Historical Writing: Short Publication Award Nominees

This category recognizes English language non-fiction short publications such as articles, blog posts, booklets, and pamphlets.

The 2017 nominees are:

Conan Tobias

Taddle Creek, No. 38 (Summer – 2016)

“Canada’s Greatest Cartoonist”

This article recounts the life and work of Lou Skuce, a newspaper cartoonist, ad man, and champion athlete who was known throughout the first half of the twentieth century as ‘Canada’s Greatest Cartoonist.’

Skuce’s work and reputation fell into obscurity because the cartoons he produced were not deemed worthy of preservation, and he did not maintain an archive of his own work.  Tobias spent a decade travelling across Ontario to view landmarks, meet sources, and visit libraries and archives to piece together Skuce’s story and restore his reputation as ‘Canada’s Greatest Cartoonist.’

Dennis Duffy

Torontoist (21 May, 2016)

“Historicist: Ernest Thompson Seton, Charles Sauriol, and Discipleship in the Don Valley”

This article makes a compelling argument for the preservation of the Don Valley and other green spaces as the environmental heritage of the city.  It also reveals the power of the written word and of recording places in time to inspire later generations to action.

Duffy takes the reader to the Don Valley through the writing of Seton, describing both books he set in the valley, and the effect of the ravine on his life.  He then introduced Charles Sauriol, a boy deeply affected by Seton’s writing and described as the “Jane Jacobs of the Canadian natural world.”

John Lorinc

Spacing Magazine (Fall 2016)

“Excavating The Ward’s Black History”

This article profiles the rigorous research and significant archaeological discoveries made at site of the new Ontario courthouse, located beside Toronto’s City Hall.  The site is also the former home of several building of historical significance, including 19th century working class row houses, a synagogue, several small factories, and the foundation of the British Methodist Episcopal Church (BME).

Lorinc makes the case that Toronto’s history is full of forgotten and buried stories, and provides insight into a historical topic that is both under-appreciated and under-represented in local historical circles.

Shawn Micallef

Curbed (4 May, 2016)

“Jane Up North”

Jane Jacobs is often called the patron saint of the Toronto urbanists and urbanism, but her name is evoked by people on both sides of many planning and development battles.  Micallef spoke to people who knew and worked with her in order to dig into her Toronto legacy and sort through some of the mythology.

This article presents some tangible examples of her presence in the city – Jacobs was a fan of the Eaton Centre and consulted on its design, she also advocated for residential development on the waterfront, which may surprise some of her progressive supporters – as well as how her spirit lives on in events like Jane’s Walk.

Simon Bredin

Torontoist (29 June, 2016)

“Meet Alexander Wood, the Pioneer of Toronto’s Gay Village”

This article examines how certain versions of a story come to be accepted as historical truth over time through the case of Alexander Wood, a 19th century business man who has long been honoured as a gay pioneer.

Bredin complicates the narrative by questioning the roots of Wood’s reputation as a gay man, arguing that his investigative techniques while trying to find a man who matched the description of a rapist have been misinterpreted. Bredin’s article reminds us of the importance of careful historical research and a critical approach to accepted historical narratives.

Amy Carlber, Sarah Duong, Erica Lenti, Michael  Lyons, Samira Mohyeddin

Torontoist (3 July, 2016)

“An Oral History of Toronto’s Pride Parade”

This compiled oral history of Pride not only tells the story of how Toronto became known for its Pride celebrations, but aids in understanding why recent events, like Black Lives Matter halting the parade, have set off soul searching conversations around police interactions with the queer community.

The activists, writers, and politicians interviewed demonstrate the radical importance of early Pride events in the 1970s and the evolution of that radical ethos.  Their message for the new generation is that in order to continue the activism of Pride, they must understand what they have inherited and who has come before them.

David Wencer

Torontoist (10 December, 2016)

“Historicist: Pedestrian-Blaming, 1930s Style”

Although reporting styles and rhetoric have changed since the early and mid-20th century, this article about car collisions and pedestrian deaths seems, at some points, like it’s about the Toronto of today.  Alcohol has long been linked to car crashes and pedestrians were often blamed for their own injuries, as newspapers suggested they wear bright colours and avoid jaywalking.

Wencer uses archival newspapers to discuss public campaigns and uncover public reaction to traffic deaths and shows that although some things may have changed since the car was introduced to the city, perhaps humans have not.

Jamie Bradburn

Torontoist (4 June, 2016)

“Historicist: Racism and Homophobia in the Pages of a Police Magazine”

This article shines a light on racism and homophobia in the police magazine News and Views in 1979, including offensive cartoons by Andy Donato, who is still employed by the Toronto Sun.

Issues of free speech, censorship, and whether a police officer can express an opinion but stay unbiased on the job were all raised in 1979 after the News and Views articles spread beyond the policing community, and they continue to be raised today as Torontonians debate carding, racism on the force, and bathhouse raids.  Bradburn reminds us all that while he writes about history, the problems aren’t in the past.

Jay Young

Moving Natures: Mobility and Environment in Canadian History (University of Calgary Press, 2016)

“Soils and Subways: Excavating Environments during the Building of Rapid Transit in Toronto, 1944-1968”

This chapter explores the impact of excavation for Toronto’s early subway lines on the city, including how it provided valuable opportunities for engineers and scientists to learn about Toronto’s geology, as well as the problems that arose for many Torontonians, forever changing the city’s landscape.

Young uses a diverse array of primary sources, including reports, correspondence, maps, and scientific studies to tie public transit development to environmental history, mobility history, urban history and the history of Toronto, demonstrating the essential role of “dirt” in the building of the city.

Eamonn O’Keeffe

Journal of Canadian Military History (Autumn/Winter 2016)

“Such Want of Gentlemanly Conduct”: The General Court Martial of Lieutenant John de Hertel”

“Such Want of Gentlemanly Conduct” is based on a newly-discovered War of 1812-era court-martial, and draws on British army documents, newspaper reports, and civilian diaries, to vividly reconstruct an altercation between Lieutenant Peach and Lieutenant de Hertel of the Canadian Fencibles on 22 May 1815 at Fort York.

The article tells an engaging and entertaining story of 19th century Toronto, and directly links the historical events described with the Blue Barracks—an existing heritage building at Fort York that can be visited by the public.

Karen Heath

Julie Fish

Spacing Magazine (Fall 2016)

“Ticket to Ride”

“Ticket To Ride,” a photo essay written by Karen Heath and designed by Julie Fish, tells the historical story of TTC fares in a visual format.  The physical fares used on the TTC every day are something many riders take for granted—and something that is slowly being phased out.

The short profiles of each fare, accompanied by graphic design and photos of original artefacts, shine a light on rarely told stories about Toron­to’s transit history.

Daniel Ross

Spacing Magazine (Winter 2016)

“Yonge Street Mall: The Fun and Failure of Pedestrianizing Toronto’s Iconic Strip during the 1970s” 

The Yonge Street Mall and the pedestrianization experiments of the 1970s are widely remembered but generally understudied. Based on rigorous archival research, this article looks at the intersection of environmentalism, urban planning, and downtown politics in Toronto in the 1970s.

Ross accounts for the ways in which politicians, urban experts, businesses, and citizens interacted, debated, and successfully cooperated in removing cars from Yonge Street; while also describing in detail the backlash and larger urban debates that contributed to its failure.  At a time when Toronto is once again discussing making Yonge more of a people place, there are lessons we can draw from this history.