Through the Revolving Door: The Fisher Library Blog

IA Book of the Week: The Toronto Sunday World

Date posted: Mon, Jun. 15, 2020

Every Monday, we feature an Internet Archive Book of the Week, which will highlight an item from the 25,000 or so Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. This week, Samantha Summers picks up a Toronto newspaper from over 100 years ago.

The Toronto World, which was published daily between 1820 and 1921, was a famous Toronto newspaper. By pushing editorial boundaries and anti-establishment views, it made it especially favoured among the city's working class. One year after its founding, The Toronto World released The Toronto Sunday World, a weekly supplement to its regularly printed newspaper.

Sunday newspapers became popular in the United States in the 1880s. These were published by established newspapers, but these weekend editions were often different from their weekly counterparts in tone and content. The Toronto World began publishing The Sunday World in 1891. While it was illegal at the time to publish anything on a Sunday, The Toronto Sunday World was published and distributed late on Saturday and dated for Sunday. 

Where The Toronto World was very text-heavy, The Toronto Sunday World contained mostly images from Toronto and the world. This edition of The Toronto Sunday World (click on the link to open it at the Internet Archive, or it can be viewed at the bottom of this post) was published on this day, June 15, in the year 1919, one hundred and one years ago. Reading it can tell us a great deal about what working class Torontonians were interested in a century ago. Here we find images of a protest in Paris; a series of photos from Korea, which was in conflict with Japan when these images were published; a photo of police threatening striking workers in Massachusetts with a machine gun; and the return of Edith Cavell’s body to London, a famed British nurse who was active during the First World War. Clearly, on June 15, 1919, Toronto was thinking about international conflict, rebellion, and remembrance.


Of course, the news on June 15, 1919 was not all bad. The back page of this edition features images from a sports day at Upper Canada College, and the inside fold has a photo of the Prince of Wales meeting a contingent of Girl Scouts. This edition of The Toronto Sunday World also features pictures of general interest from around the world, like a fashionable new veil (the “Wendy”) and the dry dock at Balboa, at the eastern entrance to the Panama Canal. The Torontonians of a century ago were just as interested in heartwarming stories, fashion, and interesting projects taking place in faraway countries as we are. 


We can also learn a great deal about the Toronto of yore by reading the advertisements in old publications. Ads are a great barometer of the economy, trends, and values of any given time. This particular edition of The Toronto Sunday World contains an advertisement for Kodak cameras, perhaps indicating an interest in travel and documentation among its readership. It also has advertisements for silk hosiery and King Summer Suspenders, which speaks to the summer trends of 1919. And are you tired of the colour of your straw hat? You could keep on top of the colours of the season by contacting Colorite, a company which “colours old & new straw hats.” Another advertisement, for the Ontario Optical Company, discusses the importance of reading (and the ability of their glasses to assist their clients in their endless reading). All of these advertisements speak to the priorities of the readers of The Toronto World.


One of the great joys of reading old newspapers, magazines, and periodicals is being able to learn about the differences and similarities between us and our predecessors. Looking through this edition of The Toronto Sunday World, one is struck by how similar the priorities were of Toronto a century ago to Toronto today. Luckily, the Fisher has a collection of 54 editions of The Toronto Sunday World digitized and free to access on the Internet Archive. Take a look through these holdings. Pick a date which sticks out to you, and sit back and learn about what was preoccupying Toronto that week of history. You may be surprised to learn just how little Toronto has changed - or shocked by just how much.

- Samantha Summers, Fisher TALInt student