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High Park Branch Offers Sanctuary to Capybaras

May 26, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (6)

Who among us hasn't wanted to flee from a blind date gone bad?

Toronto Public Library wants to offer the two capybaras High Park branch as a refuge from their trials, in a spirit of fellowship and creating a warm welcoming environment. 

While my grandmother spoke highly of her own arranged marriage, I'm not sure how she would have felt about the slightly sordid affair at High Park Zoo when a single male capybara was brought to meet (read mate!) two female capybaras. Faced with this situation, what choice did they have but to leave with their dignity intact a la Thelma and Louise (and who really can blame them)? The Zoo is trying to recapture them as of now. 

My friend Mabel has also just informed me that in fact the escaped pair is a male and female pair so their burst for freedom is more Bonnie and Clyde and my puffery prose above is a bit misleading.

There was also an unconfirmed report that the capybaras had been seen at using the Digital Innovation Hub at Fort York Library.

Capybara swimming by Charlesjsharp - own work from Sharp Photography sharpphotography via wiki creative commons

By Charlesjsharp - Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0,

High Park is a lovely branch celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016. In addition to an English language collection, it offers a small adult and children's collection in French and a large collection of items in Polish. There is free wifi, Internet workstations (like all branches) and they also loan out pedometers. 

High Park branch is a Carnegie-funded library building and one of three iconic and identical branches spearheaded by Chief Librarian George H. Locke that are celebrating a major milestone this year -- Beaches and Wychwood are the other two branches. They were built in a pastiche of English medieval Tudor school style (big central hall open space) with wood beams/trusses and lots of white plaster.

If you're on Pinterest, you can view the many historical photos we have posted on a Carnegie Library board. Below are a few High Park branch photos, circa 1920s-40s.


Toronto High Park Library Branch circa 1921-1922 by Muriel Page (later Ffoulkes) was a children's librarian at High Park Branch, Toronto Public Library from 1917 to 1922

High Park branch circa 1921-1922 by Muriel Page (later Ffoulkes) who was a children's librarian at High Park, Toronto Public Library from 1917 to 1922.


High Park Library Christmas 1940. Marjorie Bullard

 Toronto Public Library staff member Marjorie Bullard reads in the adult section, ensconced in the inglenook of the High Park branch's fireplace. This photograph was taken by her brother, Maurice, at Christmas-time in 1940. Marjorie worked in several branches in her 45 years of service, and retired from the Locke branch in 1973.


 Wychwood Branch main floor adult area circa 1916

Wychwood Branch opened on April 15, 1916. It was the first of, and model for, of three identical libraries (High Park & Beaches were the others) that TPL built with a $50,000 grant from Carnegie. Eden Smith's design, an adaptation of Tudor Gothic style, was "an almost entire departure from the traditional library building…the Reading room & Library, 70 ft long by 30 ft wide…is really a large hall with an open timbered roof, the walls above 19 ft high to the springing of the roof..the ceiling 29 ft at its apex." 


 If you're interested in capybaras, you might like these two children's books:

  Children's book Capybaras by Megan Borgert-Spaniol   Capyboppy by Bill Peet - The author describes the spring and summer his family adopts a large South American rodent for a pet.

The Picture Collection at the Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library even has a file on capybaras - one of 32,000 files with a million images (and you can borrow from the Picture Collection). 


Of course, we hope the two cabybaras are found safe but in the meantime, we also hope they're having a good time now with their freedom.



Queen Victoria Day May 24: Toronto in vintage pictures

May 20, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (2)

We celebrate Victoria Day on May 24 to honour the birth of Queen Victoria in 1819. She reigned for much of the 19th century over Great Britain and the British Empire, including Canada. Her long reign and the strong connection to the monarchy ensured Victoria Day was a major event in Toronto as can be seen by the vintage photographs and items below (all from the Library's Digital Archive). 


1859 Queen's Birthday paper ticket for one free loaf of bread Toronto Ontario

Queen's Birthday 1859 paper ticket "Good For One Loaf" Toronto. This small 4.7 cm x 5.8 cm rare paper ephemera (raffle ticket size) will be on display Thursday the 26th of May from 3-3:30 PM in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Centre (5th floor, Toronto Reference Library), part of a free talk "Toronto Celebrates Victoria Day" offered by the Special Collections Department. 


Queen Victoria bisque bust on display Toronto Reference Library Arts Department 5th floor.


Government House & grounds Toronto CW on the Queen's Birthday 1854

1854 lithograph of Government House & Grounds Toronto C.W. (Canada West) on the Queen's Birthday.


Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. Her 50th anniversary in 1887 and her 60th anniversary in 1897 were major events across Canada and the British Empire.

Jubilee Service 1887 Metropolitan Methodist (United) Church Queen Street EastJubilee Service 1887 Metropolitan Methodist (United) Church Queen Street East


Decorations For Diamond Jubilee Queen Victoria, 1897, Toronto, King St. West looking east from west of Jordan St.

Decorations For Diamond Jubilee Queen Victoria, 1897, Toronto, King St. West looking east from west of Jordan St.


Toronto 1897 Queen Victoria  Decorations For Diamond Jubilee, King St. East  looking east from Yonge St.

Toronto 1897 Queen Victoria  Decorations For Diamond Jubilee, King St. East looking east from Yonge Street.


Statue of Queen Victoria in Queen's Park Toronto, 1913, decorated on Empire Day

Queen Victoria statue, east of entrance to Parliament Buildings, Queen's Park Toronto, decorated in 1913 for Empire Day.


1910 postcard Queen Victoria Monument, Queen's Park, Toronto.

1910 postcard of Queen Victoria Monument, Queen's Park, Toronto. According to the Yale Center for British Art this statue by Mario Raggi was installed September 1902 and unveiled May 27, 1903.  It was commissioned in 1870, paid for and installed after the queen’s death.


Toronto, Queen Victoria Day parade, 1923, looking east across University Ave from north of Elm Street (beside McCaul School).

Toronto, Queen Victoria Day parade, 1923, looking east across University Ave from north of Elm Street (beside McCaul School).


The original military and imperialist colonial aspect of Victoria's reign was still an element even after her death in 1901.


Toronto Quen Victoria  Birthday Parade  1923, military parade, looking north on University Ave. from Queen St. West

Soldiers of Toronto Regiments Marching Down University Avenue, 1923 to celebrate Queen Victoria Day

Queen Victoria statue, east of entrance to Parliament Buildings (1893), Queen's Park, Toronto hand coloured photograph.

Queen Victoria statue, east of entrance to Parliament Buildings Queen's Park, Toronto, looking east. Photograph circa 1910 hand coloured.


So we still celebrate Victoria Day - although the royal roots  are getting lost in time as we get further away from the Victorian era. And our connection to her weakens as our country and population shifts away from its British roots. Our biggest current memory is now most likely fireworks on a large scale.


1987  Fireworks light up the sky above Ontario Place, Toronto,  last night in one of several spectacular Victoria Day shows in and around Metro

 Fireworks light up the sky above Ontario Place, Toronto, 1987 in one of several spectacular Victoria Day shows in and around Metro. Toronto Star Archives.


And fireworks on a local more intimate scale.

1972 Holiday fireworks. The traditional Victoria day fireworks drew an estimated 6;000 persons to Alloa Public School in Bramalea last night where the show was staged by the Chinguacousy volunteer firemen.

1972 Holiday fireworks. The traditional Victoria day fireworks drew an estimated 6;000 persons to Alloa Public School in Bramalea last night where the show was staged by the Chinguacousy volunteer firemen. Money was raised by a door-to-door collection. Toronto Star Archives.


Making Space for Your Creativity

May 18, 2016 | Muriel | Comments (4)

"In creating, the only hard thing's to begin..."

                                                    - James Russell Lowell

Creativity Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention         Wired to Create         Let the Elephants Run

The Creative Fight    The Creativity Challenge    Big Magic

I enjoy making things, and I have always been interested in the
creative process. I find it fascinating how people nurture and make space for creativity in their lives: philosophically; time-wise; and by finding a location where they can create.

Toronto Public Library provides creative space for you with their Digital Innovation Hubs, which are workspaces with free access to technology and training, 3D design and printing, classes and more. At the Toronto Reference Library, the Asquith Press is a book printing service that lets you design and print perfect bound bookstore quality paperback books at a low price. There are also Pop-Up Learning Labs, which travel to different branches to bring new and emerging technology to your community through staff-led programs and classes.

More creative space is provided at many library branches for hobbies, crafts and games programs. If you like to create independently, all you need is your Toronto Public Library card to access for video tutorial courses on computer skills, graphic design, multimedia, photography and more.


It is very motivating for me to look at outstanding examples of art and craft. With the Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass, you and your family can explore, for free, the best of Toronto's arts and cultural treasures, including the Royal Ontario Museum.  On June 25, 2016, a special exhibition will be opening at the museum by one of the world's foremost glass artists, Dale Chihuly.

Workshops You Can Build    My Cool Shed    A Woman's Shed    

Maker Spaces        Inside the Artist's Studio        Open Studios With Lotta Jansdotter   

A Beautiful Mess       Creative Children's Spaces       Fine Woodworking Best Workshops

A dedicated space for your creative pursuits is ideal. This space might be a separate building, a studio or a corner of a room. I think it is energizing just to imagine all of the creative people working in these beautiful spaces!

David Bowie is the Subject  Zaha Hadid  David Hockney  Design is One

I am always interested in learning about creative people. While each one differs in their creative process, the unifying thread between them is their curiosity, a driving force for creativity.
3D Technology in Fine Art and Craft    The Artist in the Office    Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
The Artist's Way    Crafting Calm    The Artful Parent  

These inspiring and instructive titles encourage your creativity,
and show you ways to express it: on your own; at work; or with your family.

Craft a Creative Business     Starting Your Career as an Artist     I Just Like to Make Things

Beginning is indeed hard, but it is essential to creativity, and it may even take you on the way to presenting your creations to the outside world! There are even spaces to meet and work at your local library branch, to start or grow your small business.


Always Wear Clean Underwear, Love Mom: Vintage Mother's Day Photographs

May 4, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (4)

For Mother's Day this year I want to share some iconic images from the Library's collection and my own personal vintage photo collection. It may be a cliche, but a picture is worth a thousand words. 

This is my mom, Elpida. I wish it was me in the photobooth with her but it's actually my older brother. I love how beautiful, glamorous and happy my mom looks here. She has a lovely pure singing voice, is as smart as a whip, could do anything from paint a house, to sew and bake and was very handy with our family's finances. She speaks and reads several languages. And she learned to drive when it wasn't too common for Macedonian women to do so. I love my mom.

Bill's Mom and brother vintage photo booth circa 1950s


The photo below is from the Library's digital archive and shows Mrs. Owen Staples holding her daughter Isabella circa 1908. They're at Thomas Heys' house (Hogarth Avenue at the north west corner of Bowden Street) in Riverdale near the Danforth. This picture says love to me through the laughter and joy in the mother's expression and gesture and her desire to share the beauty of the cherry blossoms with the child. It's also aesthetically pleasing with the spray of white blossoms echoing her white dress. 

As an aside if you're interested in cherry blossoms in Toronto you will want to see the High Park cherry blossom report which says the season may be a flop in 2016 due to cool weather. BlogTO has done a great blog post on other cherry blossom sites in Toronto aside from High Park.  And if you want to see what you're missing my friend Iana did a fine blog post for the Library way back in 2012 which has some lovely photos and images from High Park.

Mrs. Owen Staples holding her daughter Isabella circa 1908 near cherry blossoms.


This is a vintage cabinet card I just bought in upstate New York for $1.00 at an antique store. I've seen a lot of cabinet card portraits but rarely one this striking - the unusual pose of the mom in profile and the young boy looking out. The photographer is J.H. Kent, 20 State Street, Rochester, N.Y. and it's circa 1880-1890s. 

Vintage cabinet card circa 1880s boy and Mom touch heads (2)


This last photo has the least information. It's the front of a postcard -- what's known as a real photo postcard or RPPC. It was printed on Velox paper and can be dated to circa 1901-1914 due to the four squares in the Velox stamp mark. This photo was taken out of doors -- you see a bicycle and the front of a house in the background. This is not an idealized version of motherhood like the cabinet card above. This woman looks older and tired and the child looks much more real and slightly indifferent to his mom.  


And lastly there is this vintage postcard from the Toronto Reference Library postcard collection. Although there are thousands of different postcards there is only one for Mother's Day. This may represent the relatively newness of this holiday as it more formally came about in 1908. The story and tragedy of Anna Jarvis' holiday and the corruption and commercialization of it is a bit heartbreaking. This Mother's Day type postcard shows foil paper, with forget-me-not flowers. It was published by Stanley E. Mullen and Co. of Melbourne Australia circa 1910 and was printed in Germany (it hasn't been posted).

To My Mother vintage postcard circa 1910

If you're interested in reading about Mother's Day enjoy these Book Buzz blog posts:





Our Fragile Planet: DVDs to the Rescue

May 2, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (0)

It's Earth Month 2016 and the time has come to take seriously our impact on the planet. Toronto Public Library is happy to present the best of our collections on environmental education, geared to children, teens and adults. Watch for environmental displays in branches across the city and pick up some reading material. At the same time, please join us for Our Fragile Planet, our free environmental programming series. Learn about issues that impact our city, and what you can do to tread lightly on our planet.

Hot Docs is in town and it's got me thinking about environmental DVDs you can borrow from the Library.

Did you know there are over 8000 documentary, performance and "how to" DVDs on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library and that you can borrow them?

During the month of April, the Library has been celebrating the Our Fragile Planet. Library branch displays are featuring books, magazines and DVDs on topics such as conservation, recycling, sustainable living, gardening and more. The goal is to get people thinking about the environment and what we can do to make a difference. 

We've blogged about the environmental magazines available at the Library, as well as eco and sustainable fashion. There is also a recommended reading list.

While we should be thinking about the environment throughout the year, Earth Day in April is a symbolic and timely way to remind us of our impact on the natural world. So, if you can tear yourself away from the improving weather outdoors, how about looking at some of these environmental DVDs?


Inconvenient Truth The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming DVD by Al Gore

Al Gore's pivotal work is titled An Inconvenient Truth a Global Warning. The Library also owns Not Evil Just Wrong The True Cost of Global Warning which is a critique of Gore and global warming calling it a "false doctrine". You may also like Greedy Lying Bastards.


The blue planet seas of life DVD narrated by David Attenborough

David Attenborough's Blue Planet Seas of Life series raises some important issues about our oceans.


The Cove - Oscar winner 2010 for best documentary.  Secret dophin hunting in Japan by director Louie Psihoyos.

The Cove is an excellent documentary on the secretive dolphin hunting industry in Japan.


The Last Mountain a West Virginia Appalachian documentary on local community versus giant coal company in a tussle over a local mountain.

The Last Mountain tells the story of a West Virginia Appalachian community versus a giant coal company in a fight over a local mountain.


Sand Wars The Incredible Investigation into one of the most Consumed Natural Resources on the Planet

Sand Wars is a surprising investigation into one of the most consumed natural resources on the planet. The planet's sand reserves are being threatened. One doesn't normally think of sand as a commodity. Alas, water is a resource that is most definitely a commodity and the documentary Tapped explores the bottled water industry. 


The sustainability secret  rethinking our diet to transform the world

Filled with anecdotes, statistics, research, interviews with the filmmakers and contributors, and unabridged transcripts from the film, Cowspiracy, this companion book supplements and expands upon the documentary in every way. With all this and more, The Sustainability Secret reveals the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet and offers a path to global sustainability for a growing population.  And the classic Food, Inc. is not to be missed.

  Cowspiracy the sustainability secret -  "Feature-length environmental documentary, following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about itDVD    Food Inc.



Open Sesame The Story of Seeds DVD

Open Sesame: the Story of Seeds: "one of the world's most precious resources is at risk. This timely and emotionally moving film illuminates what is at stake and what can be done to protect the source of nearly all of our food: seeds. Seeds provide the basis for everything from fabric, to food to fuels. Seeds are as essential to life as the air we breathe or water we drink, but given far less attention. It's not too late, yet." You may also be interested in Growing Cities on community gardening, bee-keeping, urban farmers and other food activists and how they are changing our perception of food.


GMO OMG: "Director and concerned father Jeremy Seifert is in search of answers. How do GMOs affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice? And perhaps the ultimate question, which Seifert tests himself: is it even possible to reject the food system currently in place, or have we lost something we can't gain back? These and other questions take Seifert on a journey from his family's table to Haiti, Paris, Norway and the lobby of agri-giant Monsanto, from which he is unceremoniously ejected. Along the way, we gain insight into a question that is of growing concern to citizens the world over: what's on your plate? -- Film's website" 


Salt of the Earth  - Photographer Sebastiao Salgado embarks on the discovery of pristine territories and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet's beauty.

The Salt of the Earth = le sel de la terre: for the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history: international conflicts, starvation and exodus. You may also like the cinematography of Encounters at the end of the world Rencontres au bout du mond where filmmaker Werner Herzog examines life in Antarctica, focusing especially on the stories of the "professional dreamers" who reside there (mostly filmed from a helicopter).


Petropolis Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands

Petropolis aerial perspectives on the Alberta tar sands = Petropolis: perspectives aériennes sur les sables bitumineux d'Alberta:

"The Athabasca tar sands in Alberta are an oil reserve the size of England. Extracting crude oil that lies beneath the unspoiled wilderness requires a massive industrialized effort, effecting catastrophic damages on land, air, water, and climate. Peter Mettler shows us this extraordinary view from above, filming primarily from a helicopter to capture this breathtaking, unparalleled view of the world's largest industrial, capital and energy project. In a hypnotic flight of image and sound, Mettler explores the clash between industry and earth, and beholds the barren wasteland that is left behind". 

You may also be interested in Crude sacrifice you can't reclaim humanity, which "looks at how the northern community of Fort Chipewyan is affected by the exploitation of Canada's Tar Sands and how the federal and provincial governments are dealing with local concerns. Leading scientists and Aboriginal residents discuss the environmental and health issues surrounding the world's largest construction project; although this town sits near the earth's second largest fresh-water delta, people can no longer drink the water there or eat the fish and game that have sustained them for thousands of years. An important look at the state of our democracy."


Drying for Freedom

For something a bit quirkier, why not try Drying for Freedom on the use of electric dryers and their environmental impact? And for something more serious, why not sample what we have on fracking?

  FrackNation DVD Journalist Phelim McAleer faces gun threats, mailcious 911 calls and bogus lawsuits when questinging green extremists for the truth about hydraulic fracturing. Made in response to the anti-fracking film Gasland.  Gasland DVD Can you Light your Water on Fire

Nominated for a best documentary Academy Award in 2012, If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front tells the story of the radical environmental group the FBI calls America's "number one domestic terrorist threat".

If A Tree Falls A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front

And lastly, consider this older title that takes a different (broader?) look at the world's environmental and economic interrelationships with an examination of fish coming from Africa to Europe and weapons going back to Africa in Darwin's Nightmare.

    Darwin’s Nightmare Documentary film that exposes the poverty and misery of the people living on the shores on Lake Victoria in Tanzania who are dependent upon fishing the Nile perch from the lake for their meager earnings. The fish are exported by air to Europe to be sold cheaply and the planes that arrive to transport the fish at first seem to arrive empty, but turn out to carry weapons to Africa and fish away. 

Lawren Harris: The Idea of North with Andrew Hunter

April 28, 2016 | Brent | Comments (0)

Andrew Hunter, the Fredrik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, will discuss the upcoming exhibition of iconic Canadian painter Lawren Harris. The event will take place on Thursday June 2, from 1-2 PM in the Hinton Learning Theatre of the Toronto Reference Library.
The exhibition "The Idea of North" will open at the Art Gallery of Ontario on July 1. Harris is one of the country's best loved artists, creator of stark iconic images of the Canadian Arctic. 

The show has garnered a lot of additional interest because of the involvement of Steve Martin, film star and well known art lover. He became a passionate advocate of Harris' work when he first saw it in an auction catalogue and thought "That’s the greatest Rockwell Kent I’ve ever seen!"

That's an easy mistake to make because until recently Harris was little known in the United States. "The Idea of North" has
introduced the famous Canadian's work to American audiences at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There's a great interview about the show in Border Crossings.
                The Idea of North   Journey  
         Contrasts      AtmaBuddhiManas
                    PaintersProgress   The Beginning of Vision

As an author, critic and curator,  Andrew Hunter is the author of over thirty one titles. Some of his earliest work contrasted the history of Canadian landscape painting with the growth of Canadian industry or the multiple fictions associated with "cottage country." He has curated shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the University of Waterloo and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. More recently he’s presented Into the Woods with Tom Thomson and a major Alex Colville retrospective, both at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

                Colville   Schaefer

       Thomson   Dialogue 


Lawren Harris: The Idea of North with Andrew Hunter
1 PM Thursday, June 2 2016
Hinton Learning Theatre
Toronto Reference Library








Prince Dies Unexpectedly - RIP

April 21, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (2)

The news came out today that Prince, musician, singer and performer extraordinaire, has unexpectedly died at the age of 57.    

Below is a sample of material Toronto Public Library can offer at this time.

Prince by Matt Thorne


I would die 4 you Why Prince became an icon by Toure      Prince  inside the music and the masks by Ronin Ro

This is one of Prince's newest albums. If you saw him recently on Saturday Night Live, you would recognize the glasses. We have a wide range of his music and albums available on CD and also as e-music through Hoopla!


3121 (CD) by Prince  Musicology (CD) by Prince

There are several sheet music collections featuring the music of Prince. 

Ultimate (Sheet Music) by Prince    The very best of Prince (sheet music)

There are even some of his performances live on DVD:    

Prince live at Las Vegas (DVD)   Prince Purple Rain (DVD)

And then there is 21 Nights by Prince with photographer Randee St Nicholas. This multimedia volume explores one tour through photography, lyrics, poetry and text.

21 Nights Prince - book and CD photography poetry music and lyrics






Sustainable Fashion and Earth Month: How to be Chic and Green on Our Fragile Planet

April 3, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (6)

April is Earth Month and a chance to mindfully pause and consider the environment and the impact humanity and we personally have on our planet. Toronto Public Library is honouring this with "Our Fragile Planet" displays in branches, many free programs and booklists of recommended readings.

With spring in the air and post Easter (did you get a new coat or hat?) my mind turns to clothes, the role of the eco-fashion movement and the increased awareness of sustainable fashion today. Think about how many millions of people are employed within the global clothing and fashion worlds: farmers of cotton or hemp, miners processing metal, factory workers in manufacturing making cloth, zippers, buttons and jewellery, the sweat shops sewing, clothing designers, fashion show organizers, magazine publishers, advertising firms, photographers etc. Think of what's involved in selling clothes: the retailers, the sales clerks, the mall builders and plastic bag manufacturers.  

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  

The Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black

Also, think about the business of fashion, the environmental impact of cheap clothing and human cost on those who make it. Remember the 1130 dead in the Dhaka garment factory, the 72 workers in a slipper factory in the Philippines who died in 2015 or the Tazreen Fashions garment factory fire outside Dhaka that killed 112 workers. Consider the infamous 1911 tragedy of 146 garment workers (again mainly women) who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City.

Flesh & blood so cheap the Triangle fire and its legacy by Albert Marrin

The song of the shirt the high price of cheap garments from Blackburn to Bangladesh  Triangle The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle


Ask yourself, does the search for fashionable clothing make us constantly buy new items? Does cheap and almost disposable clothing encourage over consumption? Consider is the cloth we're wearing grown in such a way that it's sustainable and has minimal impact on the environment. Are we buying from local designers with product made locally to reduce the carbon footprint?

  Overdressed  the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion by Elizabeth Cline   Fixing fashion  rethinking the way we make, market and buy our clothes by Michael Lavergne

When Goodwill suddenly closed did you ask yourself these questions:

  • where will I take my old clothes and stuff?
  • where will I buy my "new to me" clothes?
  • where is all that stuff going now?

I'm reminded of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in their catchy song Thrift Shop "I wear your granddad's clothes....I look incredible" and their indictment of the $50 t-shirt.


   The dirty side of the garment industry fast fashion and its negative impact on environment and society    Stitched up  the anti-capitalist book of fashion  by Tansy Hoskins


The good news is that the eco-fashion and sustainable fashion movements are gaining wider awareness and some acceptance. It's hard to challenge a capitalist industrial complex .... but you can nudge it a different direction.

    Sustainable fashion past, present, and future by Jennifer Hill  Eco fashion by Sass Brown

The fashion manifesto  the guide for the style-savvy by Sophia Hedstrom


You may want to consider upcycling clothes and the broader upcycle trend:

  Upcyclist Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors by Antonia Edwards  


I am reminded that Gandhi knew the real value of homespun undyed cloth as a protest against British imperialism and imported cloth, part of the Swadeshi movement:

Clothing Gandhi's Nation Homespun and Modern India Annotated edition by Lisa Trivedi

  Empire of cotton a global history by Sven Beckert  Big Cotton How a Humble Fiber Created Fortunes, Wrecked Civilizations, and Put America on the Map by Stephen Yafa


For lovely textile design and broader sustainability these may be of interest: 

Sustainable fashion and textiles design journeys by Kate Fletcher


Textile visionaries innovation and sustainability in textile design


And, of course, fashion is only part of the sustainability movement:

Cradle to Cradle Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough 

Make sure to check out (borrow and read too!) the recommended Our Fragile Planet reading list on the environment.  See some of our branch displays below as well. 

Morningside Branch Toronto Public Library Our Fragile Planet display 2016


Humberwood Branch Toronto Public Library Our Fragile Planet display 2016

Pondering "What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?" with Vintage Easter Postcards

March 23, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (3)

There are hundreds of vintage postcards celebrating Easter in the Toronto Reference Library postcard collection arranged thematically in 25 sub-categories (see the complete list of subjects in this pdf.)

Happy Easter vintage postcard by P.F. Volland publisher Chicago, copyright 1912 # 2525 mailed 1913

"Happy Easter" P.F. Volland publisher Chicago, copyright 1912 # 2525 (mailed 1913)

Easter is a deeply important religious holiday, possibly more so in the past. Christ's crucifixion and resurrection is the most significant celebration in the Christian calendar.  And Toronto, in the 1910-1920 era, was predominantly a Christian town and so it's little wonder Easter postcards are among the largest and most varied holiday themed collections we own. Along with religiously themed cards, there are many more playful ones that use imagery we would find familiar today.


Vintage Easter Postcard

"A Happy Easter" is published by the Rotograph Co of New York City. It is a real photo postcard (RPPC) done on bromide paper and mailed in April 1912 (copyright date 1907, part of a series B 1650).  For another example of Rotograph RPPC, see the sullen rabbit postcard in our Digital Archive and also at the end of this blog post.


Vintage Easter Postcard


Vintage Easter Postcard   Vintage Easter Postcard

"Joyeuses Pâques" (Happy Easter in French) is another RPPC card in the Parisian Moreau and Kivatizky series 1801. It was mailed in 1907 to Sister Marie St. Blandin and sold at EP Lacombe on Ste Catherine Est Montreal.

The chick(en) makes a good show in the Easter postcard collection:

  Vintage Easter Postcard     Vintage Easter Postcard

But, at the same time, the egg is no slouch:

  Vintage Easter Postcard


But the chick is not satisfied with being second fiddle to the egg and so with some rather splendidly creative anthropomorphism, the chicken transforms into a variety of human-inspired aspects and aspirations:

1908 vintage Easter Greetings postcard with automobile

In 1908, this "Easter Greetings" automobile postcard was mailed from Brooklyn, New York to "Master M. Mitchell, 55 Wolfrey Ave., Toronto". At that time, this car would have been both very expensive and the latest thing. I like how sporting the chicks are with their fur coat and car blanket and the slightly arrogant expression, compared to the poorer chick who is on foot with a basket of eggs. Modern Easter chicks drive sports cars and don't deliver eggs the old-fashioned way.

  Vintage Easter Postcard   Vintage Easter Postcard

You have to admire the well-dressed chick in top hat, frock coat, walking stick and flower in the lapel in the "Easter Greeting" card on the left mailed in 1915. His rather bohemian artistic friend on the right is from 1911. You'll notice the pre-WW I era card is a bit more sophisticated graphically and the coloured background is a deep intense hue. Most pre-WW 1 cards were printed in Germany (especially Saxony). Although the white card is also printed in Germany, the extra-wide white background indicates a more cheaply produced card -- ink was expensive. During the war, and afterwards, postcards were more often printed in the USA with less sophisticated technology and with less expensive inks.

Vintage Easter Postcard

Speaking of technology, this 1911 "Easter Greeting" International Art Publishing Company postcard (again printed in Germany) shows chicks going up into a Zeppelin which at the time would have still been a relatively new technology -- especially for the American and Canadian market. This card was mailed from Grand Rapids to Miss Eusebia Benson, 380 Dufferin Avenue, London, Ontario.

Easter Joy attend you is an undivided back 1907 postcard.

"Easter Joy attend you" is an undivided back 1907 card. It was mailed to Miss Evelyn Rugg, 448 Parliament Street.  It includes a message on the front: "My dear Evelyn, will meet you in same place, same time as before -- Artie B." The postcard was the text/ Snapchat of 1907. This charming card was also produced by the International Art Publishing Co.

Chicks though, are not the only thing that comes from eggs, as can be seen below.  

  A Happy Easter vintage postcard showing baby hatching from red Easter egg and bunny watching circa 1910 and made in Germany.

This "Happy Easter" postcard features a graphically beautiful and charming design of a rabbit looking at a baby hatching from an red egg. It was never mailed, and was printed in Germany circa 1910 era and is lightly embossed. 

  Vintage Easter Postcard

We're fortunate to have a pair of these unusual postcards featuring semi-nude bathing beauties and differently coloured backgrounds. They were part of a series of four or maybe six cards.  Risqué, they were printed in Germany on especially thick paper. The one with green background was mailed from New York in April 1909 to Mr Wm. Mitchell, 55 Wolfrey Ave, Toronto.  The one in red was never mailed. There's no indication that the two cards came from the same source.

Vintage Easter Postcard

The idea of beautiful women and girls coming out of eggs seems to have been a common motif as seen below.  The woman with the Gibson-era hair and hat was mailed in 1910 to Dr Egil T. Olsen, corner of Armitage Ave and Humboldt Blvd, Chicago.  The young lady in the green hat carrying pussy willow branches, a spring symbol, was mailed about the same time and is published by the International Art Print Company

Vintage Easter Postcard    Vintage Easter Postcard

The purple beauty, "A Happy Easter" below, is what's known as an undivided back (pre-1907) and has a Toronto postmark from April 14, 1906. Only the address would be written on the blank back -- any writing would go on the front. There is a handwritten "from Winston" in the centre of the egg. It was mailed to Miss Evelyn Rugg at 448 Parliament Street, Toronto.  We own many cards from the Rugg family (see the yellow chick postcard at the top of this post for another of Evelyn's cards from 1912). This is a foiled front and embossed card -- it would have been expensive to produce at the time and is done on extremely thick paper almost like cardboard.

  Vintage Easter Postcard

"With Best Easter Wishes" is a slightly disturbing postcard with a surprisingly avant-garde graphic punch. It also has an undivided back and a postal mark for 1907. It was mailed in Toronto to "Master Herbet K. Rugg, 448 Parliament Street, City". You can see the outlines in the corners of the indentations where it must have been kept in an postcard album -- likely the Rugg family (both Evelyn and Herbert) protected their postcards in an album that at some point was donated to Toronto Public Library which explains the prevalence of their cards in the collection.

  Vintage Easter Postcard

When I talked with my co-worker Peggy about this blog post, she quite seriously said 'well, the egg came first from a couple of slightly diverse DNA-endowed chicken-like birds.' Peggy's very smart. If you want to read about the science of this, please see this Wikipedia entry and this article from Popular Science.

I leave you with "Loving Easter Wishes" .... frolicking chicks and eggs together. 

Vintage Easter Postcard

Easter has always been a special holiday for me, as my family is Greek Orthodox and there are many religious and food traditions that happen at this time. Along with fasting for the 40 days of Lent (no animal products!), there was also colouring eggs. The most memorable thing was mass on Saturday night with candles lit at midnight to represent the resurrection, followed by singing "Christos Anesti" / "Χριστός ἀνέστη!" / "Christ is Risen!" I fondly remember being with my parents at church service annually. My father was named Anastasios, a version of the word 'risen', so Easter was also his name day -- another important type of holiday among Greek Orthodox people. Bog da prosti (God rest his soul).

A happy Easter

International Women's Day: Celebrating Some Powerful Political Women

March 8, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (1)

On March 8th, International Women's Day, why not read a biography or better yet, an autobiography, of one of the following influential groundbreaking political women?

Our neighbours to the south are in the midst of a presidential election campaign which may well see Hillary Clinton become the first female president of the United States.  Kathleen Wynne, Ontario's first female and lesbian premier, just gave a sold out talk at the Toronto Reference Library (watch our website for the upcoming video).  Two important Canadian provinces currently have female premiers, Christy Clark in British Columbia and Rachel Notley in Alberta, and Pauline Marois was the premier of Quebec.  

My personal idiosyncratic choice reflects how deeply moved I am reading the autobiography of Angela Davis -- black woman, civil rights advocate, communist, academic, prison abolitionist and reluctant Black Panther. Davis' book has gotten me thinking about other powerful female political leaders. 

Angela Davis-- an autobiography



Indira Gandhi was India's first female Prime Minister 1966-1977 and 1980-1984. She was assassinated in 1984.

Indira The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi




Golda Meir was Israel's first, and only, female president from 1969 to 1974.  We have her autobiography Mayn lebn, in Yiddish as well as English.

My Life by Golda Meir




Margaret Thatcher, was the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1975 to 1990 and commonly known as the Iron Lady.

The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher




Corazon (Cory) Aquino was the widow of Benito Aquino and the first female Prime Minister of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992.  We also have a book of anecdotes about her in Tagalog: Cory: sa aking pagkakilala.

Corazon Aquino  the story of a revolution 

Benazir Bhutto was the first female President of Pakistan from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996. She was the first woman to become head of government of a Muslim nation. She was assassinated in 2007.

 Daughter of the East An Autobiography by Benazir Bhutto    Reconciliation Islam, democracy, and the West by Benazir Bhutto    



Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese pro-democracy political leader who was under house arrest for more than 15 years.  She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

        The Voice of Hope - Aung San Suu Kyi conversations with Alan Clements  Letters from Burma Aung San Suu Kyi



Lastly, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, known as the Iron Lady of Africa (see Margaret Thatcher above for the original Iron Lady) is the first female President of Liberia, since 2006 the first elected female head of state in Africa. Sirleaf was jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. 

This child will be great memoir of a remarkable life by Africa's first woman president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf




1914 German poster celebrating International Women's Day

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