Newspapers and the role they played in paving Toronto’s streets will be at the heart of a public book launch held in downtown St. Catharines Saturday.
Phillip Gordon Mackintosh, of Brock’s Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, will launch his latest book, Newspaper City: Toronto’s Street Surfaces and the Liberal Press, 1860–1935, at the event, which takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. at Mahtay Café & Lounge.
Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and published by the University of Toronto Press in 2017, the book looks at the role of daily newspapers in the transformation of Toronto’s urban landscape. It was recently reviewed by the Literary Review of Canada.
The book celebrates the completion of a complex project that examines Toronto’s historical construction of public space, and in particular its streets and sidewalks, through the pages of local, liberal newspapers.
“Newspapers are, in many ways, a weak primary source,” Mackintosh says. “City people, now and in the past, have had a vexed relationship with their newspapers, as have historical critics of newspapers and journalism. What happens when you write a book grounded in newspaper research?”
The newspapers’ “flawed ‘facts’” weren’t Mackintosh’s only challenge. He also had to spend a great deal of time with heartbreaking material.
“For children, the street was a playground in cities that had few parks and no play spaces,” Mackintosh explains. “By the end of the 1910s, however, municipal engineers and city councils had repurposed the street as a site of dedicated and segregated mobility. This put fast moving automobiles on slow moving streets, and people — especially children — died by the score.
“Months spent researching the violent death of children, many only three years old, left me many nights sleepless and agitated,” he says.
Mackintosh noted that papers like Toronto’s Globe acknowledged that the issue of paving streets for automobiles was one of competing public goods — child welfare versus mobility.
“Yet, the Globe never used its pages to demand a municipal policy to restrict cars on the streets teeming with children and their play.”
Saturday’s book launch will feature live music and refreshments, and copies of the book will be available to purchase. Everyone is welcome to attend.
What: Book launch for Newspaper City: Toronto’s Street Surfaces and the Liberal Press, 1860–1935.
When: Saturday, Dec. 2 from 3 to 5 p.m.
Where: Mahtay Café & Lounge, 241 St. Paul St., St. Catharines.