The “Golden Age of Postcards” took off in North America between 1905 and World War I as a cheap and easy way to send quick messages to loved ones without having to write out a full letter (think of them as paper text messages). It became a huge hobby with many people amassing great collections that they showed off in albums. Businesses and merchants caught on to the fad and started commissioning their own, showing off their storefronts or the Main Street hustle and bustle of their hometowns.

Fred Bassett, a senior librarian at the New York Public Library, points out that since newspaper rarely printed photos, the postcard was a cheap and effective way to capture local events, be they a disaster or celebration. And according to US Post Office figures, in the year ending June 30th, 1908, approximately 700 million postcards had been mailed in the country. By 1913, that number reached over 900 million.

Canada wasn’t immune to the postcard collecting craze and the Toronto Public Library’s digital archives feature thousands of picture postcards of small towns and big cities alike. Colourization was also popular during the postcard heyday with many monochrome pictures tinted, giving many of the postcards an otherworldly feel.

Here’s a look at some of our favourite century-old postcards of Toronto:

Yonge Street Dock, Toronto, 1910

yonge st postcard toronto

Queen West, Parkdale, 1910

toronto postcard 1910

Kew Beach, Toronto, 1910

toronto beach postcard

The Bank of Toronto, corner of King and Bay Streets, 1910

king and bay st toronto

The Old Mill, Humber River, 1910

old mill toronto postcard

Fort York, 1910

Fort York postcard

The Waterfront, 1910

toronto postcard historic

High Park, 1910

high park postcard

Allan Gardens, 1910

allan gardens toronto

Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue, 1910

sick kid's hospital toronto

Mimico Asylum, Etobicoke (now Humber College), 1910

humber college history

Canadian National Exhibition, 1910

cne toronto

Canadian National Exhibition, 1910

cne toronto history

Toronto Street, 1910

Toronto St

Board of Trade Building, Financial District, 1910

toronto board of trade

East side of Yonge Street, looking south from Richmond Street, 1911

toronto yonge king

All images are from the Toronto Public Library.

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