The A. Norman Sands Collection of Canadian Local History
This post by Richard was previously published in the Toronto Reference Library Blog.
A. Norman Sands (1894-1979) was a veteran of WWI (48th Highlanders, Naval Air Service, and Corps Cyclist Battalion), a Director at T. Eaton Co. Ltd, and an avid collector of local history. With 50 Years of service at T. Eaton, he amassed a considerable collection of pamphlets, booklets, and ephemera from
all across Ontario and Canada.
In March 1971, Edith G. Firth, then Associate Head of the Metropolitan Toronto Central Library, contacted Norman Sands to express interest in his collection. The A. Norman Sands materials were subsequently donated to the library. The collection is now housed and available for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department on the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library.
Things to know
A. Norman Sands collected Canadian church histories, local history pamphlets, travel brochures, souvenir booklets, and postcards, printed between 1890 and 1970. The collection emphasize Ontario church history and histories of Ontario counties, towns, townships and tourist attractions. Churches, cities, and rural communities celebrating 100 year anniversaries trace their early roots, identify founding families, and comment on origins and changes in place names and district boundaries. Many items were produced as part of Canada's centennial celebrations.
The files contain travel brochures from the early part of the 20th century, but primarily issued in the 1950's and 1960's. Souvenir postcards are available for some large cities and popular tourist destination.
The Toronto files were expanded by including pamphlets for the period 1970-1999.
The Ontario files are organized alphabetically by country or district and then by town or township. Files for other Canadian provinces and territories are arranged from west to east coast, and then alphabetically by town or township. Large communities with more than 3 pamphlets have their own file folder. Topical files on churches, history, tourism, etc. are interfiled alphabetically with the corresponding province/territory or county/district.
Access to the Collection
The Sand's Collection is located on the 2nd Floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department. Please ask a librarian for assistance in browsing and retrieving the items you want to see. The Sands collection is in locked filing cabinets for security reasons. You will be required to fill out a retrieval slip in order to view materials in the library.
Items in the Sands collection are uncatalogued. However, a significant portion of the collection is duplicated in our regular collection and does appear on the Toronto Public Library (TPL) website. For example, the Souvenir Book authored by St. Patrick's Church (Phelpston, Ont.) in 1965, is in the Sand's collection and is also at the North York Central Library. Whereas, Women in the Church, compiled by the Local Woman's Associations of Simcoe Presbytery in 1957, is only located in the Simcoe folder in the Sand's collection and is not in the regular collection or on the Toronto Public Library website.
You can view a county list of Ontario coverage here: Download The Sands Ontario County Index (PDF). If you know the town name but need the county name Download The Sands Ontario Towns & Cities Index (PDF). For a listing of files outside of Ontario for the rest of Canada Download The Sands Index of Other Provinces (PDF).
Size of the Collection
There are over 500 place names listed for Ontario alone, and over 200 place names listed for the rest of Canada. While some folders may contain only few pieces, other folders contain over a dozen. A sampling of two of the drawers would suggest that the collection exceeds 2,700 items, in roughly 25 linear feet or 7.5 metres of storage.
One dozen examples . . .
A special service at Toronto's St. James cathedral was held to commemorate the coronation of George V and Queen Mary in June of 1911.
The Internet Archive has digitized the form and order of the service of the actual coronation in Westminster, on Thursday, the 22nd day of June, 1911, which includes the Oath taken by George V.
This map brochure, printed by the TTC in the mid-20th century before Toronto had subways, shows Routes and Rates of Fare for Street Cars, Buses, and Coaches.
The back page notes, "The Commission is required to collect a self-sustaining fare. No taxes have been or may be collected for the support of the system...in addition to the city transit system, the Commission owns the Gray Coach Lines, with interurban bus routes radiating from Toronto to Buffalo, London, Owen Sound, Alliston, North Bay, Beaverton, Uxbridge and Oshawa...(and) also owns the suburban electric line to Long Branch and the Scarboro and Port Credit bus routes".
This pamphlet [no date] details the construction of the Dominion Bank Building at 1 King Street West at Yonge in 1913 in an area of the city that "was considered at the time to be the busiest corner in America outside of New York City".
The building includes a great vault "which, when constructed, was the largest and best equipped in Canada".
To enter the Safety Deposit Vault, "it is necessary to pass through one of the largest and heaviest doors ever built. It is circular in shape, four and one-half feet thick and has an opening of seven feet six inches. Although the complete door assembly weighs in excess of forty tons, the precision is so fine that a paper clip accidentally dropped in the opening will halt the door from closing".
The building is now part of One King Street West, a hotel and condominium development (2005).
This Official Guide (46 pages), published in 1899, describes Toronto in classic Victorian style, and includes an Historical Sketch, a section on Municipal Progress and Government, Public Buildings and Institutions, etc.
The Guide boasts of the recently built City Hall...the "total cost (not yet definitely settled) is estimated at about $2,500,000, for which one of the finest buildings on the continent has been secured...it is in the Romanesque style and is of magnificent proportions'.
The Guide also highlights many of Toronto's other accomplishments: "The water supplied to the City is of excellent quality, and is taken from the depths of Lake Ontario by a steel conduit, through which it is forced by pumping engines having a capacity for pumping more than 40,000,000 gallons daily. The supply is stored in Rosehill Reservoir, which covers a bottom area of more that 40,000 square yards, one-third of which is laid with concrete, and around the banks of which is one of the loveliest of Toronto's many lovely parks."
A real piece of ephemera, this little booklet outlines: the purpose of the Secord Secretarial School for Girls, the course offerings (Secretarial - Stenographic - Business Machines), the time required for each type of course (12 weeks to 10 months), the Tuition fees ($5/wk or $18/mth) School Hours, description of subjects, and employment prospects.
This CNR fold-out four page brochure, with no date, was possibly printed in the 1910's. It includes a listing of over 90 hotels in the area along with accommodation capacities. Rates on the "American Plan" range between $2 and $4 per day or $12 to $31.50 per week. Listed are famous hotels that went up in flames: the Beaumaris Hotel (1945), Royal Muskoka Hotel (1952), and the Windermere House (1996).
"In the following pages", this 47 page booklet begins, "may be found the History of some fifty-five local Woman's Associations of Simcoe Presbytery compiled by ladies searching through old minute books and any other source they could find available." The economic contribution of these Associations is one of the recurring themes of these accounts e.g. the "Treasurers' Reports since 1891 show a total amount raised during those 66 years of $113,995.90" - St. Paul's United Church Woman's Association, Orillia.
One of the many Church Histories in the collection.
"The pages which follow are intended to indicate the trends and high points which sketch, in briefest outline, the story of "These Sixty Years". The publication of this brochure is timely, if only as a record of facts of historical value, though it is more than that. It is a story of Vision; of devotion to God and the fruits of the investment of love and labour."
"Ours the task sublime
To build Eternity in Time!
REV (Lt-COL) G. O. Fallis, CBE, B.D. is identified as the "Man with a Vision", who was responsible for raising the money for the building. He served as the minister until 1933.
The booklet describes the 10 beautiful stained-glass windows representing the provinces and one territory ..."Keep in mind the thought that the soldier went overseas dreaming of a peaceful world to be. Think of him as he was in that strange environment, and remember the suffering of those who remained behind". Note that Sir Robert Borden, our eighth Prime Minister, is listed as the Chapel's first patron.
Another example of one of the many church histories; this one is for a church in Calgary.
The church pictured replaced an earlier wooden church built in 1884. The replacement of church buildings is a common recurring theme in these sorts of church histories.
"The cornerstone of the present Church was laid by His Excellency, the Earl of Minto on September 9th, 1904".
This guide with a beautiful cover, published by the Québec Tourist Bureau in 1940, includes a formal looking Invitation "to Our Friends from the United States of America".
"Your President, Mr. Roosevelt, declared in a recent official statement that no deterrent to travel exists among the friendly nations of the Western hemisphere, and he then proclaimed 1940 Travel America Year."
The invitation is signed by, "Adelard Godbout, Prime minister of la Province de Québec".
Irving Oil expanded across the Maritimes in the 1930's.
"This booklet is one of a series, developed by the Irving Oil Company Limited, for your information and pleasure, covering all principal cities, main routes and points of interest throughout the three Maritime Provinces. Ask for these and for the Irving Road Map of Eastern Canada at any station identified by the Irving Sign".
As the above examples illustrate, the A.N. Sands collection is a treasure trove of documents of potential interest to a wide range of researchers across many disciplines.