• These Molson's beer ads that appeared in the <i>Canadian Geographical Journal</i> in the 1930s and 40s were considered cutting-edge for the time. (Photo: Canadian Geographic archives)

What he said was: “Make mine Molson’s."

That’s the 1930s version of the brewer’s now ubiquitous “I Am Canadian” slogan and a shining example of something the company has long been great at: advertising.

From the time John Molson, an orphan from Lincolnshire, England, stepped onto Quebec soil 230 years ago and established his small brewery in Montreal, people knew the Molson name. John quickly built his brand and diversified, opening a hotel, constructing the first Canadian-made steamboat, sponsoring events and, just prior to his death in 1836, financing Canada’s first railroad.

In 1807, Molson took out his first ad in Canadian Courant magazine, and the brand became an early leader in beer advertising.

When the series of ads pictured above appeared in the Canadian Geographical Journal from the late 1930s to the early 1940s, the “Make mine Molson’s” tagline featured atop colour-saturated illustrations of men enjoying a cold one put Molson at the forefront of a new age of Canadian advertising.

In 1930, Molson had contracted with cutting-edge Canadian ad firm Cockfield, Brown & Company, Ltd., the first agency in Canada to emulate the new American style of advertising, which was backed by extensive market research. Prior to this, ads in Canada were a “haphazard adjunct of high-pressure salesmanship,” a company official said in 1930.

Behind the new Molson ads — along with ads for Campbell’s Soup and Imperial Oil — was a team of economists, law students and Harvard MBAs crunching numbers and conducting research on the era’s consumers.

The resulting ads depict masculinity (a hardworking sailor or ship captain, a mustachioed golfer and a guard), success (each of these men is clearly employed at a time when Canada was still reeling from the Great Depression), and perhaps most importantly, a tall, frosty and delicious-looking glass of beer. Make mine Molson’s!