Using the Archives

Collecting Toronto: Celebrating Toronto


Cover of prize list showing 1834 and 1884 views of Toronto from the water

Ever since the establishment of the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834, Torontonians have taken to the streets, and other locations, to celebrate civic anniversaries, as well as holidays, victories, royal visits, and annual fairs. Larry Becker's very diverse collections include flags, photographs, postcards, newspapers, souvenir spoons, medals, and other ephemera commemorating such events. A selection of these items is displayed here, just as some were earlier displayed in an 1984 "Toronto Treasures" exhibition organized by Becker and the Toronto Historical Board to help celebrate the City's 150th, or sesquicentennial, anniversary.

Large arch under construction over Bay Street looking north to Old City Hall

Torontonians have traditionally welcomed British royalty with patriotic outpourings of civic exuberance. In September 1860, the Prince of Wales became the first future king to visit Toronto, where he was guest of honour at a reception held at Osgoode Hall. Larry Becker preserved a silver-printed dance card from that elegant occasion. In October 1901, the Duke and Duchess of York and Cornwall (the future King George V and Queen Mary), spent several days in Toronto, where triumphal arches were erected and the Parliament Buildings at Queen's Park were outlined in new electric lights. In August 1919, a youthful Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) made a triumphant, post-Great War visit to Toronto. And in 1939, his younger brother, King George VI, made an equally-triumphant, pre-World War II visit with his Scottish wife, Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother.

Although having nothing in his collections documenting the bonfire-centred 1834 new city celebration, Larry Becker did preserve memorabilia marking the City's 50th anniversary in 1884; a Centennial Flag and souvenir artifacts commemorating the City's 100th birthday in 1934; and a label from his own 1984 sesquicentennial exhibition at the Marine Museum.

Annual holidays, such as Victoria Day and Empire Day, as well as famous victories such as VE-Day, and less obviously-patriotic festivities such as Labour Day and, most unusual, May Day, are also represented here.