Our directory of things of interest

Geographical Archive

 A look back in the RGS–IBG archive files reveals some interesting snippets about Ontario  

Toronto Fire, Ontario, 1904

The weather in Toronto on the evening of 19 April, 1904, was cold and blustery. The air temperature was below freezing (24° F) and snow flurries were occurring accompanied by strong winds from the northwest at 30mph. All was quiet in the heart of Toronto's mercantile area. Few people were on the streets as almost all the buildings in the area had been closed since 6 p.m.

At 8:04 p.m., a police constable patrolling his beat in the area saw flames shooting skyward from the elevator shaft of the Currie Building, 58 Wellington St. and immediately turned in an alarm. Before the resulting conflagration was extinguished, it would destroy approximately 100 buildings, causing a property loss of $10,350,000.

Fire fighters and equipment from many other communities answered the call for help and continued to arrive throughout the night from places as far away as Hamilton, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Brantford, London and Peterborough.

In total, over 250 firefighters helped fight the blaze and used between 9.5 and 11 million litres of water (between 2 and 2.5 million gallons) of water. There were five injuries, including Fire Chief John Thompson who broke his leg in a fall. Fortunately, no lives were lost but the fire, which lasted less than 9 hours, dealt a serious blow to the commercial heart of the city.

The exact cause of the fire was never determined but it levelled nearly 20 acres of land and over 5,000 jobs were lost, at least temporarily.


Niagara Falls, Ontario, 1860-1869


 An annoymous photograph taken in the 1860s, this shot of Niagara Falls shows a time when the nearby town had just been officially founded. It was named Clifton, and it wasn't until 1881 that the name of the town was changed to Niagara Falls, in response to the international fame gained by the nearby waterfalls.

The waterfalls themselves - the Horsehow Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls - are spread across the border between Canada and the United States. The Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three, is almost entirely on the Canadian side of the border, and in the region of Ontario.

The Royal Geographical Society Picture Library is an unrivalled resource, containing more than half a million images of people and landscapes from all over the world. The collection holds photographs and works of art from the 1830s onwards and includes images of exploration, indigenous peoples and remote locations. For further information on image licensing and milited-edition prints, or to search our online collection of more than 7,000 images, visit rgs.org/images. Rolex kindly supports public access to the Society's collection of photographs, books, documents and maps.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

Adventure Canada


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.