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Along with pencils, pink
erasers and spelling books, it was standard issue for generations of
Canadian students: a small, bell-shaped glue bottle that remained
part of their learning experience from kindergarten through junior
bell-shaped mucilage bottle was familiar to generations of
Canadian school children.
And while it may
be nothing more than a memory of bygone school days for many of
those students, the little bottle with its red rubber tip still has
special significance for Vanessa Le Page, a young Toronto artist
whose family name has been synonymous with 'bonding' for 125 years.
being in grade school in the early 1970s, when every kid in every
classroom had a bottle of LePage mucilage on their desk. I'd tell
them it was my name on the label and that my great, great
grandfather, William Nelson Le Page, started the company. Of course,
they all thought I was making it up," says Vanessa, who shares some
of her ancestor's traits, particularly his interest in the power of
Even as a child,
Vanessa was intrigued by advertising and the way companies use
colourful characters like Tony the Tiger to build brand awareness.
"I was raised on TV, which might explain my interest in pop
culture," she says. "As a kid I'd save box tops to send away for
premiums, but I didn't start seriously collecting until 10 years
ago. Then it sort of became an obsession."
Pillsbury Doughboy to Fish Glue
And what an obsession:
Today, Vanessa's Toronto home is a shrine-of-sorts to the pop images
of the past 30 years. Characters she first met through television
now reside on the shelves lining the walls of her living and dining
rooms. Along with the likes of Snap, Crackle & Pop, the
Pillsbury Doughboy and Count Chocula are characters and products
based on such classic TV shows as Bewitched, Lost in Space, and The
Partridge Family. All seem to be fighting for the attention they
Le Page, the great, great, granddaughter of glue company
founder W.N. Le Page, with just a few of the 3,000 items of
advertising and product memorabilia that fill her Toronto
"I've really had
to cut back on going after new pieces because I'm running out of
room here," says Vanessa, who searches Internet auction sites for
rare items, refusing to part with any of them. She estimates the
size of her collection to be about 3,000 pieces. "I've lost track,
but someday I'd like to catalogue everything and produce a book with
my own special spin on it."
An ironic twist
of fate happened to Vanessa shortly after getting her computer a few
years ago. She noticed a fair bit of interest on sites like e-Bay
for LePage memorabilia, from vintage glue and ink bottles to early
ads and project do-it-yourself manuals.
"A light went on
in my head, I realized my family name had become an enduring brand
all its own," she says. "While I knew a few things about my great,
great grandfather, there was a lot I didn't know about. So I started
researching and came to appreciate his significance and the fame he
acquired." She also started a separate collection of LePage items.
Captain of Industry
Born in Prince
Edward Island in 1849, William Nelson Le Page's family moved to
Massachusetts when he was still a boy. There he became a chemist and
in the 1870s invented an industrial glue made from fish skin that
was ready-to-use, extremely strong and had a long shelf life - all
rare qualities for an adhesive at that time. Soon, he introduced a
home version of fish glue and developed a line of new products under
the LePage brand, including inks, lubricants and the familiar
mucilage that's still in use today.
W.N. was also a
trailblazer when it came to marketing, a fact the Vancouver Daily
Province wrote about when he died in that city in 1919: "He placed
upon the market mucilage and glue that bore his name and is said to
have spent a fortune in advertising his products. In the pages of
Harper's Magazine and in other popular journals he initiated
advertising campaigns which startled the American public, and was
among the forerunners of the great national advertisers of the
present time." Between 1880 and 1887, LePage sold 50-million bottles
of his glue worldwide - a fact highlighted in his ads long before a
certain hamburger chain took up the practice.
celebrates 125th anniversary
This year the
company bearing W.N. and Vanessa's name turns 125, and continues to
produce a vast array of popular adhesives and sealants. To help mark
its anniversary, LePage is turning to people across Canada to help
find pieces of the company's history that have gone missing over the
"When you're in
business for such a long time, it's amazing how things like old
products and ads can disappear," says Hugh Peddle, National
Marketing Manager for LePage. "To help find rare items from our
past, we came up with the idea of a contest, which I'm proud to say
Vanessa Le Page will help judge."
Called the '125
Years of Adhesive Excellence', the contest will award $1,500.00 in
each of three categories: product, advertisement and project book.
These will be judged on their age, condition and rarity. Additional
information about the contest and rules can be found at http://www.lepageproducts.com/contest/rules.asp
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