You will find a wealth of archival resources about Toronto by searching in our descriptive database.
For a general overview of our holdings before you start, please see below. In addition, there are links to complete lists of our government and non-government records, and a topical guide which groups our holdings into broad subject areas, such as Architecture, Environment, Neighbourhoods and Transportation, for example.
Search the Archives' image database
The Archives' collection mandate
A wide range of documents about the social, political, economic, natural, and built history of Toronto are available at the Archives.
Our holdings include:
The Archives collects documents created by the City of Toronto government and by its predecessor municipalities that existed between 1792 and 1997. These documents reveal the decisions, policies, and activities of these governments. The Archives also has documents created by the city's agencies, boards, and commissions.
Here are some highlights of the Archives' government holdings.
- Council and some Committee minutes for municipal governments, some dating as far back as 1834
- Assessment rolls (property tax records) for the above municipalities, some dating as far back as 1834
- Police records, such as duty books, registers of criminals, and Chief Constable's correspondence, dating back to 1847
- Public health records from as early as 1879
- Toronto Transit Commission records dating back to 1921, including about 4,000 maps, 78 drawings of rolling stock, 136 ferry construction plans, textual records, and over 26,000 photographs taken between 1921 and 1966
- Building permits for the former City of Toronto for between 1882 and 1926
- Planning board photographs, subject files, maps, minutes, and other records documenting the growth of the postwar suburbs in Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke
To see a complete list of our government records click here
The City of Toronto Archives collects non-government records that complement the government records and help create a more complete view of Toronto's history. These non-government records were created by a wide variety of groups and individuals, including interest groups, resident and ratepayers' associations, clubs, social service groups, businesses, retired politicians and civil servants, artists, activists, families, and ordinary citizens.
Here are some highlights of the Archives' non-government holdings.
- A 1792 plan of Toronto Harbour by Joseph Bouchette, showing the site of Toronto immediately before Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe arrived in 1793
- Land records created by surveyors Speight, Van Nostrand and Gibson Ltd., including correspondence, field notes, and about 2,000 maps and plans dating back to the 1840s
- Goad's fire insurance atlases starting in 1880, showing all buildings and built features in the city and its growing suburbs
- City of Toronto directories from 1833/4 to 2001, showing who lived at each address
- Editorial cartoons by Mail and Empire cartoonist Harold S. Johnston (1929-1930) and Toronto Star cartoonist Patrick Corrigan (1984-1998)
- An extensive collection of documents including 300 Victorian advertising cards, 6,500 Edwardian postcards, and a wide range of other documents and ephemera collected by Larry Becker
- Diaries in French and English, 2,300 photographs, manuscripts and other papers created by environmentalist Charles Sauriol between the 1920s and the 1990s
- Records of the Queen City Yacht Club from 1889 to 1991
To see a complete list of our non-government records, click here
The Archives has over a million photographs, dating from 1856. Below are some highlights of the Archives' photographic holdings.
Over 60,000 photographs have been scanned and linked to our online database. To see which photograph collections have been scanned, please view our list of fonds and series with digitized photographs.
- Some of the earliest known photographs of Toronto, created in 1856 by noted photographers Armstrong, Beere and Hime
- 150,000 photographs taken by Globe and Mail photographers between 1922 and 1953 showing events of local and international importance
- Nearly 26,000 former City of Toronto Works Department photographs and negatives, taken by City Photographer Arthur Goss and his staff between 1911 and 1940, to document public works projects such as the construction of the Bloor Viaduct and the R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant
- Photographs taken between 1858 and 1863 to document the Northern Railway in Toronto and other locations
- Approximately 12,000 photographs of Toronto locations and events taken by one of Canada's first photojournalists, William James, mostly between 1906 and 1939
- 2,400 photographs taken by Canada Pictures Ltd. to document the construction of the
Yonge Street Subway between 1949 and 1953
- Aerial photographs of Toronto taken between 1947 and 1992
To view our list of fonds and series with digitized photographs, click here
Quick resources for quick answers
Some resources are stored in the Archives' Research Hall, so you can access them quickly to find answers to some of your questions without waiting for boxes to be brought to you from the Records Centre. Research Hall resources include:
- published textual works, including books and reports
- Council proceedings in printed form or on DVD
- printed maps and plans
- periodicals of historical and professional interest
- information files containing clippings, pamphlets, and other ephemera
- scrapbooks and clipping collections
- unpublished theses and papers
- booklets, pamphlets and broadsides
- microfilm and microfiche copies of some archival records and published works
- photocopies, reference prints, or scans of many archival photographs
The Archives' Toronto history FAQ's page contains answers to some fascinating questions about Toronto history.
Following a Canadian archival tradition of collecting "total archives," the City of Toronto Archives acquires both government and non-government records, according to the following mandate approved by Toronto City Council in July 1999:
The City of Toronto Archives preserves and provides access to records of enduring value regardless of media or format, that provide evidence of the decisions, policies, and activities of the City of Toronto, its predecessor municipalities, and its agencies, boards, and commissions which do not have their own archival programs. The Archives also acquires, preserves, and provides access to non-government records that make a significant contribution to an understanding of the development of the City, its natural and built environment, and the people who lived, worked, or had an impact upon Toronto.