Remembering the City of Toronto’s Centennial: March 6, 1934: Snapshots in History

March 6, 2019 | John P.

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On March 6 and beyond, take a look back to the celebrations surrounding the centenary of the pre-amalgamated City of Toronto on March 6, 1934. How did the newspapers of the day report upon the City’s centenary during the Great Depression? Let us examine some article excerpts from both the Globe and the Toronto Daily Star.

 

Here is an excerpt from the article entitled “Rocket Flares Up, 100 Bombs Burst to Greet Great Day…” on page 1 of the March 6, 1934 issue of the Globe:

“Many miles away from the westerly boundaries of the city as it existed at its birth, 100 years ago, thousands of Torontonians gathered at the impressive commemorative service held in the Coliseum last night…some 12,000 Toronto citizens of 1934 made their acknowledgements to the handful of brave souls who…launched this city on its proud and progressive course…The Coliseum Arena [on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition] was packed to capacity. On the floor…, 1,100 organizations were represented…”

 

In a rather specifically focused look back to March 6, 1834, the March 6, 1934 issue on page 4 of the Globe published a short article entitled “1834 Transactions Recorded for Mayor: Volume Contains Copies of Business Done That March 6 [1834]”. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“A handsomely bound leather volume containing copies of business transacted on March 6, 1834, by the hardware firm of Ridout Bros & Co., hardware merchants, King and Yonge Streets, was presented yesterday to Mayor [William James] Stewart by Thomas Aikenhead, President, and his sons, James Aikenhead, general manager, and Wilfrid Aikenhead, Secretary-Treasurer of Aikenhead Hardware Ltd…”

 

On the editorial page (page 7) of the March 7, 1934 issue of the Globe newspaper, here is an excerpt from the editorial entitled “An Impressive Birthday”:

“…Public appreciation of an event so important as the 100th birthday of a New World city was well expressed by Mayor [William James] Stewart during the official ceremonies yesterday in the City Hall: “…Toronto asks not to be judged by statistics, not by growth in streets, buildings, financial accomplishments or numbers of population, but rather by the strength, the enduring qualities and securities of our foundations, the permanency of the raised structure and the spirit of our people.”…”

 

Not to be outdone, the Globe offered another editorial piece on the same page in the March 7, 1934 issue entitled “Toronto in 2034!” which offered the reader a possible and somewhat prescient look into the future of the twenty-first century in Toronto. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“…There will be revolutionary changes in urban life, due to largely improved means of transportation and industrial production…The extraordinary improvement of the chief western rail and motor traffic highways…will be duplicated before long on the eastern front far past Scarboro’ Cliffs…Nor must the aeroplane be overlooked in laying out transportation plans for the Toronto of 2034…Civic services may not change to such a degree as transportation facilities…Toronto in 2034 will be as full of television sets as it is today for telephones. Every house will have movies on tap…”

 

Expenditures on the Centennial and the politics associated therewith were also captured in the March 6, 1934 issue of the Globe on page 4 in an article entitled “No Council O.K. Put on Outlays for Centennial…” Here is an excerpt from that article:

“By a vote of 15 to 5, the City Council yesterday rejected a motion from Alderman Harry Hunt that all expenditures of the Centennial Committee should be approved by the City Council. The motion was an amendment to a Board of Control report which placed in the hands of Mayor Stewart, Controller Ramsden, Finance Commissioner George Wilson, City Clerk James Somers, J.A. Northey and H.R. Alley the power to “authorize and pass upon expenditures from the above-mentioned appropriation.” The appropriation was $150,000…”We are not rubber stamps. This money is collected through the tax-rate. It is a most unbusinesslike procedure to give this committee the right to spend $150,000 without the consent of Council,” said Alderman Hunt, referring to the board’s recommendation…”

 

To view the articles in full, please access the Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.

 

The March 6, 1934 issue of the Toronto Daily Star newspaper offered readers an article on page 3 entitled “Council Gives City Start on Second Hundred Years”. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“City council to-day started Toronto on its second hundred years of municipal history…Among the distinguished visitors introduced to council by the mayor, were: Rt. Hon. R.B. Bennett [Prime Minister of Canada], Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King [Leader of the Opposition]; Hon. George S. Henry [Premier of Ontario], and Dr. George A. McQuibban, leader of the Liberal opposition in the Ontario legislature. Each gave brief addresses…council adjourned to proceed in a body to the main entrance to the city hall to witness the unveiling of a bronze tablet perpetuating the names of the members of city council for the past 100 years…The 1834 tablet was unveiled by Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King, grandson of William Lyon Mackenzie, the first mayor of Toronto. The 1934 tablet was unveiled by Rt. Hon. R.B. Bennett…”

 

The editorial page (page 6) of the March 6, 1934 issue of the Toronto Daily Star contained an editorial piece entitled “How Great Is the City?”. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“Toronto, in its hundred years as a city, has grown from a place of less than 10,000 people to a centre of 630,000 within its corporate limits perhaps 170,000 more in the zone surrounding it…A far more pertinent question is whether it is a better place to live in than the little city of 1834; better, that is, not only for a favored few, but for the masses of the people, and especially for the more unfortunate of the masses…Is the city a true “neighbor” to its least fortunate inhabitants?...How much have the “least” in Toronto today?...If they are workmen, they have compensation from the province for injuries sustained in…employment. If they are eligible for mothers’ allowance, the city and province join in providing these. If they are eligible for old age pension, the city, province and dominion [i.e. federal government] jointly provide them. If they are unemployed, the three governments combine to grant them relief. On direct relief alone nearly $6,700,000 was disbursed in Toronto in 1933…Then there are the hospitals. Few cities are so well equipped ; few more generous in their treatment of those who need hospital care, but are unable to pay for it. Of these institutions too, Toronto has reason to be proud…The health department,…, was transformed into a genuine public service bureau by the late Dr. C.J.C.O. Hastings, who was known all over this continent as a leader in health and welfare work…”

 

To view the articles in full, please access the Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.

 

Consider the following title for perusal from Toronto Public Library collections:

Toronto's 100 Years

 

Please note that the following images are available through the collections of the City of Toronto Archives:

 

Plaque Toronto Centennial s0372_ss0100_it0002
Plaque installed inside city hall to commemorate centennial of the incorporation of the City of Toronto, 1934.

 

Old City Hall - Toronto Centennial Decorations Erected by Day Sign Company s0372_ss0041_it0360
City Hall decorated for Toronto's 1934 centennial celebrations.

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