A Diversion: Professor Waddell's Orange Meat Tests

Michael Peters Orange Meat

Since it is summertime, and I am on vacation, I thought it would be a good time to take a short diversion from the main storyline to explore some of the marketing which drew me into the Orange Meat story to begin with. 

In particular, I'd like to look at a campaign with a connection to another prominent Kingston institution - Queen's University.

Starting around 1906, a series of advertisements ran in newspapers across Canada, featuring the testimony of Dr. John Waddell, chemistry professor at Queen's.

The most visually impressive of these ads (Ad #1) features a detailed illustration of Dr. Waddell's "testing apparatus".  If you look closely, two packages of Orange Meat (the 15c and the 25c editions) can be seen on the laboratory bench.


Dr. Waddell's calculations are provided, written in his own hand. Another advertisement (Ad #2)  is clear on this point, "this is a page from his notebook, containing analysis of Orange Meat. Read this carefully."  

This second advertisement is also notable because it more specifically (and correctly) identifies Professor Waddell's academic position: Professor of Chemistry at the School of Mining of Queen's University.

The core of his analysis seems to be that "Orange Meat contains 45% of wheat sugars", which I understand to mean that it retains that percentage of sugars that was contained in the original unprocessed wheat grain. This sort of measurement was commonly used in advertising of the era: the efficiency of your manufacturing process at unlocking the nourishment potential of the grain, compared to your competitors, or say, milling it into flour and baking bread (a comparison which is made directly in other Orange Meat ads). 

So, what do we know about John Waddell, and what do we make of his assessment of Orange Meat?  

A little research was able to uncover a surprising amount of information about him, quite a lot of which is interesting, but perhaps not as connected to the Orange Meat story as I might like.

Orange Meat Ad: Professor Waddell's Test (Ad #4) c.1906He was born in the village of River John, close to Pictou, Nova Scotia in 1858. After graduating from Dalhousie, he embarked on an impressive international academic journey with stops in London, Germany and Scotland, collecting various degrees, scholarships and appointments before returning to Canada in 1886, accepting a position in Kingston as the Chair of Science at the Royal Military College, which he held until 1897. 

He wrote two successful chemistry textbooks, used all over the world, which you can still read, if you are so inclined, via The Internet Archive. (Click here and here.)

Another fascinating document exists from this period of his life, also preserved in the Internet Archive, or the Queen's University archives, if you prefer. Having concluded his position with RMC he began the job hunt again,and in 1897 he had "Testimonials in Favour of John Waddell, B.A., B.Sc., Ph.D., D.Sc." printed in Kingston. It is essentially an elaborate academic CV including references from colleagues and students around the world.


 It paid off, eventually - in 1899 he was hired as a lecturer for the School of Mining at Queen's and was eventually made an associate professor. His courses seem to have been mostly general chemistry courses, rather than having much to do with mining specifically.  

In fact, one of his most well-known publications (in Popular Science, no less) was concerned with calculating the sugar content of sugar beets to evaluate their potential for industrial production. He published another paper comparing wheat varieties. Later in his career, he would be a frequent and respected contributor to Kingston public discourse on a range of issues connected to food and water purity and safety.

So, he was as qualified as anyone to calculate the composition of Orange Meat. He literally wrote the book on it: his textbook, "The Arithmetic of Chemistry'' contains examples of exactly the sort of calculations required to do so.

Given how loosely scientific evidence is handled in advertising, even today, it is somewhat striking just how qualified a spokesperson Professor Waddell seems. It seems quite likely that he carried out his part of the research faithfully. 

There is no record of what he thought of the advertisements themselves, or how they presented his research.

How much he may have been compensated for his research, or for the use of his name in the nationwide advertising campaign is also an interesting question, but unsolved.

The Whig did note in 1907 when he purchased his first home at 132 Earl Street, moving his family from rented accommodations at 27 Sydenham. The timing fits, so perhaps a little Orange Meat money helped his young family out with that effort.

And so passes Professor Waddell from his brief role in the Orange Meat story. 

It is possible to continue to pull at the other threads of his life, seemingly well-suited to the British Whig social pages. His home frequently hosted socials and bridge tournaments, and out of town guests. His two daughters frequently entertained, or prepared dessert, or otherwise charmed guests assisting with the hosting duties. The family were frequent travelers, to Montreal, or their summer home on Loughborough Lake, or abroad. His Earl Street home hosted his father-in-law's funeral, and the wedding of his daughter. 

He continued in his academic and teaching duties, diligently by all accounts, working for Queen's until his sudden illness and death in Montreal in 1923.

At this point, the story takes a darker turn. The Daily British Whig (May 27 1926) reporting on the conclusion of a very public lawsuit against the University, describe how Mr. Waddell's widow believed that she would be receiving a pension, at least until being informed otherwise on a condolence visit by Queen's University officials, five days after her husband's death.

Queen's was new enough in those days that they didn't seem to have a great deal of experience with pensions.

One fund did provide for three men who were over 65, and had been working for Queen's for 25 years. But Professor Waddell had the misfortune of dying at the age of 64, with only 23.5 years of service at Queen's, if his previous tenure at RMC wasn't to be included. (It wasn't.)

And anyhow, having "been in active service until the day of his death" he would not qualify for a pension in any event. 

Despite all of that, Mrs. Waddell alleged that her husband had been promised a pension by university officials, but with denials all around, and no hard evidence to present, not even her prominent Montreal lawyer could convince the court of that, and the action was totally dismissed.

However, the Whig continued to report on her visits to Kingston, having relocated to apartments in Montreal. So it seems like she may have avoided the worst outcomes one might imagine, given the circumstances.

Stay tuned for more!

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