What's in the Archives

Collecting Toronto: Feeding Toronto



Picture of a man who is also a carrot with a top hat   

Toronto has operated a public market near this site since 1803. The current St. Lawrence Market, visible from adjacent windows, was expanded around the turn-of-the-century and renovated in the 1970s. Here, food products produced in and around Toronto were sold to customers for their personal and business use, for example by Jas. Park & Son, who operated a stall at the Market. Some products had been grown from seeds sold in Toronto, for example by Steele Bros. & Company, and worked by agricultural implements manufactured in Toronto, either by small-scale companies like Wilkinson Plough in the Toronto Junction, or by the giant, multi-national Massey-Harris at King and Strachan. Other products had been processed from animals shown at Toronto's annual exhibitions, most notably at the highly agricultural "Industrial" Exhibition and its successor, the Canadian National Exhibition, and slaughtered in Toronto by such huge operations as "hog town's" premier pork processor, the William Davies Company.


Emblem of the Wilkinson Plough Company on a purple  book cover   

Perhaps because of his wife Rose's involvement in the food business, as well as his own interest in every aspect of Toronto's development, Larry Becker amassed a large and diverse collection of materials related to growing, processing, and selling food. These include photographs, such as the 1894 stereographs of sheep judging at Toronto's pre-CNE, Industrial Exhibition; artifacts, such as the seed bag and the display tray documenting World War I Victory Gardens; publications, such as the product catalogues for Massey-Harris implements and the 1902 farm stock auction poster; and ephemera, such as the 1886 label for Yorkville Brewery's Severn Ale and the Victorian advertising cards for carrot and potato seeds.