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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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  • Historicist: William Lyon Mackenzie King Fixes the Column Nov. 4, 2017 12:46 PM - Part one of this story appeared in last week’s Historicist. Mackenzie King’s progress toward boosting his grandfather to the top of the column culminated with the June 1940 installation of the Mackenzie Memorial in Queen’s Park. But before the planning of that apotheosis began in 1936, Mackenzie King had honed his skills at shaping public […]
  • Historicist: Fixing the Broken Column Oct. 28, 2017 12:00 PM - Here is a story about the fallout from what could have been a civil war, but thanks to our national genius for compromise, was not, and about the way that we remember that conflict and those who participated in it. It involves a 30-minute walk from one monument to another, from Cabbagetown to Queen’s Park, […]
  • Historicist: The Real Bandits in the Valley Sep. 30, 2017 12:00 PM - As I write, Bandits in the Valley, a short, whimsical opera set in mid-19th century Toronto is playing to packed audiences gathered at Todmorden Mills in the Don Valley. Bandits have always been the stuff of opera and of pop drama. Yet once upon a time, there really were bandits in the Don Valley. We […]
  • Historicist: The Spicy Story of Toronto’s First Jewish Delicatessen Aug. 26, 2017 12:00 PM - Toronto is currently one of the most multicultural cities in the world, boasting an abundance of diverse and sophisticated ethnic restaurants across the GTA. When it comes to Jewish options alone, there are dozens of eateries that offer a range of delicacies including traditional dishes, kosher, deli, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and nouveau Jewish cuisine. But […]
  • Historicist: The Man the Rocks Talked To Aug. 19, 2017 12:00 PM - If you’re at the Evergreen Brick Works Market in the Don Valley, walk north along some 200 yards of lovingly created wetland. When you’ve gone about 50 yards past that, you will be on a little rise. Look behind over your shoulder for a view of the downtown skyline. Then keep on walking until you […]
  • Historicist: The Catalina Kid and the Black Shark Aug. 12, 2017 12:00 PM - In the early hours of January 16, 1927, an exhausted 17-year-old Toronto swimmer named George Young reached a beach on mainland California, having spent 15 hours and 46 minutes in the Pacific Ocean, during which he covered a distance of more than 20 miles. Young was the winner of—and indeed, the only contestant to finish—the […]
  • Historicist: Eden Smith and the Arrival of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Toronto Jul. 22, 2017 12:10 PM - Born in Birmingham, England, at the epicentre of the Second Industrial Revolution in 1859, Eden Smith was brought up as the son of a successful craftsman. He showed a strong affinity early on for art, architecture, and design, and he attended the Birmingham School of Art. Smith’s middle-class education placed him in line with many […]
  • Historicist: The Caravan is on its Way Jun. 24, 2017 12:13 PM - “Toronto was once a mausoleum where nothing moved on Sunday but clergymen’s lips,” wrote the Toronto Star‘s Trent Frayne in 1974. However, in the years since the Second World War, Frayne observed, immigrants from many different countries had relocated to Toronto and “all of a sudden, the town’s drab monotone was overlaid by a merge […]
  • Historicist: How the ROM Became a World-Class Museum Jun. 3, 2017 12:00 PM - Disclosure: An academic version of this article appeared in the Journal of Canadian Studies, Winter 2006 The story of how the ROM became a world-class cultural institution stretches from Toronto to China and covers major cultural shifts that shunted Canadian Methodism from piety to social engineering, the rise of the Toronto plutocracy, and the importance […]
  • Historicist: Sir Edmund Walker May. 27, 2017 12:00 PM - Disclosure: An academic version of this article appeared in the Journal of Canadian Studies, Winter 2006 It’s true: The Royal Ontario Museum wasn’t built in a day. Three pivotal figures were all key to the success of the ROM. The first, Sir Edmund Walker, conceived of the ROM, the second, Charles T. Currelly, presided over […]

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