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The Toronto Book of the Dead by Adam Bunch. (2/3)

9781459738065

Title: The Toronto Book of the Dead.
Author: Adam Bunch.
Genre: Non-fiction, history, true crime,.
Country: Canada.
Language: English.
Publication Date: 2017.
Summary: With morbid tales of war and plague, duels and executions, suicides and séances, this book is an incredibly comprehensive history of Toronto — from before it was established to today. The book delves into these: from ancient First Nations burial mounds to the grisly murder of Toronto's first lighthouse keeper; from the bloody and difficult road to democracy and sovereignty, to establishing its first Health Board during the cholera epidemic; from the American invasion of 1812 to the disastrous fire of the SS Noronic that put an end to the luxury sailing industry of the Great Lakes. Toronto has witnessed countless lives lived and lost as it grew from a muddy little frontier town into a booming metropolis of concrete and glass. This book tells the tale of the ever-changing city through the lives and deaths of those who made it their final resting place. (Refer to PART 1 and PART 3 for the rest of the quotes.)

My rating: 9/10.
My review:


♥ The bullet hit Lincoln ion the back of his head. It was a tiny thing: a little lead ball barely a centimetre across — not much bigger than a pea. It was flattened by the impact when it struck the bone near the base of the president's skull, but it didn't stop there. The momentum carried it deep into his head, pushing a small piece of bone forward through his brain. It carved a hole through the mind of one of history's great leaders — slicing through the neural pathways of the man who oversaw the end of American slavery and the North's victory in the Civil War — before it finally came to rest in the white matter behind his right eye.

..Lincoln was still alive. But even as a doctor rushed to his side and examined the bullet hole, it was clear the president wouldn't last much longer. "His wound is mortal," the doctor announced, "it is impossible for him to recover." There was nothing left to do but to find a comfortable place for Lincoln to spend his final hours.

The White House was only a few blocks away, but even that trip was considered too much for him, so they carried him across the street to a boarding house. Long into the night, they watched him slowly die, keeping solemn vigil through those dark hours. They came from all over the city: Lincoln's friends, family, and supporters. There were doctors and senators and cabinet members and close confidantes. A few dozen were drawn to the house that night to pay their final respects.

One of them way an unlikely friend for an American president in the 1800s: the very first black doctor ever licensed to practise medicine in Canada. His name was Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott.

♥ The Abbotts would play a leading role in the life of the city for decades to come. They ran a tobacco shop on King Street, found success in real estate, and helped to establish a new church. When Mackenzie's army gathered on Yonge Street, Wilson Ruffin Abbott was there, taking up arms against the rebels at the Battle of Montgomery's Tavern as a volunteer in the militia. A few years later, he ran for office and won a seat on city council. He would eventually become an important member of the Reform Party.

..They did everything they could to ensure Canada would be a more welcoming place for black Americans fleeing the oppression of the United States. Thanks in large part to the Abbotts and other prominent black families in the city, Toronto was quickly gaining a reputation as a relatively safe haven for escaped slaves — an important destination at the end of the Underground Railroad.

♥ Up to that point, Lincoln had always denied it, but now there was no doubt: the Civil War was a war against slavery.

The Canadian provinces, as part of the British Empire, were officially neutral. But that didn't stop tens of thousands of Canadians from heading south to join the war — most of them on the Union side. Thousands of them were black Canadians determined to do their part to end American slavery forever. Some estimates suggest that more than 13 percent of all the black residents of Canada West left the province to join the Union war effort.

♥ To handle the influx of fleeing slaves, Lincoln 's government was opening refugee camps across the country, but at some the conditions were so terrible that freed slaves were asking to go back to their old "masters." Several of the camps opened in Washington; the first was Camp Barker, built on a patch of marshy ground just a couple of kilometres north of the White House. In the camp's first six months, 10 percent of the refugees there died — an average of five a day.

As Camp Barker's administrators struggled to make improvements, they decided to put a new doctor in charge of the camp's small medical facility. The new head of the Freedmen's Hospital would be the very first black doctor ever put in charge of a hospital anywhere in the United States. His name was Dr. Alexander T. Augusta. And he just happened to be Abbott's mentor.

..He, too, played an important role in the life of the city: he ran his own practice, opened a pharmacy on Yonge Street (one door south of Elm), supported the Anti-Slavery Society, and set up a charity to donate books and school supplies to black children. When Abbott was looking for an experienced surgeon to show him the ropes, it was Dr. Augusta who agreed to take him on as a student.

Just days after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Augusta wrote the president a letter from Toronto asking to join the Union Army as a doctor. After initially being rejected by a racist examination board, he was eventually commissioned as the army's first black surgeon. A few months later, he found himself in Washington running the Freedmen's Hospital.

♥ They arrived in the Big Apple at dusk on one of the most dangerous Friday nights in the history of the city. Lincoln had just instituted a draft. New Yorkers were furious, and they were about to turn their violent rage on their black neighbours.

..On Sunday, the anger against the draft sparked the biggest riot in American history. By the time the authorities regained control days later, more than a hundred black New Yorkers had been killed.

♥ The Civil War would prove to be the bloodiest war the United States had ever fought. Three hundred thousand people died before it was over.

♥ Abbott knew Lincoln. They had first met more than a year earlier — at the White House on New Year's Day. It was Dr. Augusta's idea that he and Abbott should attend the annual New Year's levee, a purposefully bold suggestion: he was determined to break yet another colour barrier by becoming the very first black guests in the history of the event.

♥ Back in Toronto, the doctor's wife [Mary Augusta] had run her own dressmaking shop on York Street (between Adelaide and Richmond) — it was the only business in the city owned by a black woman.

♥ Lincoln's funeral would be a massive, three-week spectacle of mourning spread across more than a dozen cities. It would begin a the White House, where the president's body lay in state. Twenty-five thousand people came to see him there. Dr. Abbott was one of them, paying his respects in the very same room where he and Augusta had defiantly stared at the paintings during the New Year's levee. The following day, the president's body was moved to the Capitol Building for the funeral service. As his coffin was carried through the streets, the bells of all the churches and all the fire halls rang out. Cannons thundered a salute once every minute. Thirty marching bands played funeral dirges with muffled drums. All the buildings were draped in black.

After Washington, Lincoln's body would tour another dozen cities in seven states. Huge crowds gathered along the tracks as the funeral train carried him to Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo, Chicago... In Baltimore, people filled the streets as the president's coffin was carried through the city in a solemn procession. At the head of seventy-five thousand troops, Dr. Augusta was proudly riding in his Union blue uniform — given a place of honour in the same city where he'd nearly been killed for riding a streetcar just two years earlier.

♥ Eventually, though, the new widow would have to leave the White House. Before she did, she made sure those with a special connection to her husband were presented with a posthumous token of his affection. Abbott received Lincoln's famous shawl.

Lincoln had worn it often on chilly nights when he went to meet with the secretary of war. But long before the war started, the shawl had already become a powerful symbol of just how divided the nation was, and how much racial hatred had to be overcome. The southern states were outraged when Lincoln won the presidential election. They quickly announced their intention to leave the union, and rumours of assassination were everywhere. On his way into Washington for the inauguration, Lincoln's security team took every possible precaution. They convinced the present-elect to wear a disguise. He slouched to hide his height, donned a hat and an overcoat, and finally pulled a plaid shawl over his shoulders.

..Four years later, the danger had finally caught up with him. But not before he and countless others had won the fight against American slavery. Now, his shawl would be heading to Toronto, the treasured possession of one of the thousands of black Canadians who had rushed south to join the fight.

♥ That's when Ned "Cannonball" Crane came to the plate. He was the ace of the Toronto pitching staff — big and tall and impossibly strong. He once threw a ball more than four hundred feet — a world record; impressive even by today's standards — and he could throw a ball faster than anybody else could, too. He was one of the game's first big power pitchers. He combined the blistering speed of his fastball with breaking pitches that he called "snakes": twisters, in-curves, out-curves, and a "deceptive drop ball" that baffled opposing hitters. It was a deadly combination. He won thirty-three games for Toronto that year ([1887]) — more than any other pitcher has ever won on any Toronto team.

He could hit, too. Crane was one of the best hitters in the whole league that year. His .428 batting average is still considered to be the best by a pitcher in professional baseball history. (If he'd hit that in the Major Leagues, it would put him sixth on the all-time list — for any position.)

♥ ...Toronto's new stadium at Queen and Broadview [was] on a spot overlooking the Don Valley.

It was Toronto's first baseball stadium. Originally known as the Toronto Baseball Grounds, it would soon be nicknamed Sunlight Park in honour of the nearby Sunlight Soap factory. Spectators could walk in off Queen Street or ride up in their carriages and park their horses on the grounds. Admission was a quarter — plus an extra dime or two to sit in the best seats in the house. The sheltered grandstand had enough room for more than two thousand people, and there was standing room for another ten thousand beyond that — not that much smaller than the Air Canada Centre's capacity today. A sellout meant that one of out every ten Torontonians was at the ballpark that day.

♥ Toronto had its very first baseball championship.

It was the first of many. The Toronto Baseball Club eventually morphed into the Toronto Maple Leafs (decades before the hockey team took the same name); they won nine more International League pennants before they were sold and moved to Kentucky in the 1960s. Some of those Maple Leafs teams are still considered to be among the best minor league teams ever to play the sport.

♥ At the end of that first season with the Giants, Crane was invited to join Spalding's World Tour. The biggest stars in baseball signed up for a trip around the world, showcasing the sport to other countries. They played games on the grounds of the Crystal Palace in London, outside the Villa Borghese in Rome, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower while it was still being built, and at the foot of a rumbling Mount Vesuvius... plus Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, Samoa, the Arabian peninsula, Ceylon... After they played a game on the sands of the Gaze Plateau, they had contests to see who could throw a baseball over the Great Pyramid or hit the Sphinx in the eye.

♥ The official coroner's report described it as an accidental overdose. But everyone assumed it was suicide.

The next morning, he was remembered on the front page of the Toronto newspapers. His life had come to a tragic end, but thanks to those two games in the thick of a pennant race one Saturday afternoon in September, the name of Cannonball Crane lived on. He'd become an indelible part of Toronto sports lore, mentioned over and over again local newspapers over the course of thew next century — remembered fondly for bringing the city its very first baseball championship.

♥ Pigeons have been living with people for as long as anyone can remember. They were among the first animals humans ever domesticated — back in the days of prehistory. Pigeons are already there in some of the oldest records we have: Egyptians hieroglyphics, Mesopotamian tablets from five thousand years ago, the epic of Gilgamesh... Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan used them to send messages during battle. The Ancient Greeks used them to announce the results of the first Olympic Games. The Greeks and the Romans and the Phoenicians all used them as a symbol of the goddess of love. White doves, which are really just white pigeons, are still a symbol of peace today.

The domestic birds were selectively bred over thousands of years into a kaleidoscope of colours and characteristics. But they're all descended from wild rock doves. The species has been around for about twenty million years — so, about a third of the way back to the dinosaurs (when we were still living in trees). They evolved in Asia before spreading to Europe and Africa and they're still around today. They all look pretty much like your standard template pigeon: blue-grey with black stripes on their wings and iridescent purple-green necks. They live on sea cliffs and on mountainsides, and thanks to their super-powers they can almost always find their way back home. Scientists think pigeons might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field. And they're crazy-smart, too: you can train them to recognize the letters of the alphabet and their own reflection in a mirror. One scientist taught them to tell the difference between a Monet and a Picasso. They're smart enough to use landmarks to find their way home.

..They can cover thousands of kilometres. They're fast, too: they can get up to almost a hundred kilometres per hour over short distances. That's faster than a cheetah.

♥ In towns and in villages and in cities, they found tall buildings and temples and cathedrals that were a lot like the sea cliffs and mountainside they were originally evolved for, using them to roost and nest. They also found lots of food. Pigeons can eat all sorts of things. And unlike most birds (or mammals, for that matter), both female and male pigeons can turn that food into a kind of regurgitated milk for their baby squabs. They grow up quick and they multiply fast. They can start pumping out babies when they're just six months old and can do it over and over and over again. When conditions are right: six times a year.

They also, more adorably, mate for life.

It was the French who first brought them to the Americas. In 1606, a ship docked in Nova Scotia at the colony of Port-Royal, which had just been founded by Samuel de Champlain. On board were the very first rock doves ever to be shipped across the Atlantic. Champlain figured the birds would bring a touch of European civilization to New France — and make good meat pies. When he founded Quebec City a couple of years later, a pigeon-loft was part of the original settlement. As Europeans spread out across the continent, domestic pigeons — and their feral descendants — went with them.

But they weren't alone. North America already had lots of pigeons before the Europeans arrived. There were passenger pigeons by the billions.

When Samuel de Champlain first arrived, they were everywhere. In his diary, he describes them as "infinite." At their peak, there were flocks of millions of them flying all over the eastern half of the continent, including what we now call southern Ontario. Their nesting grounds covered vast stretches of forest. A single tree could hold a hundred nests; branches buckled and cracked under the weight while droppings covered the ground like snow. In the spring and in the fall, they would migrate in enormous numbers. One naturalist near Niasgara-on-the-Lake watched a flock head south into the United States for fourteen straight hours. They formed a column a kilometre and a half wide and five hundred imotres long. And that was nothing. Sometimes, they could blot out the sun for days.

..There are stories of enormous flocks flying up the Don Valley every spring, soaring over the Islands, and spending the night in the Beaches. In Don Mills, people remembered a flock that once took an entire morning to fly by. In Cabbagetown, they remembered one that took days. Children were paid to shoot at them to scare them away from farmers' fields. In Mimico, they said you could kill a dozen birds with a single shot.

♥ In Toronto, the birds most famously congregated on the banks of Mimico Creek in Etobicoke. They would rest there before making a flight south across the lake. In fact, that's how Mimico got its name: it's derived from the Mississauga word omiimiikaa, which means "abundant with wild pigeons."

♥ All over the eastern North America, the birds were being wiped out at a breathtaking place. In just a few short decades, they went from being quite probably the single most populous bird species on Earth to the brink of extinction. Some estimates claim there were a quarter of a million birds dying every day.

..By the time the Ontario government finally got around to protecting them in 1897, there were barely any passenger pigeons left to protect.

The last two to be killed in Toronto were caught in the fall of 1890. Ten years later, someone said they saw five of them fly over the Islands. That was the very last time a passenger pigeon was ever seen in Toronto. In 1914, the last member of the species — a twenty-five-year-old named Martha — toppled off her perch at the Cincinnati Zoological Garden. Passenger pigeons were officially extinct.

By then, rock doves had taken over Toronto.

♥ It was a pigeon called Beach Comber who brought back the first word of the disastrous landing at Dieppe. They gave the bird a medal for it.

♥ The feral descendants of those domestic pigeons took to the skyscrapers and bridges of Toronto just like they'd done in cities all over the world. You can see them flying above the city's muddy downtown streets in archival photographs from more than a century ago. Most of them are many generations removed from their captive ancestors; they've reverted to the blue-grey colouring of wild rock doves. But some are still white or pink or brown or speckled or spotted, the genetic heritage of their domestic great-grandparents.

Still, not all of Toronto's wild pigeons are rock doves from the far side of the ocean. There's one native species that still calls the city home — the closest living relative of the passenger pigeons. These birds used to be called turtle doves, or rain doves, or Carolina pigeons. Today, we call them mourning doves because their gentle hoots sound like a person crying.

They were here when the first Europeans arrived, too, but in much smaller numbers than passenger pigeons.

♥ The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback project is using cutting-edge genomics in an attempt to bring the species back from the dead. To find the passenger pigeon DNA they needed, they turned to Toronto. The Royal Ontario Museum boasts the largest collection of passenger pigeon specimens in the world. If all goes to plan, the DNA from those Toronto birds will be used to bringing the species back to life and to reintroduce it into the wild, helping to restore forests to their natural cycles. If the ambitious project succeeds, it may just be a matter of time before passenger pigeons fill the skies above Toronto once again.

♥ The tooth was found more than a century ago in the Don Valley. It's thought one of the workers at the newly opened Don Valley Brick Works must have found it and passed it along to the city's most celebrated mustachioed geologist: Arthur Philemon Coleman. In the late 1800s, the U of T professor studied the earth at the new brickyard extensively, becoming the first geologist to realize the importance of the cliff that stands on the northern edge of the site.

Layer by layer, the exposed earth shows traces of the last two ice ages coming and going — the rocks, dirt, sand boulders tell of the enormous glaciers that covered the land in ice, melted away, and then returned over and over again. It's the only place in the region where you can see all of that history laid out in front of you: a record of the last 135,000 years written into the land.

The tooth wasn't the only fossil in that cliff. Coleman and his team uncovered the remains of many animals who lived in Toronto during the relatively warmer periods when the ice receded. At various times, the place where the Evergreen Brick Works now stands was home to mammoths, mastodons, and muskoxen. There were giant bears. Massive, ancient bison. Woodchucks and white-tailed deer. Prehistoric stag-moose, bigger even than moose are today, with immense sets of antlers.

At the very bottom of the cliff, the fossils are from an even more distant time. The Don Valley is one of the places where the shale bedrock beneath the city is exposed. It's 450 million years old, filled with the fossils of the strange marine creatures who swam through the waters of Toronto when the city was covered by an enormous inland sea. Trilobites. Sponges. Coral. Huge, tentacled cephalopods, some three metres long, ancestors of today's octopuses and nautiluses.

It must have been in one of the layers right near the very top of the cliff that the tooth was uncovered. It belonged to one of the last ice age residents of Toronto, an aquatic beast who lived in the area about 24,000 years ago, just before the glaciers covered the land for one last time.

The giant tooth belonged to a giant prehistoric beaver.

The giant beaver was one of the largest rodents ever to have walked the earth. It could grow to be as much as seven feet long and weigh more than two hundred pounds: the size of a black bear. Its teeth were six inches long, but scientists aren't sure if they were used to chop down trees as beavers do today — giant beavers probably ate aquatic plants — and there's no evidence they built giant damns, either. Their tails were likely quite different from their modern cousins' too: longer and thinner. And they had shaggier hair.

♥ As the late 1800s came to a close, Toronto was already home to nearly two hundred thousand people, and more were arriving all the time. The city needed new buildings. New buildings needed new bricks. New bricks were made with clay. And one of the best sources for clay was discovered in the very same place where Coleman's prehistoric wetlands once stood. That's how the Don Valley Brick Works was born, turning clay into read and yellow bricks of such a high quality that they won gold medals at the Chicago World's Fair. A lot of Toronto's historic buildings are made of Brick Works bricks. Much of the city has been quite literally built from the mud of the swamps where prehistoric beasts once roamed.

Today, the Brick Words is no longer an industrial site. Instead, it has been returned to its roots: a mixture of wetlands, forests and fields.

♥ Once upon a time, a knight called Sir Henry built himself a castle. It was magnificent, kitschy, and big. So big, in fact, that it was the biggest home anyone had ever built for themselves in the entire history of Canada. It had ninety-eight rooms. Thirty bathrooms. Twenty-five fireplaces. An elevator, a central vacuum system, and space for an indoor swimming pool. An oven so big you could cook an entire cow in it. A library with thousands of books. Plus stables, secret passages, a tunnel, a fountain, a shooting gallery, and three bowling alleys. It was built by three hundred construction workers at a cost of millions of dollars over the course of three years. It was all made possible because Sir Henry Pellatt wasn't just a knight, he was also one of the richest and most powerful business tycoons in the country. And one of the most notoriously crooked, too.

♥ Armed with his contacts sand his dad's business, Pellatt built an even bigger fortune. He invested heavily in stocks for the Canadian West, made money off the railways, and got interested in electricity just as Edison and Tesla were about to change the world. By the time he turned thirty, Pellatt had a monopoly on all of the electric streetlights in Toronto.

..As the 1800s turned into the 1900s, Pellatt had a fortune of $17 million dollars. He was head of more than twenty companies and on the board of a hundred more. He was listed as one of twenty-three men who controlled the entire Canadian economy. Some people say he controlled a quarter of it himself. Decades after the defeat of the Family Compact, much of the power and influence in Canada was still controlled by a precious few.

♥ Sir Henry lied to his investors, lied to his creditors, lied to the boards of directors of his own companies. He cooked books. Committed fraud. Claimed nonexistent profits. He deployed a wide variety of tricks to artificially inflate the value of his investments. When the federal government launched a royal commission to investigate this kind of unwelcome behaviour in the life insurance industry, Pellatt was specifically singled out for his practices. When his father died, Pellatt even took money from the inheritance of his own siblings.

♥ The Titanic sank with poor passengers left to drown. The Bolshevik Revolution brought Communism to Russia. The trenches of the First World War made a mockery of class distinctions. Meanwhile, unions were getting stronger and more powerful than ever, making demands like a minimum wage, safer conditions, and an eight-hour workday. Unionists were denounced as radicals, sometimes beaten by the police, even killed. In Winnipeg, when workers put together the biggest general strike in Canadian history, Mounties charged into the crowd on horseback, swinging clubs and firing their weapons. Two strikers were killed and hundreds more were injured. They called it Bloody Saturday.,

♥ Many were beginning to suggest that hydroelectric power should belong to the people, not to Pellatt's private corporation. The champion of the idea was Adam Beck, the former mayor of London who was now a Conservative MPP. "The gifts of nature are for the public," he declared. And he pushed the Conservative provincial government to agree. "It is the duty of the Government to see that development is not hindered by permitting a handful of people to enrich themselves out of these treasures at the expense of the general public."

While Beck was leading the charge at Queen's Park, William Peyton Hubbard was doing the same thing a couple of blocks down the street at City Hall. He was the son of escaped slaves, close friends with Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott, and had gotten into politics after saving George Brown from drowning in the Don River. He was one of the first black politicians elected in any Canadian city, sitting on Toronto's city council for a couple of decades, even stepping in as an acting mayor more than once. He and Beck both argued in favour of what they called "public power."

♥ The Conservative government at Queen's Park agreed with Beck. Premier James Whitney got up in the legislature and declared that "water-power at Niagara should be as free as air and, more than that, I say on behalf of the Government that the water-power all over this country shall not in future be made the sport and prey of capitalists, and shall not be treated as anything else, but as a valuable asset of the people of Ontario."

That's how Ontario Hydro was founded. It became the biggest publicly owned corporation on the continent. (It would survive all the way to the 1990s — until the government of Premier Mike Harris split it into pieces and sold some of them off to private owners.)

..Beck was knighted for his public service and Toronto City Council built a monument in his honour. (It's still there today: a bronze statue in the middle of University Avenue just south of Queen.) In the years that followed, City Hall would take on more and more of the public services that private companies had been providing — it was on of Pellatt's hydroelectric partners who lost the streetcar contract, allowing the city to create the Toronto Transit Commission.

♥ On s Saturday morning in the summer of 1923, a blunt notice was hammered into the beautiful wooden door of the Home Bank branch on King Street: "BANK CLOSED. PAYMENT SUSPENDED."

And just like that, everyone's money was gone.

Tens of thousands of Canadians lost their life savings. One customer even died of a hart attack at a public meeting held at Massey Hall to discuss the issue. Ten bank officials were arrested. One had a nervous breakdown. Some people say the senator's son — who had once survived an armed bank robbery and a bullet through his lungs during the Great Boer War — killed himself because of it. Others go as far as to link the bank's collapse with the rise of populist political parties out West — farmers on the Prairies were furious at the eastern bankers who had lost the farmers' life savings.

♥ About ten years later, on top of all the new regulations, the Bank of Canada was created to help control the country's banking system. Not a single Canadian bank has failed since.

♥ And so, Sir Henry was forced to move out of Casa Loma. The castle was much too expensive to run: it took a million and a half pounds of coal to heat it every winter and tens of thousands of dollars to keep it staffed. He and Lady Mary moved into an apartment on Spadina, but she died soon after that — from a broken heart, they like to say.

..When the Great Depression struck, Pellatt couldn't afford the castle's property taxes anymore. Ten years after the collapse of the Home Bank, the City of Toronto took over Casa Loma.

Sir Henry was an old man by then.

..He died two months later, in his chauffeur's arms.

The Queen's Own Rifles gave him a full military funeral. It was held at St. James Cathedral, still standing on the same spot where the city's most powerful Anglicans had come to pray, get married, and say goodbye to their dead since the days of the earliest settlers — the old stronghold of the Family Compact, where John Strachan's bones are buried beneath the chancel. Thousands came to pay their respects to the man who built Toronto's famous castle. And as they remembered the old knight, the tallest church spire in the country towered above them: the soaring copper peak marking the spiritual Canadian heart of Sir Henry's beloved empire.

♥ But in those early days, the [Group of Seven]'s paintings were terribly controversial. Established critics dismissed them in much the same way Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso had been dismissed. "The Hot Mush School," they called them. "A horrible bunch of junk." "The figments of a drunkard's dream." "Daubing by immature children." "A spilt can of paint."

Still, not everyone agreed with those critics. Some people were thrilled by the way Jackson and the others were using vivid colours and Impressionist techniques to capture what they saw as the spirit of the Canadian landscape. When the Canadian Northern Railway built a new line through the Rockies, they commissioned Jackson to travel with their construction camps as they worked along the Fraser River. That's how he made his first trip to the West.

♥ [A.Y. Jackson and Tom Thomson] met in Algonquin that autumn for their first sketching trip together. They roughed it in the bush: living in a tent, travelling by canoe, and working on birch panels small enough to be carried through the wilderness. That fall, they made sketches that would lead to some of their most famous work. Jackson's The Red Maple was a result of that trip. So was Thomson's Northern River.

♥ But in April the Germans successfully deployed a deadly new weapon for the first time: chlorine gas. In Belgium, near the town of Ypres, a thick cloud of poison yellow smoke descended on trenches full of French, Moroccan, and Algerian troops. Six thousand people died in the first few minutes: suffocating, lungs burning, frothing at the mouth, cut to pieces by German guns. The Germans attacked and drove the Allies back to a spot near the village of Saint-Julien, where Canadians rushed to plug the hole in the line, holding urine-soaked handkerchiefs over their faces as feeble protection against the deadly fumes. Three-quarters of them would die, too, but they would hold the line and keep the Germans at bay. That was just the beginning of a long, bloody battle — the same one that would inspire another sometime Torontonian, John McCrae, to write "In Flanders Fields."

♥ Yet while Jackson was willing to fight, he was far from being seized with a patriotic lust for battle. His letters made that perfectly clear. "I'm a Social Democrat," he wrote to his sister from the battlefields of Belgium, "and don't believe in war." He scorned the wealthy, Empire-loving Canadians who glorified the war from the safety of home while the poor were forced to fight it. "I don't think I ever in my life took so little pride in being British," he wrote in a second letter. "The rough neck and the out of work far outnumber the patriots. Volunteers by pressure... when you hear all the bosh talked and written about our precious honor, Christian ideals, etc. it just about makes you sick... people who entrust their national honor to men they would not allow to enter their houses in times of peace are not worth fighting for."

When Jackson first signed up, Harris had offered to buy him a commission as an officer (and all the preferential treatment that came with it). But Jackson refused, preferring to earn his rank through experience. "This Canadian army," he wrote, "would be a far finer machine to my mind if all class distinctions were done away with, and officers lived under exactly the same conditions as the men."

♥ Once the Germans had pushed the Allies off the high ground it was up to the Canadians to counterattack — the first time the country's army had ever been given such a task. It was, according to the official British history of the war "an unqualified success." The Canadian forces developed new methods for fighting this new kind of brutal war — changing, for instance, the number and timing of artillery barrages before they went over the top, so the Germans wouldn't know when they were coming.

Now, a century later, a museum stands on that [Flanders Fields], still run by the grandson of the gamer who owned the land. Nearby, a monument has been erected as a memorial to the Canadians who died there. Some of the craters and the trenches where they fought are still there, too, preserved by the museum. In Toronto the battle is remembered every year with a parade at Fort York.

♥ When Jackson left Toronto to enlist, Tom Thomson had stayed behind to paint. He had a medical condition that kept him out of the army. But at that point, his free year in the Studio Building was over, too, and without someone else to help make rent, he was forced to move into the shed out back instead. He spent the warmer months away on sketching trips in the northern bush, while he spent the snowy months holed up in the shack on the slopes of the Rosedale Valley, deeply immersed in his work. There, he would paint some of the most famous canvases in Canadian history, works like The Jack Pine (now in the National Gallery) and The West Wind (now in the Art Gallery of Ontario).

♥ During the summer of 1917, [Tom Thomson] took another trip to Algonquin. It would be his last. The accomplished outdoorsman disappeared on a canoe trip and wads found eight days later, floating dead in Canoe Lake, decomposing with fishing wire wrapped around his leg. At the time, he was still barely known outside the small group of artists in Toronto. But over the course of the next few decades, his fame grew — and so did the legend of his death. Some say he was murdered, some that he took his own life. Still others claim he must have fallen over drunk while standing to pee from his canoe. Conspiracy theories and myths abound. A century later, Thomson is celebrated as one of the most famous Canadian artists ever and his suspicious death is one of the country's most infamous mysteries.

♥ The man behind the idea was Lord Beaverbrook: a Canadian entrepreneur turned British politician and newspaper baron. He was determined to make sure there would be a historical record of the Canadian contribution to the war. So he used some of his own fortune to establish the Canadian War Records Office. Part of his plan was to hire artists to capture the Canadian experience. Eventually, there would be almost a hundred and twenty of them, producing nearly a thousand paintings by the time it was all over. Jackson was one of the very first asked to join the cause. He would paint more canvases for the War Records Office than any other artist.

♥ You can find echoes of the Western Front in the works both Jackson and Varley painted upon their return. Their macabre experiences in Europe influenced the way they saw Canadian landscapes. They sought out the stormiest skies and bleakest trees for years to come.

♥ Canada had a new sense of itself in the wake of the First World War, and for the first time since Confederation, Canadians seemed ready to support artists who wanted to capture the unique essence of their own country. Now Jackson and the others were attracting the attention of younger artists. They were selling their work to the National Gallery. Their war paintings won glowing reviews from the British press. Soon, they would have their first group show together at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario).

The year after they returned from the war, they decided to publicly declare themselves as a new movement with a new name. They called themselves "The Group of Seven." And they were going to do exactly what they promised to do: change Canadian art forever.

♥ They were just a few of more than two thousand Canadian women who volunteered to serve overseas as nursing sisters — nicknamed "bluebirds" because of the light blue dresses they wore under their white aprons and veils.

♥ As hundreds of wounded men began to return from the front, Toronto's hospitals were overwhelmed. Temporary facilities were opened in public buildings, all of them needing staff and volunteers. One of those workers was Amelia Earhart. While in town vising her sister, she'd been overwhelmed by the sight of wounded soldiers on the streets of the city and signed up as a nurse's aide at the new military hospital on Spadina Avenue. It was her time in Toronto that inspired her to become a pilot — the city was a major centre for the Royal Flying Corps during the war.

♥ One of the nurses — Matron Margaret Fraser, daughter of the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia — turned to Sergeant Knight as they drifted toward the swirling vacuum. "Sergeant," she asked "do you think there is any hope for us?"

He later described those dreadful moments, stranded in a lifeboat with fourteen women who had spent much of the last few years up to their elbows in blood and guts, but whose entire gender was still dismissed by many Canadians as being too frail for that kind of work, too weak and emotional to be trusted with an equal say in the world:

Unflinchingly and calmly, as steady and collected as if on parade, without a complaint or a single sign of emotion, our fourteen devoted nursing sisters faced the terrible ordeal of certain death — only a matter of minutes — as our lifeboat neared that mad whirlpool of waters where all human power was helpless... In that whole time I did not hear a complaint or murmur from one of the sisters. There was not a cry for help or any outward evidence of fear.

♥ The captain of the submarine had just committed a war crime. It was illegal to attack a hospital ship. The red crosses on the sides of the Llandovery Castle had been brightly lit and easy to see. The Germans hadn't given any warning or tried to board and search the ship first, which would have been within their rights. Instead, they'd simply fired their torpedoes. That was against international law and against the standing orders of the Imperial German Navy. So now, it seems, Captain Helmut Patzig was anxious to cover his tracks.

At first, U-86 seized one of the lifeboats and accused the Canadian crew of harbouring American flight officers or of shipping ammunition. But the crew denied both. And when it became clear they weren't getting anywhere, the Germans let that lifeboat go. As it rowed away into the darkness, Captain Patzig tried a new approach: the U-boat turned on the other survivors.

For the next two hours, while those in the water clung to the wreckage and cried out of help, U-86 sailed between them, ramming the lifeboats that were still afloat, firing its deck gun at any that weren't completely destroyed.

Then, once all the Canadians had been forced into the water, the machine guns opened fire. They killed everyone they could find. If McKenzie or Douglas or any of the other nurses had managed to survive their initial plunge into the water, they didn't survive those guns.

There had been 258 people on board the Llandovery Castle. By the time the night was over, the only survivors were the twenty-four lucky enough to be on board the one lifeboat Captain Patzig couldn't find. They would spend the next thirty-six hours alone in the middle of the ocean, until they were finally rescued.

..Nearly a century later, the sinking of the Llandovery Castle is still considered one the greatest atrocities of the First World War. It immediately began to play an inflammatory role in the cycle of hatred and violence between the Allies and Germany that would keep the world drenched in blood for decades to come.

..For the remaining days of the war, the Llandovery Castle became a rallying cry for Canadian troops. About a month after the sinking of the ship, the Allies began their final major push — The Hundred Days Offensive — which drove the Germans back out of France and finally to their surrender. The Canadians played a leading role. At the Battle of Amiens, they used "Llandovery Castle" as a code word. One brigadier from Moose Jaw told his men "the battle cry... should be 'Llandovery Castle,' and that cry should be the last to ring in the ears of the Hun as the bayonet was driven home." Some say the outrages of that night in the North Atlantic helped to inspire some Canadian soldiers to commit their own: choosing to kill surrendering German troops rather than take them prisoner.

♥ Many historians believe the anger over the peace terms — including the Leipzig Trials — eventually helped to propel Adolf Hitler into power. And when Hitler launched the Second World War, there was a familiar face on his payroll. Captain Patzig had been welcomed back into the German navy. This time, he was in charge of an entire flotilla, teaching a new generation of German submariners how to wage war.

♥ Sixty thousand Canadians had died in [World War I]; thousands of those were from Toronto. Interest in séances and the occult had been fading in the earliest years of the twentieth century, but now it soared again; people were desperate for some consolation, for some sign their loved ones weren't lost to them forever.

♥ ..Dr. James Mavor. He was a professor at the University of Toronto, the chair of the political science department and one of the most respected minds in the city. He was a co-founder of both the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. He was friends with Leo Tolstoy and the famous Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin, having played a leading role in the resettlement of the pacifist Doukhobor refugees who had come to Canada to escape life under the tsar. Professor Mavor was a man of science; he even looked the part, with his long white beard and round glasses.

♥ The following year, Dr. Watson published a second book. He called the séances "by far the most important work of his life" and he claimed Benjamin's powers heralded the arrival of "a new religion, a great age, and a divine civilization."

Even some of thew world's most respected intellectuals were curious to learn more about the strange happenings on Euclid Avenue. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attended one of Benjamin's séances, and recorded details of the event in his extensive spiritualist studies. Lucy Maud Montgomery read The Twentieth Plane, but came away less than impressed. "I was much disappointed in it," she wrote in her journal. "It was absolute poppycock — utterly unconvincing. And I was so ready to be convinced."

♥ By the time he retired, King had spent a total of twenty-one years as prime minister. To this day, he's still the longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history.

And all the while, he was secretly consulting with the spirits of the dead.

♥ This wasn't the end most people would have expected for Emma Goldman. For decades now, she'd been the most notorious anarchist on the planet. Her ideas made nations tremble: her thoughts about freedom and free speech and free love; about feminism and marriage and birth control; about violence and pacifism and war. She'd been thrown out of the United States for those ideas, forced to flee from Soviet Russia, driven out of Latvia, Sweden, Germany.... Canada was one of the very few places where she was still relatively welcome. She had spent decades in exile. And everywhere she went, she refused to be intimidated: giving fiery speeches, sparking riots, inspiring assassins, and visiting war zones. Nothing could silence her. Not the years of exile, not prison, not threats of violence. Nothing, that is, until that quiet game of cards.

♥ Anarchists had played leading roles in some of the world's most important events. In France, they helped to establish the Paris Commune. In Russia, they fought alongside the Bolsheviks as they overthrew the tsar. In Canada and in the United States, they were on the front lines of the fight for labour rights: demanding reforms like an eight-hour workday.

They were also growing ever more notorious. While some anarchists didn't believe in violence at all, those who did were giving the philosophy a reputation for bomb-throwing and assassinations. All over the Western World,anarchists were answering the violence against workers by trying to kill those in power. They called it "propaganda of the deed."

♥ Before long they'd created their own Torontonian anarchist group: Il Gruppo Libertario. They published their own newspaper, organized meetings and events. They became familiar faces at the Labour Lyceum on Spadina Avenue: today, it's a dim sum restaurant in Chinatown (on the corner of St. Andrew Street), but back then it was the political hub for textile workers in the heart of Toronto's Jewish community. The Italians began to meet the city's other anarchists: mostly Jewish and Eastern European immigrants. The community grew. Bortolotti had finally found his home.

♥ After a deadly bombing during a labour march in Chicago, the police arrested eight anarchists. All of them were convicted. Four of them were hanged. A fifth committed suicide. But the trial was a farce: there was no real evidence, the jury was biased, and not even the prosecutor claimed that any of the suspects had actually thrown the bomb. People all over the world were appalled. Today, it's remembered as one of the darkest chapters in American labour history; it even served as the inspiration for International Workers Day, which is still celebrated on May Day every year.

♥ By the end of 1800s, Goldman had become one of the biggest celebrities in the country. She was a front-page staple. Red Emma, they called her. The Queen of Anarchism. The Most Dangerous Woman in the World.

And she could be dangerous. At least to some people. In those days, it felt like radical change could come at any moment. To many the revolution didn't just seem possible, it seemed inevitable. The young Goldman was willing to do whatever she could to help. If violence was necessary, that was okay with her. Even murder.

♥ She was rounded up with a bunch of other anarchists and deported — all loaded onto a ship and sent to Russia. If they believed in revolution, the government told them, then the brand new Soviet state was the perfect place for them.

Of course, it wasn't. At first, Goldman was actually pretty happy to be going back to Russia. As someone who had personally witnessed the horrors of life under the tsars, she had high hopes for the Russian Revolution. But when she saw it with her own eyes, she realized it had gone terribly wrong. A meeting with Lenin confirmed her fears. They had replaced one totalitarian system with another. She fled the country. Goldman would spend the rest of her life angrily denouncing the Communists.

♥ Goldman became a familiar name in the local papers and in lecture halls across the city. She spoke at the Labour Lyceum on Spadina, the Heliconian Club in Yorkville, the Hygea Hall on Elm Street, the Oddfellows Temple on College — always after a stiff drink of whisky to calm her nerves. Crowds of hundreds came to see her talk about feminism, free love, politics, literature.... She thundered on about Sacco and Vanzetti, denounced Toronto schools for forcing all their boys to have military training, and railed against the dangers of Stalin with such passion that local Communists would attend her lectures just so they could shout her down. She warned of a coming war before Hitler had even taken power and gave speeches condemning him when many in Toronto still thought fascism was a perfectly acceptable idea.

She became a role model in a city starved for radical thought, inspiring those who were determined to make Toronto a more progressive place, and pressuring them to do better when she thought they were falling short. It was Emma Goldman who dared to speak about birth control back when it was illegal, giving a lecture to a packed house at the Hygea Hall, earning a roar of applause when she declared contraception to be a right. She was careful not to mention any specific methods — that would have been blatantly illegal and would surely have landed her in the clutches of the Toronto Police Morality Squad — but she did hand out cards directing women to doctors who might help. And it was Emma Goldman who launched the movement to ban Toronto teachers from using physical violence as a method of disciplining their students.

She would never fully settle in Toronto; she kept living out of her suitcase, like she always did. She had three long stays in the city, but would spend long periods away form it: writing her autobiography in France, visiting the anarchists fighting the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, going on speaking tours across Canada — thanks to the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, she wads even allowed to make on last trip to the United States.

But she always came back to Toronto

♥ When the country was at peace, the police had to respect civil rights. But when war was declared, the War Measures Act came into effect. Suddenly, the authorities had what one historian has called "quasi-totalitarian powers." They were, according to another, "the most serious restrictions upon the civil liberties of Canadians since Confederation." Habeas corpus was suspended. So was the right to a trial. Political groups could be banned by the government. So could entire religions. Eventually, William Lyon Mackenzie King's government would use the War Measures Act to round up Canadians of Japanese descent and imprison them in internment camps — one of the most horrifying abuses of power in the history of the country.

By the end of the first month of the war, the government had expanded the Act to give itself the power to censor any literature it didn't like — and to arrest anyone found with this "dangerous" material. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines were shut down. Bookstores were raided, their owners arrested. Private homes were targeted, too.

♥ ..Toronto's notoriously brutal anti-Communist unit: the Red Squad.

♥ These were the years of the Great Depression, when the people of the city scraped together what little money they could and went dancing, forgetting their troubles for a few hours as they twirled across the floor of jazz clubs like the Palais Royale or the Palace Pier. Big bands were all the rage, and local orchestra leaders were constantly searching for new material, heading down to the music stores on Yonge Street south of Queen — "the Tin Pan Alley of Toronto."

♥ Her big break came in the spring of 1935. That's when Ina Ray Hutton & Her Melodears came to town. They were one of the hottest acts around: a big band whose members were all women — the inspiration for the group in Some Like It Hot. That night, the Melodears had a big gig at Shea's Theatre (on Bay Street; it was eventually demolished to make ways for Nathan Phillips Square), but their piano player was sick. When they asked around for a replacement, someone suggested Ruth Lowe.

..And so, Lowe left the Song Shoppe and headed out on tour. She was now playing piano and writing the arrangements for the one of the most popular bands of the continent.

♥ Dorsey loved it. And soon, he knew exactly who should perform it: an up-and-coming new singer he poached from another orchestra. He'd been searching for the perfect song to launch the young crooner's career. "I'll Never Smile Again" would prove to be exactly what Dorsey was looking for: the song that would make Frank Sinatra famous.

But it wasn't just the talent of Ol' Blue Eyes that would make thew mournful tune one of the biggest hits of the big band era. The song came at just the right time. Sinatra's version of "I'll Never Smile Again" debuted in June 1940. The Second World War was underway.

..Suddenly, Lowe's lyrics weren't just about the death of her own husband, but the death of millions. Her personal grief had become universal. The words she wrote at her mother's piano on Bloor Street were now speaking for an entire generation of mourners who felt they wold never again be able to smile, or to laugh, or to love.

That same summer, for the first time ever, the editors of Billboard magazine published a chart of bestselling singles. When they did, "I'll Never Smile Again" was at the top of the list; it would stay there for the next twelve weeks. That little heartbroken tune from Toronto had become the defining soundtrack to the first dreadful summer of the Second World War.

♥ For more than sixty years, they kept her note a secret. It was found next to her body, lying on the bedside table along with an assortment of pill bottles. For decades, her family guarded the sad contents of that page, the painful final confession of one of the most beloved authors in Canadian history:

"I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best." [Lucy Maud Montgomery]

♥ No less an authority than Mark Twain once called Anne Shirley "the dearest and most moving and delightful child" since Lewis Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

♥ But it wasn't long after Anne of Green Gables that the author left the Maritimes for Ontario. Montgomery spent the last decade of her life living on the outskirts of Toronto in the suburban village of Swansea: the neighbourhood that stretches between High Park and Humber. She moved into one of the stately old houses on Riverside Drive, standing high above the banks of the river. Knowing it was likely to be the last house she ever called home, Montgomery named it Journey's End.

♥ [Montgomery] was juts one long streetcar ride away from downtown Toronto, the centre of the Canadian literary scene in the thirties. She gave speeches and readings, attended social teas, and lovingly answered her fan mail. She wrote several more novels, taking inspiration from the city around her, carrying a notebook with her wherever she went, scribbling down snippets of conversation she overheard on the TTC. All the while she acted as a passionate advocate for Canadian writers: giving advice, writing promotional blurbs, insisting that Canadian stories were worth telling and that Canadian voices were worth hearing.

But even as she wrote new books and championed up-and-coming young writers, Montgomery's own professional reputation was under attack. A new generation of male modernist critics dismissed her work as too "sugary" to be taken seriously. "Canadian fiction," as one influential detractor put it, "was to go no lower."

Montgomery's novels had once been read and adored by nearly everyone: from schoolchildren to the prime minister of Great Britain. Now, she was increasingly being pigeonholed as a children's author who wrote stories that could be enjoyed only by girls. Her lively accounts of Anne's adventures in PEI were derided as trivial compared to the stark, minimalist prose of writers like Ernest Hemingway (a one-time reporter for the Star who couldn't wait to leave Toronto). Montgomery's focus on local Canadian stories was branded as provincial regionalism — how could the stories of a schoolgirl in small-town Prince Edward Island have the same universal appeal as those of the famous drunk misogynists in Paris?

The battle to preserve her public reputation was exhausting. But it paled in comparison to her private struggles. Behind the scenes at Journey's End, all was not well. "There has never been any happiness in this house — there never will be," she confessed at the end of 1937.

Montgomery had long suffered from depression. And as she approached the end of her life, it deepened. She was plagued by mood swings and waves of crippling anxiety, haunted by nightmares and painful memories, beset by headaches, vomiting, shooting pains, and trembling hands. She had difficulty sleeping. At times, she couldn't concentrate well enough to write. The pills the doctors prescribed only made things worse, and before long she was hooked on them.

♥ The novel [Montgomery] wrote over the last two years of the First World War — another Anne sequel called Rainbow Valley — was an especially patriotic tome. She dedicated the novel to three Canadian soldiers she knew "who made the supreme sacrifice that the happy valleys of their home land might be kept sacred from the ravage of the invader."

Her next book, Rilla of Ingleside, would be filled with such vitriolic anti-German sentiment that her publisher censored parts of it after her death. In it, Anne's son Walter becomes a war hero. He writes a famous poem along the lines of "In Flanders Fields" and then dies fighting the Germans in France.

..Montgomery spent her final days working on one last book about Anne Shirley, the closing sequel to Anne of Green Gables. It's a collection of short stories and poems called The Blythes Are Quoted — most of the material previously published and repurposed for the book. The text is centred around the First World War and paints a much darker picture than Montgomery's earlier works. The Blythes Are Quoted is a far cry from the golden days of Anne's childhood. The stories in this last book are full of death and despair.

The manuscript arrived at her publisher's office on April 24, 1942. On that same day, the author's maid came into her room and found her lifeless body in bed.,

♥ Her family kept the true circumstances of Montgomery's passing a secret of six decades. It wasn't until 2008 — the one hundredth anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables — that Montgomery's granddaughter went public with the story on behalf of the family. "I have come to feel very strongly," she wrote in the Globe and Mail as she revealed the apparent suicide, "that the stigma surrounding mental illness will be forever upon us as a society until we sweep away the misconception that depression happens to other people, not us — and most certainly not to our heroes and icons."

It took even longer for the secrets of The Blythes Are Quoted to be revealed. Montgomery's last manuscript was filed away in the archives, forgotten, for years. An incomplete version was published in the 1970s, but the full version didn't hit the shelves until 2009. That's the first time we got to read Anne Shirley's final words.
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