What's in the Archives

Collecting Toronto: Educating Toronto


Students sitting in a classroom with blackboards all over the walls

Trained as a teacher, Larry Becker maintained his interest in education, amassing a significant collection of records documenting schools, teachers, pupils, and teaching materials from the early nineteenth century onward.

 This display of photographs, publications, student reports, engravings, and other ephemera documents public and private schooling, as well as elementary to graduate-level education. Early public education in Toronto is represented by an 1870s carte-de-visite photograph of Egerton Ryerson, the father of public education in Ontario, whose statue still stands in front of Ryerson University; two merit cards awarded around 1865 to children displaying the Victorian virtues of diligence and punctuality at school; and the first annual report issued and autographed by Toronto's Public School Superintendent in 1859.

A yellow book cover called Primer II, Canadian Readers, 1881

Elementary education is represented by an 1888 photograph of one of Toronto's oldest elementary schools, Park School near Regent Park, which was renamed the Nelson Mandela Park School in November 2001; 1892 high school entrance exams, with Larry Becker's research note about such exams; a 1923 school reader, which displays the academic rigor and British patriotic tone of such volumes; a Toronto Public Schools Certificate of Honour from the 1920s; and a 1923 photograph of well-behaved elementary students at Frankland School in Riverdale, with their rigid seating, large class size, and well-filled blackboard. A school desk invites modern "scholars" to experience the early twentieth-century educational environment.

Secondary education is documented by an 1864 report card for a student at Toronto's oldest private school, Upper Canada College; two, less than flattering, report cards for Master Lauder, who was attending Toronto's oldest collegiate institute, now called Jarvis Collegiate; and a graphically-distinctive cover for Central Technical Institute's 1926 yearbook, Vulcan.

Post-secondary education and training are illustrated by prints, postcards, exams, and yearbooks. A hand-tinted 1882 print from Picturesque Canada depicts three institutions of higher learning, including Trinity College, which was then on King Street West; McMaster College, which was then on Bloor Street West; and the Normal School at St. James Square, which was demolished in 1962 to make way for Ryerson Polytechnic. Another hand-tinted print from Dominion Illustrated News recorded the devastating fire that enveloped University College on February 14, 1890. Several items, including teachers' exams, postcards, and a yearbook, document life at the Normal School where teachers, like Laura Jones, trained from the 1850s through the 1930s.