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How well do you know Toronto’s history? Try our Canada 150 quiz


How well do you know Toronto's history? Try our Canada 150 quiz

A map of the city of Toronto and environs, 1893.

Canada's largest city has a history of ignoring, and then paving over, its own history – usually to make way for a condo tower. So perhaps as the country marks 150 years since Confederation – and many reflect on the Canada's history, good and bad – it's a good time to take a look at Toronto's, too. Reporter Jeff Gray took a timeout from covering city hall to draw up a summer quiz to test your knowledge of historical events – some grand, many obscure – over Toronto's last century-and-a-half or so.

1 Which of the following was not a real nickname for a Toronto politician?
a. “Old Squaretoes”
b. “Lampy”
c. “Mumpy”
d. “Big Daddy”

Answer: c). Mumpy. (Francis Henry Medcalf, mayor from 1864-1867 and 1874-1875, was known as “Old Squaretoes.” Allan Lamport (1952-1954) was known as “Lampy.” The first chairman of what was then Metropolitan Toronto was Frederick G. “Big Daddy” Gardiner.)

2 Toronto’s first non-Protestant mayor took office in:
a. 1955
b. 1834
c. 1998
d. 1926

Answer: a). Nathan Phillips, who was Jewish, defeated incumbent Leslie Howard Saunders.

3 In Toronto, all sports were banned on Sundays, until voters overturned the law in a plebiscite in what year?
a. 1868
b. 1899
c. 1912
d. 1950

Answer: d). Pictured above: A Saturday afternoon ball game in High Park in 1922. (Photo: John Boyd)

4 When did the provincial legislature amend liquor laws to allow “cocktail bars” in Toronto that could serve mixed drinks?
a. 1867
b. 1929
c. 1965
d. 1947

Answer: d).

5 Toronto elected William Hubbard, its first black city councillor (then called an alderman) in:
a. 1984
b. 1971
c. 1894
d. 1968

Answer: c).

6 The Toronto Islands were once attached to the mainland. They only officially became islands after:
a. Violent storms in 1852 and 1858 created the Eastern Gap, separating Ward’s Island from the mainland.
b. Former mayor David Miller, partly in an attempt to decrease use of the Island Airport, had city construction crews widen the Western Gap and make it into a permanent channel for recreational boaters in 2003.
c. The British military, modifying the harbour after the war of 1812, dug out the Eastern Gap to make it easier for warships to flee York east to superior fortifications at Kingston.
d. Hurricane Hazel, which hit Toronto on Oct. 15, 1954, turned a small man-made channel into the large and permanent Eastern Gap.

Answer: a). Pictured above: York From Gibraltar Point (Toronto Islands), 1828, a print after J. Gray. (Photo: Toronto Public Library)

7 Who said Toronto was “New York, run by the Swiss”?
a. actor Peter Ustinov in 1987
b. New York mayor Ed Koch in 1982
c. Former British prime minister John Major in 1997
d. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988

Answer: a).

8 Which of the following amazing events in baseball history both actually happened, and happened in Toronto?
a. New York Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield killed a pigeon with a line drive during batting practice in 1991.
b. Babe Ruth, who would go on to glory with the New York Yankees as the Sultan of Swat, hit his first professional, regular-season home run at a stadium on the Toronto Islands in 1914, playing for the visiting Providence Grays.
c. On a 1948 visit to Toronto by the Havana Sugar Kings baseball team, a young pitcher named Fidel Castro played his first and only three innings outside of Cuba against the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, walking two batters and giving up a home run.
d. Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, legendary for theatrical arguments with officials, was suspended for an unprecedented 22 games after biting the hand of home plate umpire Ron Luciano in a fight over a called third strike at Exhibition Stadium in 1978.

Answer: b).

9 When the Toronto Stock Exchange was founded on Oct. 25, 1861, at the city’s Masonic Hall, how many companies were listed?
a. 122
b. 175
c. 18
d. 146

Answer: c).

10 On Dec. 2, 1934, 15,000 people jammed into then two-year-old Maple Leaf Gardens, and 3,000 more were turned away, according to The Globe’s report, to see:
a. Maple Leafs legendary defenceman Francis Michael (King) Clancy honoured by his team in a pregame ceremony that saw him carried onto the ice in a throne, wearing a crown and robes.
b. Recently freed Canadian Communist Party Leader Tim Buck speak about being shot at by guards while inside Kingston Penitentiary.
c. The arena’s first-ever professional wrestling event, featuring the muscled, Greek-born American world champion Jim (The Golden Greek) Londos.
d. A speech by future British prime minister Winston Churchill, during whose talk the public-address system failed, prompting him to carry on regardless after remarking: “Now that we have exhausted the resources of science, we shall fall back upon Mother Nature and do our best.”

Answer: b), although all of the other events also happened at the Gardens in the 1930s.

11 The last capital punishment meted out in Canada – the hangings of two men convicted of separate murders – occurred at Toronto’s Don Jail in:
a. 1867
b. 1956
c. 1914
d. 1962

Answer: d).

12 When was Toronto’s first escalator, which was in an Eaton’s department store, installed?
a. 1904
b. 1927
c. 1948
d. 1954

Answer: a).

13 The first two female MPPs elected to the Ontario legislature, Agnes Macphail and Rae Luckock, won over voters in their Toronto-area ridings of East York and Bracondale in what year?
a. 1885
b. 1918
c. 1943
d. 1898

Answer: c). Pictured above: Agnes Macphail and Rae Luckock. (Photos: Library and Archives Canada, Ontario Parliament)

14 True or false: When the Royal York hotel opened on June 11, 1929, it was the second-tallest building in the entire British Commonwealth.
a. True
b. False

Answer: b). False. (It was the tallest.) Pictured above: The Royal York Hotel, 1929. (Photo: Canadian Pacific Railway/Toronto Public Library)

15 What year did Toronto electrify its streetcar system, spelling the end of the horse-drawn streetcar?
a. 1867
b. 1884
c. 1892
d. 1912

Answer: c).

16 In Toronto’s notorious Jubilee Riots of 1875, what happened?
a. Protestants attacked Irish-Catholic pilgrims marching to St. Michael’s Cathedral to celebrate the Jubilee declared by Pope Pius IX.
b. Irish Catholics pelted Protestants with rocks at the annual Orangemen’s parade.
c. Anti-Semitic rioters attacked a group Jewish immigrants in Toronto’s Christie Pitts park.
d. Republican rioters attacked monarchists celebrating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee with a parade on Yonge Street.

Answer: a).

17 When was the area known as “the Annex” actually annexed by the City of Toronto?
a. 1954
b. 1967
c. 1914
d. 1887

Answer: d). Pictured above: a row of homes on Brunswick Avenue in the Annex. (Photo: Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

18 About whose exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) did The Globe’s critic in 1922 write the following: “Their self-imposed isolation, their enunciation of their own ideas, such as ‘pattern’ rather than ‘atmosphere’; their frequently heavy technique; their indifference to what is ‘sweet’ or pretty, or conventionally acceptable, mark them out at all times.”
a. The Group of Seven
b. The Woodland School
c. The Calgary Group
d. The Beaver Hall Hill Group

Answer: a).

19 Who launched his national political campaign in Toronto in 1957 with a speech to what The Globe and Mail called a “roaring rally” at Massey Hall, noting that he had lived as a boy in East York and that Toronto needed more representation in the federal cabinet?
a. Louis St. Laurent
b. John Diefenbaker
c. Lester Pearson
d. Robert Stanfield

Answer: b).

20 What was the first piece of music performed at Massey Hall when it opened in 1894?
a. O Canada
b. God Save the King
c. God Save the Queen
d. Handel’s Messiah

Answer: d).

21 What is the real name of the Bloor Viaduct, and when did it open?
a. The Danforth Viaduct, opening in 1920
b. The Princes’ Viaduct, opening in 1921
c. The Prince of Wales Viaduct, opening in 1927
d. The Prince Edward Viaduct, opening in 1918

Answer: d). Pictured above: A 1914 drawing of the proposed viaduct.

22 Provincial censors clashed with producer Robert Lantos in 1978, demanding that a 40-second love scene be deleted from a film being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival (then called the Festival of Festivals). Organizers refused, and showed the uncut version. What was the title of the film?
a. In Search of Anna
b. In Praise of Older Women
c. Three Card Monte
d. Midnight Express

Answer: b).

23 What was the City of Toronto’s population in 1867? (The figure is actually from the 1861 census.)
a. 126,305
b. 12,623
c. 44,821
d. 701,202

Answer: c).

24 How did notorious Toronto bank robber Edwin Alonzo Boyd and two of his partners in crime, Leonard (Tough Lennie) Jackson and Willie (the Clown) Jackson, escape from Toronto’s infamous Don Jail in 1951, in the first of Mr. Boyd’s two daring escapes?
a. Mr. Boyd shot a prison guard with a tiny revolver smuggled into the jail inside an apple pie baked by his girlfriend.
b. Mr. Boyd and his associates bribed guards into allowing them to climb a prison wall and run into the nearby Don Valley during an exercise session.
c. After rioting inmates lit a fire, Mr. Boyd and his associates were able to slip away in the ensuing chaos.
d. Using hacksaws smuggled into the jail in a hollow compartment inside Leonard Jackson’s wooden foot, the three criminals sawed through a barred window and slipped away.

Answer: d). Pictured above: Edwin Alonzo Boyd holds a copy of The Globe and Mail of Sept. 17, 1952, showing pictures of the Boyd gang behind bars. (Photo: The Globe and Mail)

25 What did the City of Toronto install at Yonge and Bloor Streets in 1925, but only as an experiment at first?
a. The city’s first electric street lamps, to allow for safer driving at night.
b. The city’s first electric traffic signals, with red, yellow and green lights, to govern the growing number of cars.
c. The city’s first crosswalk for pedestrians.
d. The city’s first illuminated advertising billboard.

Answer: b).

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