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Toronto's Visual Legacy: Official City Photography from 1856 to the Present

Toronto's Visual Legacy: Official City Photographs from 1856 to Present    
Format Softcover
Catalogue No. 978-1-55277-437-3
Pages 192
Language English only
Price $34.95
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Written by Steve MacKinnon, Karen Teeple and Michele Dale.
Published by James Lorimer & Company Ltd., 2009.


This book offers a visual overview of Toronto's history and at the same time documents attitudes and values expressed by City officials, from 1857 to the present.

In 1857, Toronto's City Council was invited to make a case to officials in Britain for selecting Toronto as the capital of the province of Canada. As part of its bid, the City acquired a set of photographs that offer a 360º panorama of the young city's downtown. These 25 fascinating images, reproduced in full here, mark the beginning of the use of photographs to document Toronto's growth, its achievements, its great civic works, and its citizenry. Since 1856, the City of Toronto has been commissioning photographs to document and to promote it.

Toronto's Visual Legacy, published to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the city's incorporation, brings together more than 100 of these images, selected by city archivists from their collection of hundreds of thousands.

Waterworks, roads, and bridges, many of them familiar landmarks today, are seen as they are being built. The Bloor Street Viaduct, the R. C. Harris water filtration plant, and the old and new city halls are all celebrated in these images.

Toronto's citizens are also captured in these photographs, going about their affairs on the street, as proud workers, or as spectators at public events. At times, in an effort to raise public concern about poverty and poor housing conditions, city photographers have documented conditions for residents in low-income neighbourhoods. Some of these photographs are included here, in an impressive series of poignant images.

In the past fifty years, as Toronto has grown into the cosmopolitan metropolis it is now, city photographers have recorded the construction of key projects like the Yonge Street subway, the new City Hall and the CN Tower while documenting major public events and celebrations.

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This page last modified: May 7, 2010

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