Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

« June 2015 | Main | August 2015 »

July 2015

Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1762-1850

July 31, 2015 | Ann | Comments (12)

This upcoming civic holiday honours the first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe. A detailed biography on John Simcoe is available on the Historical Narratives of Early Canada website which provides a good account of his military and historical achievements.  

Blog: Celebrate Simcoe Day. Scenic Sensations Await!
John Graves Simcoe. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario. 


Credit in the development of Upper Canada could be shared with his adoring young wife, Elizabeth. This post will glance through Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe's unique contributions in art, writing, and her support in shaping this new Canadian frontier.  

The Toronto Project: The Elizabeth Simcoe Archives
Elizabeth Simcoe, 1790 and drawn by her friend, Mary Anne Burges  in water colour taken from The Library and Archives Canada, no. 1972-118-2

Born in Northamptonshire, England on September 22nd in 1762, Elizabeth arrived into the world filled with bittersweet anticipation. Her father, Colonel Thomas Gwillim passed away several months before Elizabeth's birth while posted to Germany on January 29, 1762.  No specified cause was recorded on the manner of his death. Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth Sophia Gwillim, died within 24 hours after childbirth. In this midst of this deep sadness, her aunt, Margaret Spinkes, took over the care of her baby niece. Both the aunt and the aunt's mother chose to name her Elizabeth Posthuma--her first name in honour of her mother and her middle name to reflect the passing of her parents. 

On June 14, 1769, her aunt Margaret married Admiral Samuel Graves. They met in the previous winter. The Admiral was 56 years of age and a childless widower. Margaret Spinkes was 42 years old. The Admiral saw Elizabeth as the child that he was unable to have and both aunt and uncle raised Elizabeth with the best of all intentions. 

Entry on Samuel Graves in the Fort Lauderdale Chapter Newsletter Vol. 45, No. 2 (February 2012)
Admiral Samuel Graves (1713-1787), by James Northcote. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

As Elizabeth was growing up, her family encouraged her to develop a positive outlook on life by providing various resources for her to explore. She developed her writing skills and wrote voraciously to family and friends far and wide; she explored the countryside on foot and on horseback and wrote copious details of her journeys; and she developed her artistic skills in sketching and painting. She also studied botany and that knowledge dovetailed nicely with her interest in painting landscapes.   

In 1777 when Elizabeth turned fifteen years old, she met a handsome commanding officer twice her age. At the age of 30, the wounded Lieutenant Colonel, John Graves Simcoe, returned to England to convalesce after the British Army's defeat in Yorktown. Admiral Graves extended an invitation for John Graves Simcoe to stay at Hembury Fort House while recuperating. Since Elizabeth had a large dowry, the aunt and uncle paid careful attention to the men who showed an interest in her.  In John Grave Simcoe's case, John's parents were close friends. Admiral Graves was the godfather of John Simcoe and had Admiral Graves' surname for his middle name.  

Over time and daily interaction in residence, both John and Elizabeth quickly fell in love to the delight of Margaret and Admiral Graves. The two remained in contact and by September 1782, John and Elizabeth became engaged. On December 30, 1782 they were married. Soon after they were married, Elizabeth purchased five thousand acres of land and built a forty-room mansion and called it Wolford Lodge.

Fast forward to nine years later, after the births of five daughters between 1783 and 1790, her first son, Francis, was born in 1791--two more daughters (one in Toronto and the other in England) and one more son was born (in England) later for a total of nine children). In the same year, her husband accepted an assignment to travel to Upper Canada as the new Lieutenant Governor. Ensuring that her children were cared for, her children either remained at Wolford Lodge and stayed with other family or they came along with her.


Elizabeth Simcoe began painting Canadian landscapes and waterways. She captured the Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on her journey to Quebec City.

Elizabeth Simcoe Watercolour: Isle of Entry [one of Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence]
Isle of Entry in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario


When the couple arrived in Quebec on November 11th of 1791, Elizabeth sketched her first sleigh ride which she expressed as quite 'jolty' and the journey as very cold.   

Officers and Canadian Carrioles, Elizabeth Simcoe on Aquarelle paper
Officers and Canadian Carrioles. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario


As the Simcoes settled in Quebec, on December 26th, The Constitutional Act of 1791 came into being and was the first step in amalgamating the land for this new country. On June 5, 1792, the Simcoes continued on their journey through Upper Canada in Ottawa and stayed at the Chateau de Ramezay which could be one of the oldest buildings in Canada.  

Government House: Chateau de Ramezay, Montreal by Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1792
Government House, Chateau de Ramezay in Montreal. Courtesy of This work is in the Canadian public domain.

She wrote in her journal:

Sun. [June] 17th—The joy I felt in finding myself in spacious apartments was checked the next day by finding the heat more insufferable than I had ever felt. The thermometer continued at 96 for two days, and the heat was not ill-described by a sentinel who exclaimed, "There is but a sheet of brown paper between this place and hell." In the town are abundance of merchants' storehouses, the doors and windows of which are iron, and many of the houses, as well as churches, are covered with tin. By these circumstances, I believe, the heat is increased. The Government House is built on arches, under which are very large offices, which might be made very comfortable summer apartments. (The Diary of Mrs. Simcoe, 1911)


The Simcoes traveled to Kingston and briefly considered Kingston as the capital of Upper Canada but the location and geography did not appear to be suitable.  Days later, they sailed to Niagara where Elizabeth captured the breathtaking Falls in water colour. The family stayed here in Newark (today is called Niagara-On-The-Lake) for several months. On January 16, 1793, her daughter, Katherine, was born.

Niagara Falls, Ontario by Elizabeth Simcoe, summer 1792  item reference code F 47-11-1-0-71
Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario.  

She wrote in her journal her impression of the Falls:

On the American side the river passing over a straight ledge of rock has not the beauty of the circular form or its green colour, the whole centre of the circular falls being of the brightest green, and below it frequently seen a rainbow. (The Diary of Mrs. Simcoe, 1911)

Even today, her words appear to ring true. Many current visitors can attest to the same visual beauty from its roaring depths.


In July, her ship, the Mississauga, entered the Toronto Harbour.  

Looking south towards Gibralter Point, showing firing of salute
Looking south towards Gibraltar Point. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

John and Elizabeth explored this region by canoe, horseback, and on foot and John noted that this harbour appears well protected by the Toronto Islands in the south and he named spit on the Island, Gibraltar Point.  

Sadly, not all of Elizabeth's journey was positive. Elizabeth's daughter, Katherine perished on April 1792 at 14 months old.  She was buried in the Old Garrison Burying Ground which is currently a park renamed Victoria Memorial Square near Fort York.    


On a happier note, her first son Francis Simcoe survived the Frontier. The family created a lovely castle in his honour and named it, Castle Frank.  

Elizabeth Simcoe Watercolour: Castle Frank, 1796 in Archives of Ontario
Castle Frank, 1796. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario

Sadly, Castle Frank is no longer standing and through time, several changes to the landscape occurred. On September 11, 1796, the family returned to England and never returned to Canada to enjoy this residence.


Elizabeth's diary entries are worth reading and revisiting. Consider perusing these interesting titles to appreciate her remarkable journey:

Elizabeth Simcoe's Canadian journey Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1762-1850: a biography John Graves Simcoe, 1752-1806: a biography Toronto During The French Regime
"Our young soldier": Lieutenant Francis Simcoe, 6 June 1791-6 April 1812 Toronto: biography of a city The Niagara companion - explorers, artists and writers at the Falls, from discovery through the twentieth century Mrs. Simcoe's diary


On this special day, consider riding to the Toronto Islands by ferry and visiting Gibraltar Point, gaze down the brilliant green Falls in Niagara, Ontario, stroll through Fort York and watch the British soldiers march in formation, and reflect on Elizabeth's journeys as you wander along the Castle Frank Brook on your travels. Much of the Canadian and Toronto traditions were inspired by John Simcoe and then brought to life in muted colours and lively written text by Elizabeth Simcoe centuries ago.  

Enjoy the long weekend!

Toronto Take Three: A Series of Three Programs Celebrating Film in Toronto

July 31, 2015 | Muriel | Comments (0)


Toronto Take Three:

Three Programs



Part One of Series:
Film Screening of The F Word
Thursday, September 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the
North York Central Library Auditorium
Please call 416-395-5639 to register for this FREE program.

This screening of Michael Dowse's The F Word (2013) will be introduced by a mystery guest.  A romantic comedy set in Toronto, and featuring a whimsical Genie Award-winning screenplay by Elan Mastai, the film centers around the growing chemistry between med school dropout Wallace
(Daniel Radcliffe) and animator Chantry (Zoe Kazan), and it was heralded by TIFF as one of Canada's Top Ten Films for 2014.  

World Film Locations Toronto

Part Two of Series:
Tour of Film Locations

Thursday, September 10 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the TELUS Centre and the Royal Ontario Museum
Please call 416-395-5639 to register for this FREE program.

Follow the footsteps of some of your favourite characters from TV and films including NBC's Hannibal (2013-) and Atom Egoyan's Chloe(2009)!  We will explore Toronto's own Royal Ontario Museum and different parts of the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning.  This is a unique opportunity to discuss the locations with expert contributors to 
World Film Locations.  Toronto(Intellect, 2014), and to experience them first-hand.

Part Three of Series:
Film Locations in Toronto
Wednesday, September 16 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the North York Central Library Auditorium
Please call 416-395-5639 to register for this free program.

Michael Dowse's award-winning The F Word (2013), starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, celebrates Toronto both as a container of plots and as a city of the imagination.  Join Dr. Tom Ue (Department of English, University College London), and Elan Mastai, writer and producer, as they discuss some aspects of the city and its representations onscreen.  

More about film in Toronto:

Toronto on Film


Free Science Events in Toronto for August 2015

July 30, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

The Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the August calendar (PDF).

August's highlights include:

The Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

At the library, August's highlights include:

  • August 1 & 2: Maker Festival, at Toronto Reference Library. Two days of discovery, experimentation and innovation. Learn more about 3D printing, wearable technology, robotics, woodworking and more.
  • August 4: Garden Club, at S. Walter Stewart branch. For teens 13 - 18. Get your hands dirty and plant, grow and maintain the library's new flower garden.
  • August 21: Play with... 3D Selfies, at Fort York branch. Learn how to create 3D self-portraits using our Xbox Kinect scanner and software. Get a 3D scan of yourself that can be saved and printed using a 3D printer later on.
  • August 22: Easy Homemade Baby Food, at York Woods branch. Participants will learn how and what to feed their babies in the first year. Learn how to introduce solids, how to make baby food at home and proper storage.
  • August 26: Project Animal Farm: An Investigator's True Story, at Brentwood branch. Author, Sonia Faruqi will discuss her experiences investigating animal farms around the world. She will offer a riveting and revealing look at what truly happens behind farm doors and she will describe the impacts of factory farms on animal welfare, human health and the environment.

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these titles:

The life and love of cats  Health and healing after traumatic brain injury  ROM field guide to butterflies of Ontario   The big book of maker skills

Everyday garden solutions  3D printing  The amazing make-ahead baby food book  Project animal farm

Starry starry nights

July 24, 2015 | Carolyn | Comments (0)

In summer I love to look at the night sky, and the Perseid meteor shower in August is, for me, the highlight of the season. Don't take my word for it; here's what NASA has to say: "The Perseids, which peak during mid-August, are considered to be the best meteor shower of the year. With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long "wakes" of light and color behind them as they streak through the Earth's atmosphere." 

Snowy Range Perseids Meteor Shower, courtesy of David Kingman via a Creative Commons Licence

 Snowy Range Perseids Meteor Shower
Photo courtesy of David Kingman via Creative Commons Licence

Meteor showers occur several times every year when the earth passes through bands of comet debris. This year should be especially good for viewing the Perseids because the crescent moon won't brighten the sky.

Getting away from urban light pollution enhances the stargazing experience. Dark sky sites are light-restricted areas where it's easier for visitors to appreciate the wonders of the night sky.

I love meteor showers because I can see them without a telescope. You don't need any equipment to look at sky at night, but using binoculars or a telescope will let you observe objects in more detail.

This year, for the first time, I'm going to see the night sky from the southern hemisphere. I figured I might need a little help getting oriented to a new skyscape and, of course, there's an app for that. Actually, there are many apps. This article was helpful when I was choosing a night sky app for my iPad; for Android users this advice might be useful.

If you're interested in learning more about astronomy, you can meet fellow stargazers, ask questions, and learn about equipment at local events and meetups. And of course resources are available at your local library:  

The Beginner's Observing Guide: an introduction to the night sky for the novice stargazer



Magazines for amateur astronomers are available in many libraries, or through our website: 

August 2015 - Sky & Telescope ASY150801  


Memory, Meaning-Making and Collections: Artifacts Bring Us Together

July 20, 2015 | Aleks | Comments (0)

Group ShotOn July 3rd, a fascinating group of elders and staff from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto and researchers from the University of Toronto met at North York Central Library to celebrate the wonderful presentation of artifacts being put on display on the 3rd floor. For the months of July and August, the library will have artifacts from First Nations across Canada and the United States for public viewing. The display is enticingly called, "Memory, Meaning-Making and Collections".

The members of the group come from the Cree, Anishinaabeg and non-Native communities across Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. They work directly with the artifacts to try and learn something about themselves and about the ways these artifacts communicate ideas and experiences from across time, space and generations. 

The group typically meets in the Wigwamen senior's residence. They first share a potluck lunch; one which the group was able to share with staff from North York Central library on July 3rd. Sharing food, like artifacts, creates strong memories and relationships among people. Staff members of the library were able to participate in this exchange. After going around the table with introductions filled with personal experiences about their lives and their time with the group, the sharing of food and stories began. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the residents from Wigwamen. She is known to be quite skilled at bead-making and a fantastic cook. The other ladies raved about her fabulous Bannock bread, a recipe which I am excited to try. The recipe itself can be found in their "The Memory, Meaning-making & Collections 'Come Eat!' Cookbook," also on display on the 3rd floor. I was able to share my own personal story about my grandmother teaching me to make perogies. It was a really wonderful experience filled with stories and memories being shared. 

Display case
The group handles different kinds of artifacts cared for by First Story Toronto. It is a community history project at the neighbouring Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. The encounters with the artifacts allow the group to have insight to the First Nations' ingenuity, environmental knowledge, and family relationships. This engagement allows people to transmit knowledge, memories, skills and values. 

Artifact Quills 

Native Peoples artifact

  Moccasins  Native Peoples Artifact

Feel free to come by the 3rd floor display to have a look at these artifacts which show the incredibly rich Native Peoples heritage. The Society and Recreation department also has a wonderful Native Peoples collection that includes non-fiction, novels, magazines, audiobooks, DVDs and CDs.  

Craftwork techniques of the Native Americans First peoples of Canada Journey to the heart of the first peopls collections Native American beadwork 

This Month in Music History: One of the Greatest Songs of All Time

July 17, 2015 | Maureen | Comments (4)

Bob Dylan
This image is in the public domain
There are songs that demand we crank up the volume when they come on the radio. There are songs that make you drop whatever you’re doing, songs you give yourself up to completely. Bob Dylan’s Like a rolling stone is one of those songs. You can’t resist singing along, but not in the way you’d sing Kumbaya or This little light of mine. This song sounds like anger, confrontation, challenge, contempt. It could be the sing-along song for the enraged. It should have been included on the recordings that Voyager 1 and 2 are carrying out to the stars as messages for extraterrestrials. Physicist Stephen Hawking suspects that extraterrestrials would conquer and colonize us if they discovered our existence, but if they heard the searing in-your-face intensity of this song they'd turn their invasion fleet around and find some other planet to mess with. With all due respect to Chuck Berry, the cheery rock song Johnny B. Goode (also on the Voyager recordings) sure wouldn’t scare off those bug eyed monsters. 

Like a rolling stone was released on July 20, 1965. It was a watershed moment in music history. Defying the song length convention of commercial radio (three minutes or less), the song was more than six minutes long and like nothing anyone had heard before. The two drum beats that begin the song “sounded like somebody kicked open the door to your mind” Bruce Springsteen said, when he was inducting Dylan into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Mysterious lines of poetry burned through radio speakers to the sound of an improvised organ riff and Mike Bloomfield’s lead guitar: You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat / Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat. Who was the diplomat? Who was Napoleon in rags? Who was Miss Lonely?

Dylan performed the song for the first time at the Newport Folk Festival, on July 25, 1965, shocking some members of the audience by bringing a band on stage for his three song set. Some die hard folkies felt betrayed when the poster boy of their movement, who'd penned the folk anthem Blowin' in the wind, went electric. Some people in the audience booed. Myths have grown around this infamous rock and roll performance, including the oft repeated story of Pete Seeger, a beloved patriarch of folk music, threatening to sever Dylan’s electric current with an ax. You can see footage of Dylan’s performance at Newport in Martin Scorsese’s documentary on Dylan, No direction home.

A few years ago, Rolling Stone magazine put together a list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Like a rolling stone was number one.

The Toronto Public Library collects sheet music for your use. Would you like to know how to play Like a rolling stone and other Bob Dylan songs? The two books below can help.

The Best of Bob Dylan The best of Bob Dylan. (sheet music, including Like a rolling stone, All along the watchtower, Forever young, If not for you, Blowin' in the wind, Tangled up in blue.
  The best of Bob Dylan chord songbook. (sheet music, including Like a rolling stone, All along the watchtower, Subterranean homesick blues, My back pages, Mr. tambourine man.
Bob Dylan Chord Songbook


Highway 61 revisited The basement tapes - complete
CD. Highway 61 revisited opens with Like a rolling stone. Set of 6 CDs.
 No direction home  Bob Dylan Don’t look back
DVD. Directed by Martin Scorsese. DVD. Critically acclaimed documentary directed by D. A. Pennebaker.
Dylan Goes Electric Like a rolling stone - Bob Dylan at the crossroads Chronicles Bob Dylan Another side of Bob Dylan

If you want to know more about Stephen Hawking's chilling thoughts on extraterrestrials, watch this DVD:

Into the universe with Stephen Hawking

Summer 2015 Travels Part 2: Beautiful Lisboa Portugal!

July 6, 2015 | Emoke | Comments (2)


Lisboa, Portugal

My second vacation of the summer took me to Portugal's dynamic and beautiful capital, Lisbon. Being a librarian and all, I went well prepared with notes I had prepared, icluding an itinerary after having read through one of the Society And Recreation Department's (North York Central Library- 3rd floor) travel guides, Fodor's Travel- Portugal.


During my two-week stay there, I had the privilege to alternate between city days and day trips to historic towns and beach resort towns.

Some of the most beautiful ocean cliff views can be seen in Portugal. One happy accident had me taking a ferry ride across the Rio Tejo to a city called Almada, where we had the most delicious seafood rice dish (Arroz de Marisco) and then took a walk to an elevator lift that takes you to a cliff-side bar looking over the ocean and providing an incredible view of Lisbon on the other side.

Portugal is not the typical European destination to visit, but once you visit, it is as if you have discovered a hidden travel secret. For it has pretty much everything I can think of when imagining a perfect vacation. It has beautiful city life and great shopping (leather sandals and antique jewelry particularly stand out), delicious food (succulent seafood dishes and the traditional pastry, Pastel de nata with espresso), warm weather, beautiful beaches (which can be reached by a very efficient public transportation system in under an hour). In terms of the arts, what really stood out for me was the architecture and jewelry design.

Just on my trip alone, I visited at least a handful of palaces, castles and towers, on day trips to Queluz (National Palace of Queluz), Sintra (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) (National Palace of Sintra, Park and Palace of Pena), and Lisbon itself (Castelo de S. Jorge- National Monument) and in Santa Maria de Belém, the Belém Tower, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some of the great beaches seen were: Guincho (where a James Bond film was filmed in 1969), Cascais, and Estoril.

The city of Lisbon really stands out with its cobblestone and tile- patterned ground, intricate monuments and buildings, and orange-red roofed housetops. Any view of the city is quite impressive, as you see the ocean in the background, a beautiful bride across the Rio Tejo, and the characteristic red- roofed homes.

Lisbon is also great to get lost in its winding streets, full of unique Portuguese shopping and seafood restaurants, and not to mention the countless bakeries and coffee shops as we call them, or Pastelerias, as they are called there.

The public transportation also includes trams, which some say are reminiscent of San Francisco. And even though some days, we would walk till we dropped, exploring Lisbon on foot is really the best way to get close to the action.

European vacations are really close to my heart (not just because I was born there), but because as with any European vacation I have ever had, the usual love for life, and slower-paced intense appreciation for some of the best things in life (art, music, food, cafes, architecture, friends, beauty, city, and nature) were all fully present to the max in Portugal.

Obrigado Lisboa!

Pastel de nata
Pastel de nata
Arroz de Marisco
Arroz de Marisco
National Palace of Sintra
National Palace of Sintra
Park and Palace of Pena
Park and Palace of Pena
Castelo de S. Jorge
Castelo de S. Jorge
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Guincho beach
Guincho beach
Cascais beach
Cascais beach
Estoril Beach
Estoril Beach
Beautiful Lisbon waterfront
Beautiful Lisbon waterfront

Please find books (and ebooks) on Portugal and Lisbon that can be borrowed from the Toronto Public Library below:

Lisbon book  Lisbon book 2  Lisbon book 3  Portugal Book 1 

Portugal Book 2  Portugal Book 3  Portugal ebook  Portugal Book 4

Welcome to North York Central Library. We're one of the City's most welcoming spaces, open to all for study, research, relaxation and fun.

Our extensive digital and print collections, programs and services are yours to use, borrow and explore. Expert staff are always on hand to help. Meet us in person or join us online.