Abstract: Masterpiece of the Blenders' Art: The Seagram Company's Cultivation of National Identity in Post-Prohibition Montreal

Lisa Sumner


My paper examines how the Seagram Company participated in the articulation of Canadian nationalism in Montreal, focusing primarily on early advertising campaigns of the 1930s-1950s. I argue that the relationship between the Seagram Company and discursive attempts to engender Canadian cultural and political cohesion operated more through mutual enrichment rather than simple commercial exploitation of nationalist sentiment. Associations with modern refinement were encouraged through the ads' expression in the popular magazines of the period, which helped to create a modern, fashionable appeal around both Seagram's Canadian whisky and the national narrative it was textually linked with. Early nationalist Seagram's ads demonstrate an important dimension of the Bronfmans' participation in discourses of nation-building and inclusion in dominant circles of Canadian power, and illustrate how marketing techniques aided in the popular diffusion of a nationalist heritage and cultural iconography. In terms of public relations, the case of the Seagram Company in Montreal demonstrates both the strategic advantages and also the limitations of tapping into nationalist discourses where national identity, patrimony, and ruling power are contested, divisive, and unstable.