A Look at Toronto's Cultural Geography, 1920 to 1930
(Term Paper)

In 1921, the population of Toronto was overwhelmingly British, though there was a steady stream of immigrants from Europe and Asia. The population of Toronto grew from 489 thousand people in 1918, to 606 thousand people in 1929. Annexations of the surrounding land by the city government kept up with the growth of the city population, both through new births and a steady flow of immigration.

Cultural Makeup
The culture was very homogenous, with nearly 81% of citizens claiming some form of British heritage in 1922, with their primary religion being Roman Catholic. Nearly all people living there who were born natively in Canada came from the Ontario region around Toronto, and to the northeast. Jewish peoples were the second largest cultural group at 7% of the population, with Italians at 2%, both primarily native born residents. Polish, Ukranian and Chinese residents made up the remaining portion, and were composed of people who had immigrated in the years before restrictions regarding entry were imposed.

Though people immigrated to Canada and to the Toronto area from many areas around the globe, the culturally British government saw the immigration of Chinese in particular as a threat. The commission reported that Asians were "unfit for full citizenship... obnoxious to a free community and dangerous to the state". Even after passing a head tax on immigrants from China, the government saw fit to impose the Chinese Exclusion Act, virtually eliminating immigration from China. The date of its passage, July 1, 1923 became known to the Canadian Chinese as "Humiliation Day."

The stated religion nature of the city was 'denominational pluralism', with the three main religions being Roman Catholic, Judaism and Methodist, though Roman Catholic observants outnumbered all other religions by a large margin. Though the Church had considerable influence in Britain, the colonies had relegated it to a backseat role, due to much resentment of imposed taxes by Britain. In the mid 1920's, the region's Methodists, approximately one half of the Presbyterians and a few Congregationalists joined to form the United Church of Canada, which celebrated it's 75th anniversary on June 7th of this year. (http://www.uccan.org/)

Urban Geography
In the 1920's Toronto had high rent without controls, a ban on the construction of new apartments and very little public housing.

The Northern Wards generally more affluent and upscale than those in the southern part of the city, with the Brock Ave. and Clinton area, Dufferin-Bloor and High Park being host to Toronto's 'solid' middle class. Rosedale was originally the 'wealthy' area, but it gradually moves nothward to the Hill District. These areas were generally native Ontario born people with British backgrounds.

The downtown area had become well established by 1920. With the end of the war, one of the most notable changes on the streets of downtown Toronto was the vastly increased number of private automobiles. The show of wealth these vehicles represented was not enough to overshadow the growing slums around the downtown, the areas of transition created by invasion and succession pressures of the encroaching city upon it's surrounding areas. Immigration policies put into place during this period restricted cultural growth, and the area remained almost exclusively British owned businesses.

West of the downtown area was a large Jewish ghetto containing the then known 'Jewish Market' at Spadina and King. This was the focal point of the Jewish community in Toronto. Today it is known as Kensington Market, and is host to a diverse multicultural mix of shops and patrons. Little Italy was located at College and Grace, and though Italian residents located themselves there almost exclusively, by 1927 an influx had begun to the area around Manning and Grace.

Another predominantly Jewish area known simply as 'The Ward' was located just south of city hall. It was the poorest ward of the city and was an embarrassment to citizens as their government refused to do anything about the problem of slums, and poor immigrants flocked to the area. In 1922, nothing much had changed about this, though the expanding city area meant less focus on that particular Ward, and less pressure for the government to do something about it. Before the 1920's the area currently known as Chinatown was smaller and further west than it is now, but starting around 1928 it began to encroach upon The Ward, and by 1930 it had almost eliminated the slum area.

The Regent Park area was host to the poorer British and labourers, primarily those who worked in the nearby factories. The Native American population was also located in this area.


Lemon, James (1985). Toronto Since 1918: An Illustrated History

Toronto Neighbourhoods http://www.stottconditioning.com/torontohoods.html

The Road Chosen: Chinese Immigration http://www.whitepinepictures.com/seeds/series1/episode-0128/history2.html

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