🙂

  4. I was immediately struck by how incongruous the women’s expressions are with the story the drawing is supposed to be illustrating: Ah, so pleasant to make a little money posing for a magazine cover in my underwear.

  5. These are fascinating – I love the colourful artwork on the suggestive covers! Who would have thought such provocative “literature” would have been available in the prim and proper Canada of the 1940s and ‘50s?

    Come to think of it, I’m sure we had similar paperbacks at the family cottage, probably purchased by family members years earlier for rainy day reading!

    Many thanks, Brett, for shedding some light on Canada’s racy literary past!

  6. I utterly love these covers, Brett! But I must admit I’m having cognitive dissonance! After all, my ‘home and native land’ seems rather far flung from the stories surely contained in these compelling mags! Nonetheless, I’m intrigued at the same time! Thank you for posting these, Brett! Cher 🙂

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