I have a romantic attachment to this era and all the way up to the 1920’s. Perhaps it is due to the boxes of old photos of family members.
The sepia tones are dark and mysterious, the people stern and well posed. While the part of my family that lived in Toronto were working class and by no means well to do, they were still very well dressed. This might lead to the elusion that they had more than they did.
During Victorian Toronto, women were mostly employed in domestic service, if they did indeed work at all. Men found employ as printers, shoemakers, moulders, tailors, coopers, bakers, jewellers and some other trades as well. This was evident in the McEwan family.
One thing my great-grandfather, John McEwan insisted was that each of the boys once grown had a trade. This seemed to make an impression and even a couple of the girls followed suit.
There were among the five boys who reached adulthood; three mentioned last week Robert a lithographic artist, William an insurance agent, and Jack a book binder, Henry "Chum" McEwan became a printer and Benjamin McEwan a furrier.
The five girls who survived until they were old enough to work faired not quite as well. The eldest Edith McEwan became a dressmaker and never married. Next was Marion "Mae" McEwan who married young and while not having a vocation married she chose a husband who was a tailor. The next daughter named for her mother, Janet also married young and did not have a trade. Her husband worked for the School board. Emma, the fourth became a legal stenographer and the youngest, Helen or Nell as she was called worked for Eaton’s department store. The two youngest married late, one at forty-four and the youngest at thirty-eight. While several of the girls never had a vocation they did marry men who did. This must have been an important part of the McEwan family. A trade meant work and work meant being able to provide for ones family.
John and Janet McEwan originally lived at 127 Duke Street (now Adelaide), in Toronto which appears to be the home of John's father William, a widower when they married in 1862. After moving around the area to many places they would eventually settle at 27 Saulter Street, in a part of Toronto that at that time was called Riverdale, however today it would be more specifically referred to as Leslieville. This area was originally a village in 1850 named for George Leslie owner of the Toronto Nurseries.
According to Wikipedia most of the residents in Leslieville worked as gardeners or worked for one of the brick-making factories in the area. Perhaps my grandfather McEwan's reasons to make sure his boys had a trade was that he wanted them to be somewhat independent.
In later years south Riverdale was home to metal processors and tanneries such as A. R. Clarke where my paternal grandfather John Bell worked. He and my grandmother Maude lived on Logan Avenue also in the neighbourhood. These industries (tanneries and metal processors) contaminated much of the land with toxic waste. There was a fire that destroyed the Clarke factory in 2000 that burned for days and left the area covered with toxic ash.
It is only in recent years that Leslieville has seen regentrification and is now an up and coming neighbourhood. Upscale restaurants and shops line Queen Street East these days and the tiny houses sell for well over $500,000. It remains a middle class area close to the heart of the city.
* Edith McEwan, Henry "Chum McEwan and Marion "Mae McEwan