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Archives A to Z 2022 Week 1

We’re joining the Archives of Ontario in their #ArchivesAtoZ month-long campaign. The aim is to increase the public’s awareness of archives and their collections. We’ll be sharing four blog posts throughout the month showcasing items from our holdings and demystifying archival concepts related to each letter of the alphabet.

  • April 4: A to F
  • April 11: G to M
  • April 18: N to S
  • April 25: T to Z

Artifacts (oversized!)

Archives and Special Collections often go beyond papers, books, and photographs in their collections. Many will have objects and artifacts as well. Our Archives and Special Collections is home to a robust collection of artifacts in all shapes and sizes, including many oversized and heavy ones that make storage tricky. Here are a few examples from the collections. (tap on the photographs to learn more about the objects)

Books

Our collection contains a large variety of published materials including books and journals. The Archives previously collected the published works of faculty. Special Collections houses rare books with a photographic focus, children’s books and History of Toronto books. They also have a large collection of photography related journals. Unlike the rest of the library – these books are not out on open shelving for viewing – they need to be pulled by Archives and Special Collections staff, and they are not available to take home. The books can be searched using the library catalogue and narrowing the location to either Archives or Special Collections

books on shelves
Books and catalogues on the shelves in Archives and Special Collections.

Campus Maps

Campus maps are an important part of our collection. They show the evolution and growth of the campus starting with its creation in 1948. They highlight not just the growth of the campus, but also show movement within the campus by the programs and schools that make up the University. For example the School of Architecture is currently located at 325 Church Street. But in the 1960s it was located at 44 Gerrard Street (former School of Performance building), in the early 1970’s it was housed at in the City Hall annex building at 465 Bay Street and after a fire in that building Architecture was housed at 720 King St. (near Bathurst).

Doozers

The Doozers, a favourite of the Archives and Special Collections staff, were part of the Jim Henson Television show “Fraggle Rock”. These tiny creatures were forever building structures only to have them eaten by the Fraggles. The photograph and the book are part of the Robert Hackborn Fonds. This collection contains extensive documentation of the creative processes for television show including on-set images, sketches of set designs and correspondence. Robert Hackborn was a Canadian set designer and art director. He started working at the CBC in 1955 as a scenic paint artist and later progressed to the Set Design Department where he would produce versatile special visual effects incorporated in years of Canadian film and television programming. (Tap on the photographs to learn more about the records)

Exhibition publications

Special Collections has a selection of pamphlets, press releases and publications for exhibitions in museums, galleries, festivals and universities across Canada, the United States and abroad. The collections is continuously growing, but the original acquisition was donated by Alison Nordström, the Curator of Photographs at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, who collected the material between 1986 and 2011.

Frank Sommers interviews

The Frank G. Sommers Fonds contains text and audio records of interviews he conducted with European and Canadian film directors Marianne Ahrne, Walerian Browczyk, Bert Haanstra, Claude Jutra, Ettore Scola, and Alain Tanner between 1978 and 1979. The goals of the interviews were to review converging trends in international cinema through director’s perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of the works.

Promotional material accompanying the Ettore Scola interview (2018.019.05)

Next week we’ll highlight items and archival concepts for the letters G to M!

Celebrating Black History with Photography Books & Catalogues

Special Collections has a variety of books related to the history, production and exhibition of photography. In honour of Black History Month, we are featuring exhibition catalogues and books centering Black photographers, artists and curators. Although this is a small sample from the collection, all of these works highlight the importance of self-documentation in photography as a way to celebrate communities and counter the historical misrepresentation of Black people.

In the 1948 book “Camera Portraits : the techniques and principles of documentary portraiture” Gordon Parks shares insight into how he photographed 40 individuals with his unique style of photography. He recounts his interactions with the subjects and analyses his overall approach to the portrait. Parks also includes valuable technical elements for each photograph, such as the camera model, exposure, film stock and light source.

Cover of the book Imagining Families: Images and Voices. Two photographs are shown, one depicts a while family with a young Black boy, the other is a similar portrait but heavily scratched out.

“Imagining Families : Images and Voices” is the catalogue for the 1994 inaugural exhibition at the National African American Museum at the Smithsonian Institute. It was shown at the Anacostia Community Museum, years before the Smithsonian established a permanent building for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016. 

Deborah Willis and Claudine Brown curated the works of 15 artists who examine roles played within families and communities. The catalogue recounts how the exhibition was created when the Smithsonian was contemplating the need for a dedicated museum to preserve African American history. They were unsure if they would receive enough donations to build a museum collection and some believed that African American material culture was already preserved in other museum branches.

The exhibition served as an inspiration for underrepresented communities to self-document their stories and validated personal narratives as a key part of history.

Front book cover with the title "A Portland Family album: Self-portrait of African American Community" with a black and white photograph depicting two Black women in front of a house

The 1995 exhibition “A Portland Family Album : self-portrait of an African-American community.” was developed using archival photographs. The images were donated by several local families and new prints were created for exhibition purposes. The works were shown at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland.

Cover of book with the text "Contact Sheet" and "Embracing Eatonville". The cover has a black and white image of a house with a large tree in front.

The 2003-2004 exhibition “Embracing Eatonville : a photographic survey” presented works by Dawoud Bey, Lonnie Graham, Carrie Mae Weems and Deborah Willis. Eatonville, Florida is one of the oldest Black towns to be incorporated in the United States. In 2002, the four artists were tasked to capture the spirit of this historical city through documentary photography. Each photographer brought their unique approach to this exhibition to provide a snapshot of the community and its landscape. The exhibition was shown at Light Work in New York and the Robert B. Menschel Media Center in Eatonville.

Special Collections books can be searched through the Library’s catalogue. The Library also has access to fantastic documentaries on the topic, including Through a Lens Darkly which is based on the book “Reflections in Black : a history of Black photographers, 1840 to the present” by Deborah Willis. The documentary explores the significance of family photo albums and examines the depiction of Black subjects throughout history.

Our book collection is constantly growing! Keep an eye for the announcement of the winners of this year’s First Edition Book Award.

Winter in the Collections

Love it or hate it – snow in the winter is inevitable in most of Canada. Going along with this theme – let’s take a look at some images and items from the collections showcasing winter and snow. So put on a warm sweater and pour yourself a mug of something hot and take a look.

This beautiful scene is a painting done on plexiglass, which was then mounted in a wooden frame. We have back lit it for this image to give you an idea of what they might have done when using it for filming. It is from the Robert Hackborn collection. Robert Hackborn had a long and important career in the design and production of sets and special visual effects for television – working on shows like Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood, Mr. Dressup and Fraggle Rock.

“A Christmas Fantasy”
2012.005.05.12

These five images below of the University Campus in winter (RG 395.121.01.216) were taken by then staff photograph Dave Upham. The photographs taken between 1992-1999 were used in campus publications like the now defunct Forum newsletter. They are part of a larger collection of images used by the University for promotional purposes and news stories.

The next two images are part of the Lorne Shields Historical Photograph collection. The collection consists studio portraits, cabinet cards, photograph albums, dageurreotypes, tin types and other photographic formats donated to Special Collections in 2008 by Lorne Shields.

Portrait of a child in winter coat with snowshoes (2008.001.1408)
Notman Winter Scenes (2008.001.919)

For many years the University had a winter carnival sponsored by the Students’ Union. It had many different activities such as ice carving, a broom ball tournament on Lake Devo, various food eating contests, concerts, pub nights, and skiing day trips.

Calendar of Events from the 1979 Winter Carnival (RG 79.009)
“Stopped Cold? – Broomball games on the ice rink on Devonian Square were part of the winter festival activities in January” Forum Newsletter January 31, 1992 (RG 76.14.438)

Lastly lets take a look at some Kodak advertising around winter and Christmas. The Kodak Canada collection contains records and artifacts from the Kodak Heights manufacturing facility in Toronto, as well as the historical collection belonging to the Kodak Heritage Collection Museum.

“Kodak Welcomes Winter” (2005.001.03.2.001.01.162), Kodak Canada Ad Ledger, 1922-1923
“For so many lucky ones…this is sure to be a Ciné-Kodak Christmas” (2005.001.03.2.001.07.172), Kodak Canada Ad Ledger 1936-1937
“Give a Kodak” (2005.001.03.2.001.07.102), Kodak Canada Ad Ledger 1936-1937

War Efforts at Kodak Heights

Kodak is most likely known for its photography related wart efforts, such as their advertisements encouraging citizens to send images to soldiers or the Vest Pocket camera sold as “The Soldier’s Kodak.”1 Nevertheless, they were also supporting wartime demands through employee initiatives and by shifting their manufacturing plants at Kodak Heights in Toronto.

A Kodak advertisement titled "Send Him Snapshots Every Week" with a soldier holding photographs
2005.001.03.2.001.10 1944 Kodak Advertisement

A group of employees organized the Kodak War Efforts Club to send packages overseas with sweets, knitted goods and magazines. In addition, they partnered with the Red Cross to host a weekly Kodak Blood Clinic and rewarded employees with badges for recurring donations.2

Kodak War Efforts Club featured in the May 1945 edition of KODAK magazine

In 1941, Kodak Heights was approached by the Department of Munitions and Supply to manufacture compasses. They had previously built tools and parts for combat airplanes, but this was their first venture in producing instruments for the armed forces.3 As seen in many sectors, women stepped into manufacturing positions during the war, and Kodak was no different in finding new roles for women to support the production of compasses.

  • Black and white image of a women inspecting with a magnifying glass a piece for a compass
  • Black and white image of a group of women in an assembly line building parts for compasses
  • Black and white images of a women using an industrial machine
  • Black and white images of a pile of boxes with compass material

In their internal employee publication, the company celebrated this endeavour and shared positive feedback received from the U.S. War Department as well as their own employees who were redeployed in the war fronts and recognized the C.K.C engraving (Canadian Kodak Company) on a compass.4

Kodak Heights even exhibited images of the compass in the Employee Building cafeteria to promote the initiative among staff. These images may have remained on the walls as a memory of their war efforts, because by fall of 1945 Kodak had already pivoted back to its regular production of cameras and photographic material.

Two Kodak compasses on a white background
2005.001.06.03.327 Kodak Mark III Compass

Kodak had several internal magazines which provide incredible first hand accounts of the day to day life at the company. Running from 1936 to 1955, “KODAK: A Magazine for Kodak Employees” was a bimonthly internal publication designed to communicate the activities of Canadian Kodak and its employees. For more information on war efforts at Kodak Heights, explore the publications in our database or on the Internet Archive for online versions.

  1. Roger, Andrew C. ‘Amateur Photography by Soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’. Archivaria, vol. 26, no. January, 1988, pp. 163–68.
  2. ‘Kodak Meets the Wartime Challenge (Part 1)’. KODAK: A Magazine for Kodak Employees, vol. 1, no. 3, Apr. 1945, pp. 1–2.
  3. ‘Kodak Meets the Wartime Challenge (Part 2)’. KODAK: A Magazine for Kodak Employees, vol. 1, no. 4, May 1945, pp. 1–3.
  4. Ibid.

Blackface in the Kodak Archive, Ryerson’s Special Collections: Context for Reading ‘Racist’ Images

By Cheryl Thompson and Emilie Jabouin

Introduction

In 2019, I exhibited my SSHRC-Insight Development Grant-funded research, “Newspapers, Minstrelsy and Black Performance at the Theatre: Mapping the Spaces of Nation­Building in Toronto, 1870s to 1930s,” as part of RUBIX, a showcase celebration of the Scholarly Research and Creative (SRC) activity within the Faculty of Communication and Design. At this event, I met Alison Skyrme, Special Collections librarian at Ryerson who suggested that I drop by Special Collections to examine images of blackface in the Kodak Canada Archive. 

I was struck by her invitation because it happens so rarely. Despite the fact that blackface was a popular theatrical form of entertainment from the 1830s through 1960s, performed not only in the professional theatre and in Hollywood films, but also in communities at high schools, athletic clubs, hospitals, at retail, and even summer camps, most people want to hide their blackface artefacts, they do not invite Black researchers to interrogate them. And so, one afternoon in the fall of 2019, I and my graduate student, Emilie Jabouin, scoured through the Kodak Archive’s blackface repertoire. While the images were new to me, I had prior knowledge of the important role that Kodak played in the development of photography. 

The company, which stopped making digital cameras in 2012, was founded by George Eastman in 1888. At that time, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced on the mass market a box camera that allowed users to take their own photographs. For the first time, photography was quick, simple, and accessible. The Kodak box camera was the first commercially available product that allowed users to do little more than press a button to take their own pictures. Within a generation, millions of people were given the ability to produce their own images, they were no longer at the whim of a professional photographer’s stylistic choices in terms of dress, pose, and costume. 

With the proliferation of the photographic “snapshot,” images, and postcards, by the end of the nineteenth century, ideas about the power of photography created a new relationship between image and reality. For example, an advertisement appearing in the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1897 declared, “Take a KODAK with You. Make the most of the lure of the first soft days of spring. Picture the parks and the fields and the woods. Let Kodak be your companion on every out-of-door day – twill [sic] give you a fuller joy in the day itself – and afterward the joy of possessing pictures of the places and people that you are interested in.” 

Image of a 1912 advertisement for Kodak Cameras, featuring a photograph of a women in a white dress, carrying a Kodak camera and case, and the slogan "Take a Kodak With You!".
Advertisement from the Ladies Home Journal, 1912. Image from the Duke Universities Library, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 digital collection. Item number 429898.

The mass adoption of photography coincided with blackface’s popularization during vaudeville. Blackface minstrelsy began as a theatrical form of entertainment in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia in the 1830s and 1840s. From its outset blackface was performed by white, mostly male northern performers who crossed racial and gender boundaries by mimicking African Americans (e.g., they would wear bright red lipstick, darken their faces with coal-black make-up, exaggerate their facial expressions, and cross dress) in order to entertain audiences with the supposedly “authentic” music, humour, and dance ostensibly common on southern plantations. 

By the 1880s, the minstrel show had waned in popularity, but vaudeville theatre brought many of its conventions back through the reinvention of the stage into a variety show. When vaudeville appeared, it was unique because unlike the legitimate theatre, vaudeville acts came from all ethnic groups and genders, in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the “respectable” thespian to the circus “freak,” from burlesque to chorus performers. By the mid-1920s, there were no longer vaudeville theatres in Ontario, and a decade later, there was no vaudeville at all, but blackface performance continued.

This is the sociocultural context that frames the images located within the Kodak Archive. By the 1920s, as blackface declined at the theatre, it was performed on an amateur, local level. The images discussed here range from 1920 to 1923. They predate feature ‘talking pictures’ such as The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson in blackface. They were also taken after the First World War, the Spanish Influenza pandemic, and the fight for women’s suffrage – all of which came to their completion in the years between 1918 and 1919. These images reflect both a sentiment of celebration but also nostalgia for ‘simpler times.’

With this context in mind, we explain how the Kodak Archive came to be, and also how to read images that, from today’s point of view are racist, but functioned at the time under a different guise; they functioned under the auspices of entertainment. How do you contend with such contradictions in the present? Why, and how, must we address the images’ latent racism today, resisting the desire to keep them hidden? 

By talking about these difficult images, we learn how to grapple with our contemporary moment when anti-Black racism still exists, and blackface is still adorned to mimic and defame Black bodies. Our intention is to encourage students, faculty, and researchers to engage with these images so that we can have much needed conversations about the production of racial difference and the anti-Black racism such acts engender.

Kodak Blackface Records

The Canadian Kodak Company (later Kodak Canada) arrived in Canada in 1899, and officially opened its offices on Colborne Street in Toronto in 1900. In 1921, the company moved its manufacturing facility to a location near Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue West, and from there, “Kodak Heights” manufactured cameras and other photography equipment, and employed 3,000 people at its peak. Like many companies of this era, Kodak had an athletics club. The Kodak Athletics Association (KAA) was an employee lead group within the company whose leadership was elected by employees. The association organized a variety of events, such as Christmas parties, ladies’ nights, drama club, and dances, in addition to bowling, hockey, volleyball, and softball leagues. The Kodak Heights KAA also organized blackface minstrel shows that can be found in the Kodak Archive.

There are several themes that can be seen in the Kodak Archive’s blackface images. First, the images reveal a rich history of performing minstrel shows, and of the cultural importance they had for many Canadian families. The song and dance numbers, operas, orchestras, and the ways that these shows functioned as team building opportunities for employees were not unique to Kodak; this was common practice across corporate Canada. The shows were commemorated with formal portraits, and extensive reviews published in the employee newsletter, containing the blackface images. Of all the records, there are a few that stood out to us as examples of amateur blackface performance.

In “First Annual Kodak Minstrel Show” (1920), a blackface cast with three white women, as well as two white men who are not in blackface captures what blackface ensembles in racial caricature looked like. What separated the characters in the minstrel show from each other were speech, dress, and geographic location. End-men played tambourine and bones (they were sometimes called Tambo and Brudder Bones) and were portrayed as being of lower class by costume and vernacular. These characters wore satin suits, oversized ties, and curly wigs, and they engaged in jokes and quips with the smartly attired white Interlocutor who commanded centre stage. The Interlocutor, sometimes called the middleman, did not wear blackface. He was a kind of mouthpiece for high culture: his dress and speech were upper class, and the plot usually centred on the End-men putting down the Interlocutor because it would have been funny to see “Black folks” on the plantation making fun of the “civilized” Northerner. 

Item is a group portrait of a minstel show cast, post on stage, most of whom are white performers in blackface.
“First Annual Kodak Minstrel Show” (1920). Item number 2005.001.06.03.734 from the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection at the Toronto Metropolitan University Library Archives and Special Collections

Both the American flag and the Union Jack are visible in the image. The American flag likely signaled that the content of the show originated there, while the Union Jack was commonly flown at this time in Canada. The Citizenship Act of 1946 demarcates the moment when Canadians were no longer considered British subjects. In 1965, the Canadian flag replaced the Union Jack as our national flag, then as part of the Centennial Year celebrations two years later, “O Canada” became the official national anthem. Hence, at the time of the Kodak Minstrels, Canadian society was profoundly British, though it was also, paradoxically, becoming increasingly patriotic. For example, in “Second Annual Kodak Minstrel Show, Burgess & Seymour” (1921) two white men stand beside drawings of white women. One man is in blackface as an End Men, and the other, as Interlocutor, is not. One drawing captures a woman with a hat brimmed with the word “Canadian” while the other woman’s hat reads “Kodak.” This not only places the American company in Canada, it also marks Canadianness as something distinct, though culturally, it was quite undefined at this moment in our history. 

“Second Annual Kodak Minstrel Show, Burgess & Symour” (1921). Item number 2005.001.06.03.734 from the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection at the Toronto Metropolitan University Library Archives and Special Collections

“Third Annual Kodak Minstrel Show, Crystal Theatre” (1922) is a good example of the extent to which minstrel shows required detailed production, not just with actors in blackface but also musicians, stage set-up, make-up, dress, and costume design. This image is particularly striking because there is a child (between the sixth and seventh End Men, from left to right) who is also in blackface. The boy is dressed all in white, even his shoes. Because community blackface was so common, children were often used as part of the show and/or encouraged to attend. These were not censored events even as they are offensive to viewers today. Some questions that are important to think about in terms of this image are what kind of trauma was ingrained and normalized in this child? How did they process the mimetic racial play that was at work in the performance of blackface?  

“Third Annual Kodak Minstrel Show, Crystal Theatre” (1922) Item Number 2005.001.06.03.743 from the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection, at the Toronto Metropolitan University Library, Archives and Special Collections.

Finally, in “Mount Department Minstrels at ‘Girls Night’ Frolic” (1923) nine women appear in blackface, as part of what was dubbed “An Adamless Evening”.  At this event, women were encouraged to set aside convention and enjoy themselves without their husbands. Eight of them are in blackface dressed in overalls, straw field hats and handkerchiefs as End Men, and the one performing as the Interlocutor is not in blackface sitting on a chair. The performers are not only women in blackface, they are also in drag. Significantly, the minstrel show of the nineteenth century was for all intents and purposes the first drag variety show. Most minstrel troupes were men who wore blackface to sing, dance and tell jokes and while there were female characters, these were typically female impersonators, or as Marjorie Garber describes, “double crossover figures, men playing women, women playing blacks” (276). In this sense, blackface minstrelsy became a site where compulsory heterosexuality was challenged, even as women were also derided through impersonation and misogyny. Michael Rogin explains cross-dressing as challenging binary categories in two ways, “by locating pleasure in the in-between condition (woman dressed as man, white as black) and by parodying the supposedly natural identity” (31). In other words, cross-dressing in the blackface theatre signified not an either/or binary but an intersectional both/and which called into question the repressive gender categories of man and woman, white and black. As it relates to the KAA, however, such performances might have been just “play” or they might have similarly functioned as a form challenging gender roles that would have been derided in ‘real life’ in the 1920s.

A group portrait of an all female, white minstrel show cast, 8 of whom are in blackface, one who is dressed in top hat and tails.
“Mount Department Minstrels at ‘Girls Night’ Frolic” published in the April 1923 edition of “At Kodak Heights”, the employee magazine published at the Canadian Kodak company in Toronto. Item number 2005.001.07.05.03 in the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection at Toronto Metropolitan University Library, Archives and Special Collections.

How should we read these images?

The initial information about the Kodak Archive was that there was one image in the collection that was known by the Special Collections Library (the collection was processed by contract employees over a number of years), but the extent of the material was not known until a student exhibition, Kodak Canada: The Early Years 1899-1939, which took place at the Ryerson Image Centre. The coverage within the Kodak Heights newsletters was not identified until the dates for the minstrel shows were identified and those issues searched. In other words, the very reason why we have been able to make sense of these images in this collection is because Alison and others put in the work to connect the dots, so to speak, between the images and Canada’s history of blackface. 

These images are difficult. But 2020 has shown us that just because something is difficult does  not mean that it should be ignored, minimized, and kept secret for fear that people will think, in this instance, that Ryerson’s Library and/or the University is ‘racist’ for simply having them in their possession. On the contrary, we would argue that in every library across Canada (and the United States) and in the personal collections of those Canadians who are over the age of 70, in particular, there exists blackface image(s) and/or amateur playbill(s) of local shows they either attended and/or participated in as children. The time is now to take these images out of the shadows and bring them into the light so that we can contend with this history that speaks more to who we are as Canadians than the myths people tell themselves to prevent from seeing the reality of the past for what it was – complicated, but also virulently anti-Black. 

As such, reading these images first requires that you engage with secondary sources (see the list below) to understand the sociocultural context of their production. Second, before labelling the images as racist and therefore feeling a sense of shame for even looking at them in the first place, take a breath, step back, and start asking questions about the image. Who is in the image? These images were taken at a time when Canada’s Black population was quite small, and companies like Kodak were undoubtedly all-white spaces. What did these performers know about Black people? If they did not know Black people, where did they draw their caricatures from? What is captured in the image, such as instruments, dress, footwear, etc.? What intersections of race, gender and class are at work? Where was the image placed on the page? Is there a heading? Are the names of the sitters listed, and if so, who are they? 

By asking yourself these questions, you begin the process of unpacking rather than reacting to difficult imagery. And by unpacking, you allow yourself to understand the production of racial difference and the ways in which mimicry not only disempowered the mimetic Other, it also disempowered the actor as it prevented them from seeing Black people as whole people – with lives, families and desires. It also prevented white people from acknowledging their own whiteness and privilege. Ultimately, these images of blackface in the Kodak Archive give us an opportunity to unpack white privilege, rather than declare its existence without understanding how it too, like race, is a social construct that, once identified and acknowledged, can be dismantled. It is only when we are all seen for who we are that we can truly lay the past to rest and move on toward a future based on equity and mutual respect. By unmasking Canada’s history of blackface, we believe we are taking a giant step toward achieving this goal.

About the authors: 

Portrait of Dr. Cheryl Thompson

Cheryl Thompson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Creative Industries at Toronto Metropolitan University. Her next book, Uncle: Race, Nostalgia and the Politics of Loyalty will be published by Coach House Books next February. Follow her on twitter at @DrCherylT.

Portrait of Emilie Jabouin

Emilie Jabouin is a PhD Candidate in Communication & Culture, working on her doctoral dissertation at Ryerson/York universities on Black women organizers and journalists in early 20th-century Canada. Emilie is also a story-teller and dance artist who explores the social and cultural histories and expressions of the African diasporas. Find her on Twitter at @emilie_jabouin.

Additional Reading: 

 Backhouse, Constance. 1999. Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada 1900-1950. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Bean, Annemarie. 1996. “Transgressing the Gender Divide: The Female Impersonator in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy.” In Inside the Minstrel Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy, eds. Annemarie Bean, James V. Hatch, and Brooks McNamara, 245-256. Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press.

Bernstein, Robin. 2011. Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights. New York: New York University Press.

Bogle, Donald. 2000. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. New York: Continuum.

Boyko, John. 2013. Blood and Daring: How Canada Fought the American Civil War and Forged A Nation. Alfred A. Knoff: Toronto.

Calliste, Agnes. 1993/1994.“Race, Gender and Canadian Immigration Policy: Blacks from the Caribbean, 1900-1932.” Journal of Canadian Studies 28 (4): 131-50.

Careless, J.M.S. 1990. “The Cultural Setting: Ontario Society to 1914.” In Early Stages: Theatre in Ontario 1800-1914, ed. Ann Saddlemyer, 18-51. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Carlin, Bob. 2007. The Birth of the Banjo: Joel Walker Sweeney and Early Minstrelsy. North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company.

Cox, Karen L. 2011. Dreaming of Dixie How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Davies, Robertson. 1990. “The Nineteenth-Century Repertoire.” In Early Stages: Theatre in Ontario 1800-1914, ed. Ann Saddlemyer, 90-122. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ebanda de B’béri, Boulou, Reid-Maroney, Nina and Handel Kashope Wright. 2014. The Promised Land: History and Historiography of the Black Experience in Chatham-Kent’s Settlements and Beyond. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ehlers, Nadine. 2012. Racial Imperatives: Discipline, Performativity, and Struggles Against Subjection. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Fanon, Frantz. 1967. Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press.

Francis, Daniel. 2011. National Dreams: Myth, Memory, and Canadian History. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press.

Frick, John W. 2012. Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the American Stage and Screen. Palgrave Macmillan: New York.

Frost, Karolyn Smardz. 2007. I’ve Got A Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Garber, Marjorie. 1992. Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing & Cultural Anxiety. New York and London: Routledge.

Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Glenn, Susan. 2000. Female Spectacle: The Theatrical Roots of Modern Feminism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Hall, Stuart, ed. 1997. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage Publications.

Hardy, Dominic. 2007. “Historical Ironies of Henri Julien (1852- 1908): Researching Identity and Graphic Satire Across Languages in Québec.” Working Papers on Design 2: 1-25.

Harney, Robert F., ed. 1985. Gathering Place: Peoples and Neighbourhoods of Toronto, 1834-1945. Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario.

Harrison-Kahan, Lori. 2011. The White Negress: Literature, Minstrelsy, and the Black-Jewish Imaginary. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks. 1993. Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church 1880-1920. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hochman, Barbara. 2011. Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Reading Revolution: Race, Literacy, Childhood, and Fiction, 1851-1911. University of Massachusetts Press: Amherst and Boston.

Howard, Philip S.S. 2017. “Timeline of Canadian Blackface Incidents.” Retrieved from: https://mcgill.ca/aapr/files/aapr/blackface-timeline.pdf

Johnson, Stephen. 1999. “Uncle Tom and the Minstrels: Seeing Black and White on Stage in Canada West prior to the American Civil War.” In (Post)Colonial Stages: Critical & Creative Views on Drama, Theatre & Performance, ed. Helen Gilbert, 55-63. Coventry: Dangaroo Press.

Johnson, Stephen. 2012. Burnt Cork: Traditions and Legacies of Blackface Minstrelsy. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.

Kibler, Alison M. 1999. Rank Ladies: Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville. Chapel Hill & London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Lenton-Young, Gerald. 1990. “Variety Theatre.” In Early Stages: Theatre in Ontario 1800-1914, ed.  Ann Saddlemyer, 166-213. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Lhamon, W.T., Jr. 1998. Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lott, Eric. 1993. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mahar, William J. 1999. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Mathieu, Sarah-Jane. 2010. North of the Color Line: Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870-1955. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Meer, Sarah. 2005. Uncle Tom Mania: Slavery, Minstrelsy & Transatlantic Culture in the 1850s. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press.

Morgan, Jo-Ann. 2007. Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Visual Culture. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Nicholas, Jane. “Gendering the Jubilee: Gender and Modernity in the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Celebrations, 1927.The Canadian Historical Review, 90.2 (2009): 247-274.

Nicks, Joan and Jeannette Sloniowski. 2010. “Entertaining Niagara Falls, Ontario: Minstrel Shows, Theatres, and Popular Pleasures.” In Covering Niagara: Studies in Local Popular Culture, ed. Joan Nicks and Barry Keith Grant, 285-310. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Nowatzki, Robert. 2010. Representing African Americans in Transatlantic Abolitionism and Blackface Minstrelsy. Louisiana: Louisiana State Press.

Pickering, Michael. 2008. Blackface Minstrelsy in Britain. Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing.

Roediger, David R. 2007. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. London and New York: Verso.

Rogin, Micheal. 1996. Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Sammond, Nicholas. 2015. Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.

Saxton, Alexander. 1990. The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America. London and New York: Verso.

Smith, Shawn Michelle. 1999. American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

______. 2004. Photography on the Color Line: W.E.B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Springhall, John. 2008. The Genesis of Mass Culture: Show Business Live in America, 1840 to 1940. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Staples, Shirley. 1984. Male-Female Comedy Teams in American Vaudeville 1865-1932. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press.

Starkey, Brando Simeo. 2015. In Defense of Uncle Tom: Why Blacks Must Police Racial Loyalty. New York: Cambridge.

Strausbaugh, John. 2006. Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture. London: Penguin Books.

Taylor, Yuval and Jake Austen. 2012. Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Thompson, Cheryl. 2015. “Cultivating Narratives of Race, Faith, and Community: The Dawn of Tomorrow, 1923–1971.” Canadian Journal of History 50 (1), 30-67.

______. 2015. “I’s in Town, Honey’: Reading Aunt Jemima Advertising in Canadian Print Media, 1919 to 1962.Journal of Canadian Studies 49 (1), 205-37. https://doi.org/10.3138/jcs.49.1.205

______. 2018. “Locating ‘Dixie’ in Newspaper Discourse and Theatrical Performance in Toronto, 1880s to 1920s.” Canadian Review of American Studies, published online March 8, 2018. https://doi.org/10.3138/cras.2017.032.

______. 2018. “Remembering Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” In The Ward Uncovered: The Archeology of Everyday Life, eds. Michael McClelland, Holly Martelle, Tatum Taylor and John Lorinc, 156-162. Toronto: Coach House Books/Alana Wilcox.

______. 2019. Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture. Toronto: Wilfrid Laurier Press.

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Toney, Jared G. 2010. “Locating Diaspora: Afro-Caribbean Narratives of Migration and Settlement in Toronto, 1914-1929.” Urban History Review 38 (2): 75-87.

Winks, Robin. 1997 [1971]. The Blacks in Canada: A History. 2nd ed. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

A Comic Book Collection… from the 1940s!

Did you know Ryerson Special Collections has a large selection of World War II comic books? We have a collection of over 180 Canadian Whites comics

These are referred to as the “Canadian Whites” since only the front and back cover were printed in colour, while the pages inside were kept in black and white.

Active Comics (February 1942) front cover from Library and Archives Canada

In 1940, the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA) deemed American comic books non-essential luxury goods, which could not be imported during World War II. Canadian publishers responded to this demand for comics by creating their own national superheroes with local storylines.

Front cover of comic book featuring Nelvana of the Northern Lights
Triumph Comics cover page from Library and Archives Canada

They introduced iconic characters such as Johnny Canuck, a Canadian hero who fights Nazis without superpowers but with his own strength and patriotism, and Nelvana of the Northern Lights, a superhero tasked to protect Northern Canada. Nelvana was one of the first female superheroes to be featured in comic books, and even predated the creation of Wonder Woman. Her character was possibly inspired by an Inuit elder that the Group of Seven painter Franz Johnston met during a trip to the Northwest Territories.

Inside cover and first page of a Triumph Comics
Triumph Comics – inside cover and first page from Library and Archives Canada

The Canadian Whites comics are incredible resources to read, research and analyze. There are several facets to explore, from the character’s stereotypical depictions and the Canadian propaganda storylines to the type of ink processes used to print the comic books.

If you’d like to view these comics from your home, Library and Archives Canada has several issues digitized and available online. Browse through their finding aid to locate the links and view the comic books.

Check out these resources for more information about Canadian Comic Books:

“These are a few of our favourite things…” – The Expo Watch Camera

The staff in Archives and Special Collections bring you some of our favourite things. Objects and photographs from the collections that hold a special place in our hearts. Each week will highlight a different item, along with an explanation of why it stands out.

With such an amazing collection of materials – sometimes it is hard to pick just one…

This week’s post is Curatorial Specialist Olivia Wong’s choice:

Expo Watch Camera (2005.006.06.02)

Some of my favourite objects in the collection are specialized film and photography equipment. The Expo Watch Camera is part of our selection of detective or disguise cameras. As the name suggests, this novelty camera is the shape and size of a pocket watch. It uses a miniature daylight film cartridge that can hold up to twenty-five 16 x 22 mm exposures. The camera has a detachable external viewfinder, and the exposures are captured through the watch’s winding stem (the knob serves as a lens cap!)

This nifty gadget was manufactured by the Expo Camera Company in New York City between the early 1900s until 1939. An advertisement for the camera in a 1917 Photoplay Magazine stated: “Photography made a pleasure instead of a burden. You can carry the EXPO about in your pocket, and take a picture without any one being the wiser.” To see the full ad, click here

To learn more about the Expo Watch Camera, click here

To see what else is in the Heritage Camera Collection, click here

“These are a few of our favourite things…” – Motion Slides

The staff in Archives and Special Collections brings you some of our favourite things. Objects and photographs from the collections that hold a special place in our hearts. Each post will highlight a different item, along with an explanation of why it stands out.

With such an amazing collection of materials – sometimes it is hard to pick just one…

This post is Special Collections Librarian Alison Skyrme’s choice:

In 2017, Special Collections received a generous donation of magic lantern slide projectors and slides from collector John Tysall. Magic Lantern Slides were projected in private homes, educational institutions, and public forums, and covered topics from amusing anecdotes, moral tales, world tours, and scientific or other educational topics. In addition to foretelling later 35mm slides and, eventually, digital presentation tools such as PowerPoint and Google Slides, the format of 19th century magic lantern slides were also a precursor to motion pictures. Motion was incorporated into magic lantern presentations in a variety of ways, including multiple lens projectors, movable hand-held projectors, and individual slides with moveable, hand painted scenes. A variety of techniques were used to create movement, including a glass overlay with selective blackout that was moved to conceal and reveal portions of the drawing to give the impression of movement (these were called slip slides). Other mechanical techniques included levers, pulleys, and rackwork. These motion slides are some of my favorite items in the collection because of their ingenuity and whimsy.

To learn more about the John Tysall collection – click here

“These are a few of our favourite things…” – Fraggle Rock

The staff in Archives and Special Collections brings you some of our favourite things. Objects and photographs from the collections that hold a special place in our hearts. Each post will highlight a different item, along with an explanation of why it stands out.

With such an amazing collection of materials – sometimes it is hard to pick just one…

This post is Archivist Curtis Sassur’s choice:

Photograph taken on set during the filming of the television series “Fraggle Rock” (2012.005.02.86)

I love this photo because I was a big fan of the show Fraggle Rock as a kid, but also because this image, like many others within the Hackborn Fonds, highlights Robert Hackborn’s casually keen photographic eye. At first glance, it seems like the shot could be a still from the show, but then the subtle production elements at the bottom of the image tease a little notion of the creative process entailed in producing a principally puppet-powered program such as this.

  • To see what other photographs are in this series – click here
  • To see what else is in the Robert Hackborn fonds – click here

2020 Alumni Weekend – Welcome to Archives & Special Collections Virtual Open House

This year we open our doors for a virtual visit.  We sincerely miss seeing all you alumni and your guests during this COVID-19 crisis.  We miss hearing your stories about your days at Ryerson and sharing with you, in person, what we have in our collections.  We sincerely hope you are keeping well.

Let’s begin with walking through the doors of the not-so-distant past, into the former Ryerson Archives Reading Room on the 3rd floor of Toronto Metropolitan University Library…

The Archives Reading Room as it looked in 2011 on the 3rd floor, Library.
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2013 Alumni Weekend, as arranged by my colleague, 3rd floor Archives.
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Peter working at the 2013 Alumni Weekend dressed as a 1993 grad, greeting visitors.
And on the right, Peter, undressed.
For more insight into Peter‘s life, see the Feature blog,  Who is this man in the Archives?
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The Library stacks, 1970s, on display for 2013 Alumni Weekend.
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2013 Alumni Weekend.  Sports featured here (L-R)
Intramural sports, Judo, Soccer, Men’s Basketball, Golf, Downhill Skiing, Football, Women’s Basketball
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Perhaps some of you were taught Politics by Jack Layton in the 1970s.
This 2014 display honours him.
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In 2017, after having merged with Special Collections, the 4th floor became our new home…

Our presence is boldly announced. We’re located directly across from the elevators.
You can also see our three-section display case.
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Upon walking through the doors, you’ll enter our Reading Room.
Check out this short blog about The Oakham House Dogs, seen in the foreground.
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Looking to the left as you walk in.  The blond wood cabinet is the last
card catalogue shelving unit remaining in the Library.
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A comfy reading area where you can peruse the shelves,
enjoy the few yearbooks and every issue of The Ryersonian and The Eyeopener.
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2019 Alumni Weekend
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Eggy made an appearance at the 2019 Open House, at least as his former self (2004-2011) – except
for the 1990s sports jersey.  Celebrating Eggy blog post takes a look at Eggy’s past.
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1950s and ’60 apparel.
Woman’s blazer. And, a tam, a variety of beanies, a top hat, and a recent rams hat for those emulating Eggy.
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A sampling of our button collection.
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Model of the original Ryerson building, Ryerson Hall, showing the building as it was in 1852
when it was built as Canada’s first Normal School (teachers’ college).
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Look!  A miniature Ryerson student!
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It’s time now for a few artefacts from Special Collections…

A 19th C Magic Lantern, a kind of early slide show with glass images projected through a lens.
The source of light for projection was an oil lamp inside the lantern “belly”, thus, the
chimney at the top.  All said, a dangerous proposition. 
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These wonderful 19th C tintypes are examples of a photographic process creating a positive image directly on a small lacquered-covered piece of metal.  They were inexpensive and very popular.  Often mounted in small cases, as seen on the left, which opens to a velvet interior with a tiny, elaborate frame.  The image inside has been meticulously hand painted.
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3D imagery is sampled here : A late 19th C / early 20th C stereoscope (left)…to this 1970s Talking View-Master!
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And finally, WWII Canadian comic books featuring Canadian heroes…

Called Canadian Whites due to the white paper within the very colourful covers.
Here, under Triumph Comics, is Nelvana of the Northern Lights.
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And Crash Carson, under the WOW banner, shoots down a Nazi plane.
See more information in our online database.

We hope you enjoyed your first Archives & Special Collections Virtual Open House!  “Stay Safe.”