Posters From The Alan and Thomas Suddon Collection

November 1, 2017 | Beau

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When I started working at the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library earlier this year, one of the first things that really caught my eye was the Alan and Thomas Suddon Collection: approximately 5,000 posters, broadsides and flyers advertising everything from businesses to protests to concerts to...well, pretty much anything you could publicize via pieces of paper stapled to a telephone pole. Taken as a whole, it's a fascinating cross-section of social, political and cultural trends in Toronto between the 1950s and early 1990s, especially the downtown, university-dominated Annex area.

Alan Suddon was the head of the Fine Art Department at the Reference Library for many years before he retired in 1987, and he and his son Thomas roamed the streets of Toronto for decades, searching for interesting posters to add to their collection. Thomas passed away in 1992 and Alan in 2000, and shortly after Alan's death, his wife Mary donated the collection to the library. All of the posters are now stored in the Special Collections Centre at the Reference Library, where they are available to be viewed by anyone upon request. They're organized chronologically, so ask for the year you're interested in and a box with all of the posters from that time will be brought out for you to look at.

It would be impossible to truly convey the full variety of the posters held in the Suddon Collection in a single blog post, but here's a little sampling to give you an idea (click on the photos for a larger view).


Poster: The Chelsea Girls, directed by Andy Warhol      Poster: Rodent skateboard store      Poster: Hong Kong disco party      Poster: The Capitalist Corporate Mind Machine

Left to right:

  1. A screening of the film The Chelsea Girls, directed by Andy Warhol, at the Royal Ontario Museum Theatre (1968)
  2. Advertisement for Rodent Skateboards (1988)
  3. "Hong Kong Disco Contest" (1978)
  4. Theatrical production of The Capitalist Corporate Mind Machine, at the Actor's Lab Theatre (1991)


                  Poster: International Women's Day 1982      Poster: A Nice Happening Easter Sunday      Poster: El Mocambo 1974 concert poster

  1. International Women's Day March (1982)
  2. "A Nice Happening" at the University of Toronto's Convocation Hall (1973)
  3. El Mocambo nightclub concert calendar, including listings for Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley and Charles Mingus (fall/winter 1974)

                                  Poster: Bakka Science Fiction Book Shoppe      Poster: Rivoli nightclub August 1987 concert calendar

  1. Moving notice for Bakka Science Fiction Book Shoppe, now known as Bakka Phoenix (1973)
  2. The Rivoli nightclub concert calendar, including listings for The Kids In The Hall and The Cowboy Junkies (August 1987)


Poster: M.C. Rap Contest      Poster: Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet      Poster: Transcontinental Pop Festival 1970      Poster: B.B. Boris, The Man From The Future

  1. M.C. Rap Contest (1986)
  2. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet at The Rivoli (1988)
  3. The Transcontinental Pop Festival - otherwise known as The Festival Express - at the CNE Grandstand, featuring The Band, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and Ian & Sylvia (1970). A riot by fans upset about the $14 ticket price was narrowly avoided when The Grateful Dead agreed to also play a free concert in a nearby park.
  4. B.B. Boris, "The Man From The Future," at Free Times Cafe (1987)


                                                      Poster for Jackie Shane's Christmas Show

  1. Jackie Shane's Christmas Show, with Frank Motley and The Hitchhikers (1967). Shane was a transgender pioneer who moved from the United States to Toronto and performed r&b in drag in Toronto nightclubs throughout the 1960s, before retiring from performing in the early '70s. Recently her music was reissued on a Numero Group compilation named "Any Other Way."