Today the City of Toronto turns 180, so let’s take a quick peek at how far ‘Toronto the Good’ has come, by looking at historical snapshots of what has happened on this day in our shared heritage as Torontonians.
On this day in 1834, what had been the town of York incorporated itself under its original name. This was derived from the portage route called “Passage de Toronto” used by early French-Canadian traders to reach Lac Taranteau, which was later called Lake Simcoe. The phonetic equivalent ‘Toronto’ was a Huron word for the fishing weirs in the narrows connecting Lake Simcoe to present day Lake Couchiching.
The historic site for Fort Rouillé, on the south side of Exhibition Place, marks the location of what was more commonly known as Fort Toronto, built in 1750-51. It was established by order of the Marquis de La Jonquière, Governor of New France, to help strengthen French control of the Great Lakes and was located here near the important “Toronto” portage route to entice trade with natives travelling southeast toward the British fur-trading centre at the mouth of the Oswego River in the present day state of New York.
Almost a century later in 1852, a group of Toronto brokers formalised “a code of Rules and Regulations” that would underpin the formation of the Toronto Stock Exchange later on that year. No records survive of transactions conducted by this early group known as the Association of Brokers, though perhaps they might have traded in furs as well.
This day in 1884 also marks the opening of the first free public library in Toronto that would later become today’s Toronto Public Library. The newly created board was chaired by John Hallam (after whom Hallam Street is named), who opened this first library in the former “Mechanics Institute” at Church and Adelaide.
In 1889 we see a clear indicator of Toronto’s rigid and conservative upbringing, when Toronto Customs officials destroy novels by the French author Emile Zola on the grounds that they were “obscene”. Zola who was a major figure in the political liberalisation of France, would later be nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize for Literature in 1901 and 1902.
It’s great to see how much Toronto has loosened up in 180 years!