Laura Secord (and Chocolate): Historical Books, Photos, Paintings and Ads from Our Special Collections

April 1, 2021 | Pamela

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The name Laura Secord may make you think of either a Canadian woman who assisted the British in winning the War of 1812, or tempting chocolate treats. Our Special Collections at Toronto Public Library have documents and paintings related to Secord and her role during the War of 1812. We...

The Great Depression: Federal Work Camps in Ontario

March 8, 2021 | lfeesey

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There was nothing great about the Great Depression except its length and penetration into every corner of Ontario from 1929 to 1939. Below is a brief overview of work camps, or "relief camps", in Ontario — and what led to them. Features photos from Digital Archive Ontario, a database of...

Cobalt's First Bloom: Early Views of Ontario's Silver City

March 8, 2021 | lfeesey

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In the 1920s, Cobalt, Ontario was world famous. It was home to some of the most productive silver mines in the world. Over 600 million troy ounces (around two million kilos) of silver were produced there from 1903 to 1926. Below are images of Cobalt during its time as a...

Shop Local: A Look Back at Toronto's Early Retail History

March 5, 2021 | Nicole

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As the lockdown continues, I find myself fantasizing about shopping. Not online shopping, but leisurely strolling down a busy city street with a friend, popping into small shops along the way. So I decided to do some window shopping in our digital collections. TPL's Digital Archive is our database of...

New Genealogical Research Tools

March 1, 2021 | Wendy B.

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Discovering your family's past can be as thrilling as any detective work. And now, we have three databases to help you in your quest: Ancestry Library Edition Available from home until December 31, 2021. Ancestry Library Edition is our largest genealogical collection. It covers the United States and the United...

11 Vintage Crowd Photos in Toronto that Now Seem Otherworldly

February 19, 2021 | David

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Below are old photos of big crowds in Toronto — plus some trivia about each scene. The images are from TPL's Digital Archive, our database of over 170,000 historical photos, books, maps and more. The idea for this post came from a coworker's reaction to a photo of a crowd...

Speculative Fiction Community Reflects on 50 Fantastical Years of the Merril Collection

December 28, 2020 | Nicole

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Happy 50th birthday to TPL's fantastical Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy! Originally called the Spaced Out Library, it was founded in 1970 with the donation of 5,000 books from science fiction writer and editor Judith Merril. The Merril Collection has become a beloved part of the speculative...

Printable Wrapping Paper: 9 Festive Designs from Special Collections

December 14, 2020 | Nicole

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Did you know Toronto Public Library has a huge collection of digitized books and ephemera, including commercial catalogues and greeting cards? You'll find 170,000+ of these rare and historical items on our Digital Archive — no library card needed. It is an incredible resource for artists, designers and DIYers looking...

50 Weird and Wonderful Items at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy

December 11, 2020 | Nicole

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In 1970, science-fiction author and editor Judith Merril donated 5,000 books to Toronto Public Library to found the “Spaced Out Library”. 50 years later, the collection — now known as the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy — has over 80,000 items and is celebrated as one of...

The Grange: Vintage Photos of a Toronto House with a History in Art

December 4, 2020 | lfeesey

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The Grange was just another manor for Toronto's elite until 1911. It then became the property of the Toronto Art Society — home of the future Art Museum of Toronto, renamed the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in 1965. Let's look back at the history of The Grange with photos...