Toronto Life and Times, 1834

This virtual exhibit provides a glimpse into the political, social and cultural life of Toronto in the year 1834, a time of rapid change when an influx of new emigrants began to change the very staid social political landscape.

title page - Canada as it is

The Emigrant’s Guide, or Canada as it is.
New York, 1832
917.1 H783 1832 \B BR
title page, pp. 105-106

This 1832 publication encouraging settlers to emigrate to Canada described the town of York in glowing terms as “fast becoming a place of considerable importance.”

page 105page 106

A letter from Francis Jackson, first printed in the Hull, Rockingham and Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Gazette in April, 1831, and reprinted in York’s Colonial Advocate September 1, 1831, expressed similar sentiments:

Thirty years ago it was a forest, and 7 years since it was only a small village; it is now a flourishing place, and laid out for a large town. The streets are straight and wide. King Street is a fine street, being one mile and a half in length, and straight as a line. It is full of respectable inhabitants of every description, and their shops are well stocked with all kinds of goods ...

Other opinions were less favourable such as the excerpt below from a letter by John Mann.


...this, the capital His Majesty’s Province of U.C. is the most dirty. I do not know but a light bark canoe might sail through the muddy streets! An Act of Incorporation is talked of, and then perhaps the lapse of a few years may make the Town tolerable for pedestrians.

[L54. Letter from John Mann, York to F.L. Walsh, Postmaster, Vittoria, 10 Dec. 1833.]

The label “Muddy York” was frequently applied to the Toronto of 1834 with its unpaved streets. The dirt roads can clearly be seen in the picture below.


King St. West, Bay St. to Simcoe St., looking east from west of York St.
Coloured photo of watercolour by John George Howard
JRR 825

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Source: Special Collections, Toronto Public Library.