Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City, 1919–1939


224 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55297-899-0
DDC 971.3'54103





Reviewed by Christine Hughes

Christine Hughes is manager, Policy Coordination, Developmental Services
Branch, Ontario Ministry of Community, Family and Children’s Services.


During the two decades between World War I and World War II, the City of
Toronto underwent a massive transformation. It was during this time that
such landmark buildings as Union Station, the Royal York Hotel, Maple
Leaf Gardens, Eaton’s College Street, and the Bank of Commerce head
office were constructed. Automobiles replaced the horse and cart, women
took on new roles in society, the city skyline took on a new shape with
the addition of skyscrapers, and the Depression took its toll on the
economy and lives of Torontonians against the growing threat of another
war. Many of the city neighbourhoods, churches, and cathedrals that
exist today established their roots during those interwar years, and, of
course, radio, movies, and mass advertising had a substantial impact on
people’s lives.

This pictorial work features 180 high-quality archival black-and-white
photographs, some of which have not been previously published. Browsing
through the book is like looking at a photo album of the period. There
are no chapters to organize the subjects by theme or chronological
period. Instead, the author notes in her introduction: “The choices of
photos and subjects in this book are personal and, in some ways,
arbitrary. I did not try to cover every aspect of life in Toronto during
the years between 1919 and 1939. I let the pictures lead me to the
stories.” A random sampling of a few pages shows Edward, Prince of
Wales, greeting dignitaries during his visit to Toronto in 1919; former
Prime Minister of Great Britain David Lloyd George on the podium at City
Hall during a visit to Toronto in 1923; a crowd on the University of
Toronto campus waiting to catch a glimpse of Edward, Prince of Wales, in
1927; and flappers walking down a busy Toronto street. All the photos
are accompanied by descriptive narratives.

This book is a feast for the eyes. Open it with that spirit, savour the
richness of the past, and you will not be disappointed.


Cotter, Charis., “Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City, 1919–1939,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,