Saturday, February 15, 2014
During a recent visit to the library, where I was scanning through the 1915 Saint Croix Courier newspaper on microfilm in hopes of adding to Charlotte County Soldiers of the First World War project, I came across something that really caught my eye. While my mind was calibrated to an era of the early stages of the First World War and the opinions and views of that war in small town New Brunswick, I was suddenly propelled forward to another time, another war. From the back pages, amongst the numerous ads, I found a symbol jumping off the page; a symbol that no one in that time would have known was to be attached to the enemy of our next world war. There it was, the swastika. Only at this point in time, the symbol was not attached to an evil regime and its ruthless leader, but it was the trademark for a brand of automobile lubricants. In 1915, the automobile was a relatively new thing. While it was only in 1908 that the Ford Motor Company was established and it wasn't until 1914, a year previous, that Henry Ford's company revolutionized the automobile manufacturing industry with its assembly line process. By 1916, there were 3,000 automobiles registered in New Brunswick. And with this new form of transportation came a new set of newspaper ads aimed at owners. Some advertised tires and gasoline, while the McLean-Jones Oil & Supply Co. advertised its newest brand: "Swastika Auto Lubricant". The fact that they choose a "swastika" creates a number of questions and certainly an interest in the history of the symbol. Somewhere, someone had to come up with a marketing plan and those the swastika would be a good idea. The company was based out of Boston, Massachusetts but employed the assistance of local sales agents to help push the product. For Charlotte County, the sales agent was Mr. Charles Alden Ryder. Born in September 24, 1886 at St. Stephen, he was the son of John and Martha (Blaney) Ryder. He would marry the former Ms. Ina Carlow. around the same time as he was selling auto oil, he and his wife had a daughter, Alden Winfred Ryder, on March 19, 1915. Ryder died on April 25, 1970 and is buried in the St. Stephen Rural Cemetery. However Mr. Ryder would not avoid the war entirely, in 1916 he signed his attestation papers and became an officer with the 45th Divisional Signal Company. And it is worth mentioning that his cousin, G. Stewart Ryder, was a recruitment officer for the area. As I mentioned, no one at this time would have foreseen that this symbol would become forever attached to one of the worst group of people in the history of mankind: the Nazis. However I was left thinking about Mr. Ryder during the early 1940s, when the symbol was prevalent. Did he think back to his early years as a salesman and think: "Why would those Nazis use the trademark for a brand of auto lubricant?"