The events, places, and characters that shaped Toronto into the city we know today.

Straitlaced Toronto
Corsets, tight-lacing, and the changing role of women in 19th century Toronto.

The War of the Welles
Radio listeners enjoying the strains of Ramón Raquello on the evening of October 30, 1938 grew anxious. The mellow music was interrupted by a steady stream of bulletins concerning the observation of strange activity on the surface of Mars. Around 8:10 p.m., Toronto played its role in the unfolding drama…

Hovercrafts to Mimico
Imagine skimming along Lake Ontario at 120 kilometres per hour, reading the newspaper on the way to work in the city. Inching along the congested Gardiner might’ve taken you up to an hour, but instead your commute aboard a massive passenger hovercraft makes the same journey in all weather in mere minutes…

Elvis in Toronto, 1957
Presley’s Maple Leaf Gardens concerts were among only five performed outside the U.S.
  Soaring into the Jet Age
How Avro’s Jetliner almost ushered in passenger jet travel, in 1949.
  Victory is in Sight
Four months after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela visited Toronto.
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  • The diving horse at Hanlan's Point, c. 1907-1908. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 191. Historicist: Reflections of a Historicist Apr. 8, 2017 12:00 PM - The history of the city, like that of any city, is not a celebration of perfection, but it is a saga worth probing, praising, and critiquing.—Allan Levine, Toronto Biography of a City, 2014. Once upon a time, the basic story of Toronto’s history went something like this: Long ago, some “Indians” wandered by. The French […]
  • 2017-04-01-vmc78067_331 Historicist: Socialite and Nazi Spy Apr. 1, 2017 12:00 PM - Countess Grace Buchanan-Dineen, child of a prominent Rosedale family, lived a glamorous life in Detroit during the Second World War. Beautiful and cosmopolitan, she rapidly “became a social favorite,” one observer recalled, as she regaled them with anecdotes about her decade spent in Europe as the continent descended into war. Then, in late August 1943, […]
  • Mackenzie King at his desk in the summer of 1917.  Library and Archives Canada  / C-003176. Historicist: “As Interesting as It Is Timely” Mar. 25, 2017 12:00 PM - In the summer of 1897, William Lyon Mackenzie King returned to Toronto after having spent several months advancing his education in Chicago. At just 22 years old, the future prime minister had recently earned his third degree from the University of Toronto. Before pursuing a fourth degree at Harvard, King accepted a job at the […]
  • "O'Brien's Wild-Goose Chase." Cartoon by J.W. Bengough, Grip, June 4, 1887. Historicist: The Trouble With O’Brien Mar. 18, 2017 10:15 AM - This post originally appeared on February 16, 2013. Just after 9 p.m. on May 3, 1887, a train carrying Canada’s Governor General rolled into the North Toronto Canadian Pacific Railway station. Accompanied by municipal officials, Lord and Lady Lansdowne led a procession of carriages south along Yonge Street toward Government House at King and Simcoe […]
  • From the November 5, 1953 edition of the Varsity. Historicist: Ted Rogers, Communist? Mar. 11, 2017 12:00 PM - After winding down the old year and welcoming 1954 in the Bahamas, William Boultbee and Ted Rogers had a straightforward plan for heading home: fly from Nassau to West Palm Beach on January 2, pick up Boultbee’s car in Fort Lauderdale, drive north. The plane carrying the pair, who had been friends since childhood, arrived […]
  • Women learning to shoot at the rifle range at Long Branch.  It is not clear if these particular women were actually with the Women's Home Guard.  City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 981. Historicist: The Women’s Home Guard Mar. 4, 2017 9:15 AM - This post originally appeared on November 10, 2012. On August 20, 1915, 100 Toronto women gathered at the home of Jessie McNab, on St. Clair Avenue, near what is now Winona Drive. Jessie McNab was well-known in Toronto women’s social circles at the time, and over the preceding months her home, known as Dundurn Heights, […]
  • Woman holding banner at International Left Opposition demonstration [graphic material] – [1933?].  Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, fonds 32, item 8.  Used with permission. Historicist: Strike Against Hitlerism Feb. 26, 2017 10:45 AM - On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 11, 1933, people began gathering in the park at Wellington and Bathurst Streets. Most of the men and women in attendance were labourers, and many were there to represent Toronto’s predominantly Jewish garment industry unions. Some were there to represent various left-wing Toronto political organizations, which were ideologically opposed […]
  • Front page, the Toronto Sun June 19, 1990. Historicist: “We Are Confident That Victory Is in Sight” Feb. 18, 2017 12:00 PM - This post was originally published on July 6, 2013. At first glance, the space above Asteria Souvlaki Place at 292A Danforth Ave. drew little attention to itself. Until February 11, 1990, its occupants were happy to keep it that way. Not advertising to the world that this was the local office of the African National […]
  • View of exterior of Eaton Centre construction site, with sign. The Queen Street Eaton's store can be seen in the background. Photo by Harvey R. Naylor, April 18, 1975. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 84, Item 60. Historicist: Opening the Eaton Centre Feb. 11, 2017 12:00 PM - 9:10 a.m., February 10, 1977. Chaos reigned on the platforms of Dundas station, which was jammed beyond capacity with people eager to attend the opening of the Eaton Centre. “Passengers got close to hysteria as they were dumped out into dense crowds that couldn’t get through the single open exit fast enough,” the Globe and […]
  • Advertisement from the Black Trade and Business Directory (1970) Historicist: Third World Books and Crafts Feb. 4, 2017 12:00 PM - This post originally appeared on February 5, 2015. “All through my life the schools avoided me,” explained Leonard Johnston, proprietor of Third World Books and Crafts, to a newspaper reporter who visited his shop in the summer of 1969. “They ignored my history, my culture, my music. Now I’m trying to educate. Politically, culturally, every […]

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