On This Day
1867 – Toronto becomes the capital of Ontario, having also been the capital of Ontario’s predecessors since 1796.
The history of Toronto begins approximately 12,500 years ago at the end of the Ice Age with the withdrawal of the ice sheet from the area of present-day Toronto. Soon afterward small groups of Indigenous people moved into the area. Prior to 1000 AD, the Wyandot people were likely the first group to live in the area, followed by the Iroquois. When Europeans first came to Toronto, they found a small Iroquois village known as Teiaiagon on the banks of the Humber River. The Mississaugas, a branch of the Ojibwa, moved into the area, drove out the Iroquois and settled along the north shore of the lake.
The French first set up trading posts in the area, including Fort Rouillé in 1751, which they abandoned as the British conquered French North America in the Seven Year’s War. After the US War of Independence, the lands of the Toronto area were purchased from the Mississaugas to provide land for a new settlement. In 1793, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe moved the capital of Upper Canada to Toronto, which he named York, not wanting an aboriginal name. Simcoe originally planned for York to be a city and military outpost and to set up a capital in the area of London, Ontario, but he abandoned the plan and York was named the permanent capital in 1796. The Mississaugas set up a settlement in the area of Port Credit to the west of York and eventually moved further west.
Simcoe directed York’s initial settlement on a gridiron layout near the mouth of the Don River. In 1797, the garrison which became Fort York was built at the entrance to Toronto Harbour. War between the British and Americans broke out in 1812, including a battle at the garrison in 1813. Peace came after only two years of the war which ended in a stalemate. During peacetime, York steadily grew in population, although its infrastructure lagged, leading to the nickname of “Muddy York”. As the village grew, tensions grew between the ruling class in York and growing merchant and worker classes who advocated for reforms. York was incorporated and renamed Toronto in 1834, leading to the first Toronto elections. Toronto’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie, a reformer, persisted in his efforts to reform Upper Canada, culminating in his organization of a rebellion in 1837. Upper Canada forces defeated the rebels, and Mackenzie and others fled to the United States.
The city steadily grew during the 19th century, a major port of distribution as Upper Canada was settled. Toronto businesses grew including the meat packing business, leading to the nickname of “Hogtown”. Toronto continued to grow by annexing outlying villages up until the early 1900s. After World War II, another major influx of immigrants came to the region, leading to a demand for new development in the outskirts of Toronto. To support the suburban growth, the Government of Ontario set up Metropolitan Toronto, a metropolitan government encompassing Toronto and its suburbs, in 1954. The metropolitan government, along with Ontario, invested heavily in infrastructure facilitating a boom in population and industry. In the second half of the 20th century, Toronto surpassed Montreal as Canada’s largest city and became the economic capital of the country. In 1998, the “megacity” of Toronto was formed by the dissolution of the regional government and the amalgamation of the Toronto municipalities into one municipality.
Born On This Day
1890 – Florence Violet McKenzie, Australian electrical engineer (d. 1982)
Florence Violet McKenzie OBE (née Granville; 28 September 1890 or 1892 – 23 May 1982), affectionately known as “Mrs Mac”, was Australia’s first female electrical engineer, founder of the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps (WESC) and lifelong promoter for technical education for women. She campaigned successfully to have some of her female trainees accepted into the all-male Navy, thereby originating the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS). Some 12,000 servicemen passed through her signal instruction school in Sydney, acquiring skill in Morse code and visual signalling (flag semaphore and International Code of Signals).
She set up her own electrical contracting business in 1918, and apprenticed herself to it, in order to meet the requirements of the Diploma in Electrical Engineering at Sydney Technical College and in 1922 she was the first Australian woman to take out an amateur radio operator’s licence. Through the 1920s and 1930s, her “Wireless Shop” in Sydney’s Royal Arcade was renowned amongst Sydney radio experimenters and hobbyists. She founded The Wireless Weekly in 1922, established the Electrical Association for Women in 1934, and wrote the first “all-electric cookbook” in 1936. She also corresponded with Albert Einstein in the postwar years.
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