Pieces of History: 70 Digital Puzzles of Items in Our Special Collections
Did you know Toronto Public Library has a huge collection of digitized photos, books, maps and more? You'll find 170,000+ of these rare and historical items on our Digital Archive Ontario — no library card needed.
We've transformed 70 digitized items into online jigsaw puzzles, drawing from our wide range of Special Collections. We hope you learn something new as you puzzle together these literal pieces of history!
Easy (15 pieces)
Map of North America, 1790 (Thomas Stackhouse). Later edition of one of the first maps to show North America following the Revolutionary War.
Don River, 1796 (Elizabeth Simcoe). Simcoe was an artist and married the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (now southern Ontario).
Blue Jay Birds, 1827 (John James Audubon). From the famous 19th-century work, The Birds of America — only 120 sets of the work are known to exist!
White Rose Cavalcade, circa 1829 (Eduard Gaertner; Julius Schoppe; Heinrich Stürmer). Pageant for birthday of Empress Alexandra of Russia.
HMS Investigator, 1854 (Samuel Gurney Cresswell). Cresswell drew intricate sketches of this ship's voyage across the Northwest Passage.
Annual Ball Invitation, 1856 (Toronto Hose Company). Toronto Hose Company was one of the volunteer fire service groups in early Toronto.
Toronto's First Union Station, 1859 (William Armstrong). Did you know there have been three Union Stations in Toronto's history?
Toronto Fire Engine, 1890s (Owen Staples). Early fire engines didn't have motorized engines — they were moved manually by men, and later horses.
Seven Young Goslings, 1899 (Mabel Dearmer). Illustration from the fairy tale, The Story of the Seven Young Goslings by Laurence Housman.
Sherlock Holmes Poster, circa 1900 (McCaw Stevenson & Orr Ltd.). This play introduced the phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson."
Fort York, 1901 (Jean Geeson). This garrison was built in 1793, marking the establishment of the Town of York (now Toronto).
Boys at School, 1908 (Joseph Blakey). Scene from Scarborough school on Old Kingston Road, west of Highland Creek.
Humane Society Dog, 1910 (E. Landseer). Did you know that the first humane society was formed in 1774, in the United Kingdom?
Alice in Wonderland Illustration, 1916 (Margaret Winifred Tarrant). Tarrant (1888–1959) was a popular English illustrator of children’s books.
Children's Library Card, 1916 (Toronto Public Library). Look closely for the strict note about damaging books — we're much friendlier now!
Poster for Children's Book Week, 1919 (Jessie Wilcox). Established in 1919, this week is still celebrated from November 10 to 15.
Crossing Guard, 1922 (James and Son). This photo was part of a newspaper article at the time entitled "Help! Bilingualism Invades Toronto!"
Wildcat, 1922 (John Hayward). From Riverdale Zoo, now Riverdale Farm in Cabbagetown, Toronto. Penciled on back: "wildcat... in pleasant mood."
The Ship that Sailed to Mars, 1923 (William Timlin). Only 2,000 copies were printed of this book about elves who build a ship and voyage to Mars.
Seed Catalogue, 1928 (Steele, Briggs Seed Co.). In 1913, this Toronto seed company built a warehouse which still stands today at 49 Spadina Avenue.
Medium (50 pieces)
Celestial Map, 1685 (Alain Mallet). Fun fact: the oldest known star chart dates back 32,500 years, carved on a piece of mammoth tusk.
Painting of Toronto, 1803 (Arthur Cox & Edward Walsh). Oil painting from 1876, capturing earlier view looking east along Front St. E from Jarvis St.
Vintage Puzzle, circa 1840 (Unknown). Hand-coloured lithographed sheet on wooden puzzle pieces showcasing English sovereignty.
St. Lawrence Hall, circa 1859 (Armstrong, Beere & Hime). Soon after opening, this venue hosted well-attended lectures by abolitionist Frederick Douglas.
Toronto Rolling Mills, 1864 (William Armstrong). Making rails for railways, this factory is notable for helping to employ poor Corktown residents.
Student Merit Card, 1870 (Educational Depository). Ontario teachers gave these for "Diligence", "Good Conduct", "Perfect Recitation" or "Punctuality".
Ad for Fine Boots, 1880 (J.D. King & Co.). In 1884, boots in Toronto ranged from one to five dollars — but that was worth a lot more back then!
Library Staff, 1895 (Unknown). Staff from Toronto Mechanics' Institute, forerunner of TPL. It offered a library and classes for workers, "mechanics".
Toronto Harbour, 1896 (Arthur Henry Hider). Highlights Gooderham and Worts, a distillery set up in the 1860s in what is now the Distillery District.
Poster for Toronto Carnival, 1890 (Barclay, Clarke & Co.). At the top-right is Toronto's old coat of arms and motto: "Industry, Intelligence, Integrity."
Program of Royal Visit, 1901 (City of Toronto). The itinerary inside indicates that the tour started in Quebec and ended in Halifax a month later.
Hotel Envelope, 1910 (King Edward Hotel). This Toronto hotel was designed by Toronto architect Edward Lennox and Chicago architect Henry Cobb.
Windermere House, 1910 (Valentine & Sons' Publishing Co.). After burning down in 1996, this Muskoka hotel was rebuilt using its old plans.
Map of Ontario, 1912 (Bureau of Colonization). Maps like this had info about the province's amenities and opportunities to attract immigrants.
Ad for The National Refining Company, 1920 (Unknown). A four-in-one advertisement for motor oil, gasoline, kerosene and axle grease.
Lost Children Tent at C.N.E., 1923 (Globe). Kids who'd lost their parents at the Canadian National Exhibition waited here, cared for by police.
Ad for Lime Jell-O, 1930 (G. F. Corp.). Cover of a booklet full of Jell-O recipes, including "Apple Lime Fluff" and "Ginger Ale Salad".
The Metal Monster, 1946 (Avon Book). Cover of a book about characters "who find themselves captives of the strange and unearthly metal people."
Tim Hortons Ad, 1960s (Tim Hortons). The ad lists five locations in Toronto, one in Port Credit and the original Hamilton location which opened in 1964.
Toronto Reference Library, 1977 (Toronto Public Library). Architect Raymond Moriyama saw the atrium as an empty cup to fill with knowledge.
Hard (100 pieces)
Toledo, Spain, 1566 (Georg Braun). Map from German edition of Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum (Cities of the World).
Map of Iceland, 1592 (Abraham Ortelius). This map is titled "Islandia", the Latin name for "Iceland".
Marbled Paper, 1744 (Marci Aurelius). Marbling is the ancient art of creating swirling patterns of pigment on water, captured on paper.
White Heron, 1835 (John James Audubon). White herons feed on fish, frogs, insects, eels, frogs, shrimp, mice and even small birds.
Shipwreck on Toronto Island, 1856 (William Armstrong). Monarch, a paddle steamer, crashed ashore in a snowstorm on December 1, 1856.
Rossin House Hotel, 1862 (Canadian Illustrated News). One of early Toronto’s tallest buildings, it was burned down in 1862 and rebuilt in 1863.
Horse-drawn streetcar, 1870 (Unknown). The last horse-drawn streetcar in Toronto ran (trotted?) in 1894.
Toronto Curling Club, 1870 (Unknown). The world's oldest curling stone is etched "1511", held at Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Scotland.
Jack and the Beanstalk, 1894 (Herbert Fell). Illustration digitized from the many fairy tales in our Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.
Toronto City Hall, 1898 (Unknown). Inside council chamber in the city hall before Old City Hall. Part of what's now St. Lawrence Market South.
The Delineator, 1906 (Butterwick Publishing Company). Fashion magazine featuring patterns to order, to either sew at home or take to a dressmaker.
Railroad Ferry, circa 1910 (Unknown). Postcard of Windsor, Ontario. In 1910, the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel replaced the need for this ferry.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, 1913 (Owen Staples). The oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Some say it's haunted by a former keeper...
HMS Sir Isaac Brock, circa 1913 (Charles Henry Jeremy Snider). Painting of sloop of war destroyed in York during the War of 1812 before completion.
Construction of Bloor Viaduct, 1915 (Owen Staples). Michael Ondaatje depicts the viaduct's construction in his novel, In the Skin of a Lion.
Postcard of Old Mill, 1922 (Valentine & Sons' Publishing Co.). Old Mill was the site of the Kings Mill, the first sawmill in what is now Toronto.
Afternoons in Utopia, 1932 (Dodd, Mead and Company). Cover of book written by Canadian writer and humourist, Stephen Leacock.
Study-Abroad Certificate, 1934 (Southwest Affairs Committee of Chinese Government). From our community-built Chinese Canadian Archive.
Canadian WWII Poster, 1940 (Dept. of Public Information). Like the famous phrase "loose lips sink sinks," this poster warned about spies listening in.
Cover of Edgar Allen Poe Pocket Book, 1946 (Bear, Hudson Ltd.). Digitized from our Merril Collection Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy.
Expert (200 pieces)
Ad for Sewing Machines, 1880 (Unknown). Card advertising New Home Sewing Machine Company in Orange, Massachusetts.
Footwear Trade Card, 1880 (H & C. Blachford). Trade card advertising footwear business located on King Street East, Toronto.
Greeting Card from Toronto Postal Workers, 1885 (Post Office Department). This postcard is part of our Baldwin Collection of Canadiana.
A Study in Scarlet, 1887 (Beeton's Christmas Annual). This rare magazine features the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes in print.
Ad for Rennie's Seeds, 1904 (Wm. Rennie Co.). William Rennie started this seed company in 1870 — it operated in Toronto for 91 years.
Halloween Postcard, circa 1908 (Unknown). Holiday cards grew in popularity with the decline of family farms, when relatives spread out geographically.
Bluebell Ferry, 1911 (Valentine & Sons' Publishing Co.). This boat carried passengers to Toronto Islands. It was later repurposed to haul garbage.
Canadian WWI Poster, 1914 (Victory Loan Dominion Publicity Committee). "Victory Bonds" were loans Canadians made to the government.
Circus Poster, 1920s (Robbins Brothers Circus). Like many other circus companies, this US company went out of business in the Great Depression.
Canadian International Trade Fair, 1955 (Unknown). This trade show debuted in Toronto in 1948 after nearly two years of planning.
See also: Ontario History: 40 Colouring Pages from Our Special Collections
Edit: Changed fact associated with Puzzle 1, May 19, 2020.
Edit: Added 35 more puzzles, June 16, 2020.
Edit: Added new link to colouring pages, October 12, 2020.