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The Farmer's Advocate

The Farmer's Advocate
Plaque no. 65
Date of plaque unveiling
24 June 2011
Glen Curnoe, retired London Room librarian
122 Carling Street, London, Ontario (present site of the Marienbad Restaurant)

Take a tour of The Farmer's Advocate on HistoryPin

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This is the Historic Sites Committee’s second plaque on this site. The first, erected in 1990, commemorated the building at 122 Carling Street, once home to the London Free Press.

Another notable journal published here was the Farmer’s Advocate, founded by William Weld in 1866. Weld was born in England in 1824, the son of an Anglican clergyman. Although privately educated and a privileged young man, his unconventional persona and habit of expressing his views in a fearless and out-spoken manner were an embarrassment to his family. With financial assistance from them he immigrated to North America at the age of nineteen.

Weld bought a 100-acre farm in Delaware Township, situated in one of Canada’s richest agricultural belts. He married a local girl, Agnes Johnstone in 1845, and they raised a family of eleven children.

Weld read farm journals containing scientific agricultural information, and applied that data to his own operation, becoming a progressive and well-known farmer. He established a stock, seed and implement emporium, which grew into one of the most important seed houses in Canada under the ownership of his son Henry Weld, and J.S. Pearce.

Weld believed a practical farm journal was much needed and founded the Farmer’s Advocate in 1866. He first published the journal at his farm, but as the business grew, he relinquished the farm operations to two of his sons. Moving the Advocate to London, he devoted himself full time to it as both editor and proprietor.

William Weld was known to express himself in no uncertain terms on subjects both agricultural and political.

The Farmer’s Advocate continued to grow. By 1876, the office was located at 360 Richmond Street, between King and York. Beside the windows on the second story, one can see two carved keystones; one representing a sheaf of wheat and the other a corn stalk. The paper’s circulation reached 6,000 in 1879.

William Weld died on January 3, 1891. He had been investigating a water leak in the attic of his home, fell head first into the household water tank and drowned. He had made important contributions to the development of agriculture in Canada and the United States. His fifth son, John Weld, succeeded him as publisher and editor.

In 1911, the company purchased land on the Wharncliffe Highway. Many new agricultural methods and crop varieties were tested on this Weldwood Farm.

Around 1920, the offices of the Farmer’s Advocate moved to 122 Carling Street under the direction of John Weld. He died in 1931, and was succeeded by his son, Earnest John Weld. The journal’s circulation reached 200,000 in 1944.

In 1949, the Farmer’s Advocate was published on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month and an annual subscription cost 50 cents.

The Cities Heating Company, behind 122 Carling Street on Queens Avenue, supplied heat from its enormous coal-burning furnaces for the Farmer’s Advocate building along with many other businesses. Tall stacks spread smoke and soot over much of downtown London. Heating and cooling today is done by London District Energy, a much more environmentally friendly process.

The Farmer’s Advocate folded in 1965 after 99 years in business. A decline in advertising revenue was a major reason for its demise. When the building on Carling Street and Weldwood Farm were sold, a complete set of annual bound volumes of the Advocate dating back to 1867 were found in the office safe. The issues from 1866 had not survived. These volumes were sent to the University of Guelph and are now in its archives. The Canadian Library Association microfilmed the issues from 1867 to 1920, and these are available at the London Room of the Central Library. Drop by and have a look at them some time. They are full of interesting information.