M984.306.1419 | Toronto - Distribution of Food by the St.George's Society

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Toronto - Distribution of Food by the St.George's Society
1880, 19th century
Ink on newsprint - Photolithography
28.3 x 40.1 cm
Gift of Mr. Colin McMichael
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Genre (188) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

In 19th-century Toronto, as in most Canadian cities of the time, poverty hit many people hard in winter or when the economy was bad.

The members of the city's working class were particularly vulnerable to misfortune during these periods. Unlike country people, who could often live off the land, city working people depended on regular salaries and, in the event of illness or injury, had to make do without this source of income. Moreover, when a working man died, the members of his family were left to fend for themselves. For a good many manual labourers, winter was often synonymous with unemployment, while those who continued working saw their salaries reduced due to the increased supply of available manpower.

Numerous charities like Toronto's St. George's Society sprang up to help the destitute. Among the country's Protestants, lay groups supplied food, clothing and fuel to the neediest. On the Catholic side, the Church itself oversaw relief efforts.

  • What

    This print was made using the process of photolithography, which involves the transfer of a photographic image to a lithography stone.

  • Where

    In most Canadian cities during the 19th century, nearly half of the population was poor; in other words, it did not have the means needed for adequate housing, food, clothing and heating.

  • When

    During winters in the 19th century, employers often reduced their employees' wages. In this season when heating and clothing costs rose, unemployment became the lot of numerous families.

  • Who

    The St. George's Society was founded in Toronto in 1837. Made up of citizens steeped in British traditions, the Society organized cultural, educational and social activities including relief efforts to help the poor.