At the beginning of the summer, a friend of mine rescued me from the concrete confines of my downtown Toronto apartment. Before making our escape, we carefully loaded the back of his truck with supplies for the weekend: Tent? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Hotdogs, marshmallows and enough beer to last until Sunday? Check, check, check. […]

In the News

I spent the summer and fall of 2008 in Ottawa, but the most memorable parts of my stay took place on the other side of the river. To improve my French, I joined a rugby team in Gatineau and learned that many of my new teammates were in similar situations. Some were anglophones from across the […]

Education
History
to-map
A topographical map of Toronto in 1818.

This 1818 topographical map of York shows that the land north of Queen Street was mostly forest and farmland (J.R. Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto).

Maps! These visual, information-rich records show us where we are and where we’ve been. What would we do without them? Nathan Ng, a self-described “non-professional historian” certainly understands their importance. His past efforts have made the Goad’s Atlas, a detailed Victorian-era fire insurance map of Toronto, available to the internet masses at Goad’s Atlas – Online!. His most recent project, Historical Maps of Toronto, continues the work of bringing Toronto’s cartographic history to the web, with digitized maps from the 1858 Boulton Atlas of Toronto, the Alpheus Todd map of 1834 and many, many more. We picked Nathan’s brain about his love for maps, the Historical Maps of Toronto project, and his thoughts on the internet’s role in history education. Read More

History
In the News
grizzly-bear-and-baby
peter-the-great-cage

Toronto World, February 23, 1913

[Editor’s note: Excitement overtook Toronto on Monday as two giant pandas, on loan from China, arrived by FedEx, beginning their ten-year stay in Canada (five years in Toronto followed by another five years in Calgary). Toronto is no stranger to bears. In the 1800s bears were known to wander the city’s streets, and Bay Street was popularly referred to as “Bear Street.” Revisit these early bear-filled  days in this original post from Heritage Toronto]

Though bears no longer wander Toronto’s streets, they once did. In his 1873 book Toronto of Old, Toronto historian Henry Scadding claims that Bay Street was popularly referred to as “Bear Street” in the early 1800s “from a noted chase given to a bear out of the adjoining wood on the north, which, to escape from its pursuers, made for the water along this route.” Scadding also describes a wandering bear being attacked by G. D’Arcy Boulton‘s horses at The Grange, as well as an incident in 1809 on George Street in which a bear was killed by “Lieut. Fawcett, of the 100th regiment, who cleft the creature’s head open with his sword.”

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History
johnny-cash-atm

johnny-cash-atm

In spite of many skeptics who claim it was merely an urban legend, revered gospel and country singing man in black Johnny Cash did actually lend his name and own brand credibility to Canada Trust’s blossoming ATM roll-out in the mid-1980s. As in, I need money, let’s hit a Johnny Cash machine.

Now simply taken for granted, the novel ATM age really kicked off in the early 1980s when Toronto Dominion unveiled their “Green Machines,” which were followed closely by the Scotiabank “Quickstop Cashstops.” Just look at how utterly happy these ATM using people are. Read More

Education
Film
History
A Desert Between Us And Them

The upcoming documentary, A Desert Between Us and Them: Raiders, Traitors and Refugees in the War of 1812, tells the story of the American raids on an undefended Upper Canadian peninsula (now Southwestern Ontario) during the War of 1812. Rather than give a straight military account, A Desert Between Us and Them focuses on the civilians caught in the war – people who were faced with food shortages, constant pressure to change allegiance, thousands of refugees, and the eventual abandonment of Southwestern Ontario by the British army. War was not remote. It came up to their doorsteps, into their homes and changed their lives forever.

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History
In the News
Toronto in Time

Who says time travel is impossible? The Canadian Encyclopedia, a program of the Historica-Dominion Institute, is pleased to take you on a trip through time in its second free app in its “Cities in Time” series, Toronto in Time. Read More

History
In the News
Marilyn-Bell
Marilyn Bell

Marilyn Bell starting her swim, September 8, 1954 (courtesy Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame).

[Editor’s Note: The Canadian Encyclopedia is proud to present its second free app, Toronto in Time, highlighting the stories of the city. “Marilyn Bell Swims Lake Ontario” is one of over 160 unique stories in the app, available for iOS and Android.]

Marilyn Bell waded into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario at Youngstown, NY, at 11:07 p.m. September 8, 1954. It wasn’t supposed to be a race, but she made it into one. The Canadian National Exhibition had offered $10,000 to American swimmer Florence Chadwick to swim the lake. Many thought it was unfair not to include Canadians in the event. Only two others took up the challenge, Winnie Roach Leuszla and 16-year old Marilyn Bell.

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Politics
Primary Loyalties
Dalton McGuinty

Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario, 2003 to present (courtesy University of Western Ontario).

As election outcomes go, the results in Ontario’s seem pretty reasonable, though to some extent troubling as well.

In 2005 Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government introduced legislation creating fixed election dates. Elections were to be held the first Thursday in October, starting in 2007 and repeating every four years. There is similar legislation in every province, except Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. The federal government passed legislation proving for four year terms, but within two years Prime Minister Harper ignored the statute and called a general election, hoping to win a majority.

Fixed election dates take away the premier or prime minister’s ability to call snap elections for partisan advantage. All the parties know about the date in advance and can prepare for the campaign. The electoral system is fairer as a result.

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Politics
Primary Loyalties
Taxes
William G. Davis

Davis was leader of one of the most successful political parties in any democracy, the Ontario Conservative Party (Canapress).

William G. Davis, “Brampton Billy”, was premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1982. As the minister of education he presided over the massive expansion of the Ontario system of higher education, transforming its universities from cash-starved and dormant institutions to some of the finest in the world. He also was the person most responsible for the creation of the community college system. TVO, the educational TV network, was his construction.

As premier, he introduced regional government in Waterloo and other places, expanded the health care system, played an extremely important role in creating support for the Charter and, toward the end of his premiership, guaranteed full funding for Roman Catholic separate schools.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Stephen Leacock
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is the second excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and OthersThey will run every Friday. The following is taken from the chapter on humorist Stephen Leacock.]

In my experience, every humorous writer finds that his or her public confidently expects them to be a happy person, facing life with a wry chuckle, and perhaps a slow, smiling shake of the head. To his great credit, Leacock tried to shoot down this view. He wrote: “If a man has a genuine sense of humour he is apt to take a somewhat melancholy, or at least a disillusioned view of life. Humour and disillusionment are twin sisters.”

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Music
Music Mondays
Shania Twain
Shania Twain

Shania Twain makes an appearance during the CMA Fan Festival in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, June 10, 2011. (AP /Wade Payne)

On Sunday, Canadian pop icon Shania Twain celebrated her 46th birthday. Genre-hopping from country to pop to become an international sensation, Twain is one of the shining jewels in the Canadian pop crown. Beginning in the mid 90s, she made a name for herself with the country album, The Woman in Me, including the star-making twangy single, “Any Man of Mine.” Her next album, Come On Over, shot her to international superstardom, sitting tight on the Billboard’s Top 20 for 99 weeks, selling over 40 million copies, and winning her four Grammy awards.

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