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Toronto Telegram Photographs

Guide to the Archival Resources of the Toronto Telegram at York University

4 January 2001

Digitization Project Brings Toronto Telegram Photograph Collection Closer to the People

While it is highly unlikely that the entirety of the Toronto Telegram Photograph Collection's nearly 1 300 000 photographs, both prints and negatives, will find its way online anytime soon, visitors to York University Archives' web site can now use the product of a recent digitization project to see what this resource has to offer.

The goal of the digitization project was not to put the whole collection on the web but to examine and evaluate techniques, procedures, and costs for digitizing collections, in this case through a small, representative sample from the collection. The outcome of the project resulted in a better understanding of the resources required of such a project while providing an opportunity for York University Libraries to develop expertise in digitization and the mounting of locally produced databases. In addition, not only has the library been able to gather information about the process but will also, once the pilot database has been exposed to the public for a period of time, be able to gauge outside interest in the Telegram Collection through usage statistics and anecdotal feedback.

Call number: 1974-002 / 102 (393) Folder title: Chinese groups Item caption: Market gardeners in Toronto township Access point: Immigrant and ethnic groups Toronto Telegram fonds, image no. ASC02734

The Toronto Telegram Photo Collection held by York University Archives and Special Collections (ASC) consists of approximately 830,000 negatives and roughly 500,000 prints of photos taken for the newspaper during the period 1876-1971, with the bulk of the photos being from 1939 through to 1971. It is a collection of complete runs of photographs (with multiple shots) and represents a large and rich aggregate of images relating to world events as well as local historical documentation useful for many areas of research. It has been manually indexed by means of Canadian Council of Archives grants, with resulting subject and name indexes. The digitizing of a selection of the photographs was made much simpler by the fact that York owns the copyright to the collection.

The Toronto Telegram (originally the Evening Telegram,)
was launched in 1876 by John Ross Robertson.

The 'Tely' strongly supported the British connection in Canada, appealing to British and Imperial sentiments even after Canadian nationalism became fashionable. The newspaper was locked in a circulation war with its afternoon rival, the Toronto Star, for much of the twentieth century.

The battle involved giveaway contests, scoops, and even hiding personalities (like swimmer Marilyn Bell) from the competition to ensure exclusive stories. Following Robertson's death, the paper was continued by a trust he had established. In 1948 the newspaper was sold to George McCullagh, owner of the Toronto Globe & Mail, who invited John Bassett to act as publisher.

In 1952 Bassett bought the newspaper and attempted to best The Star with new features in his newspaper, the introduction of colour photography (which meant the demise of the famous 'pink' newsprint on which the 'Tely' had been printed), and other modernizations (including a news office building). Falling circulation and lack of advertising led Bassett to close the newspaper in 1971.

Learn more about the digitization project.

Access scanned Telegram images in the York Digital Library.

Read Rob van der Bliek's Report on an Investigation to Digitize a Selection from the Toronto Telegram Photograph Collection.