A Victorian Authority: The Daily Press in Late Nineteenth-Century Canada


292 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-8020-5588-5




Reviewed by Dean Tudor

Dean Tudor is a journalism professor at the Ryerson Polytechnical
Institute and founding editor of the CBRA.


This engaging study sets out to chart the growth of the daily press in Canada, described by Rutherford as the first real mass medium. His coverage begins in the 1830s, when tri-weeklies began publishing, but most of the emphasis is on the last third of the century, when rivalries between the big-city dailies sprouted and some forms of specialization developed. By the turn of the century, “popular journalism” had emerged as entertainment, alongside other specialist papers, such as “party organs,” “people’s journals,” and “quality journals.” Rutherford’s thesis (and this book is based on his doctoral work) is that the daily press arose in response to and catered to the need for communication (news, entertainment, business adverts) by a growing literate population with more disposable income. At the same time, competition among the papers produced experimentation and controversy (I would have said “yellow journalism”) in an attempt to sell copies.

The actual structure of the book comprises a series of mini-histories, closely documented, with a welter of facts and figures (many of them expressed in tables) and some content analysis for checks on the papers’ biases. His appendix of “leading daily newspapers 1870-1900,” covering eleven cities from Halifax to Victoria, lists each paper with details on the publisher, political loyalties over time, and circulation figures based on both McKim’s and Ayer’s directories. Fascinating reading.


Rutherford, Paul, “A Victorian Authority: The Daily Press in Late Nineteenth-Century Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38032.