The Day Jimmy Hoffa Disappeared

- July 30th, 2014

jimmy-hoffa

Wednesday, July 30, 1975, was a humid, sultry day with the thermometer pushing 95ºF (35ºC) — a typical muggy mid-summer Detroit afternoon, in other words.

Gerald Ford was president of the United States, the North Vietnamese Army had just rolled into Saigon, the incredible Cincinnati Reds were rolling toward a World Series championship while the sadsack Detroit Tigers were enduring one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Eagles and Olivia Newton-John were topping the charts … and Jimmy Hoffa was about to take the second-last car ride of his life.

Hoffa, the once mighty and still dangerous former boss of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, was trying to regain control of the organization he had built into a national powerhouse before going to prison in 1967 for jury tampering and fraud.

Then-president Richard Nixon had commuted Hoffa’s sentence to time served in December 1971 (for a $1 million bribe and a promise the Teamsters would support his re-election campaign in 1972, so the story goes) but Nixon attached a condition that Hoffa had to stay out of all union activity until 1980.

And Frank Fitzsimmons, the pliant toady Hoffa had picked to fill the union presidency while the real president was behind bars, was not willingly giving up the power he had come to enjoy during Hoffa’s incarceration. In fact, Fitzsimmons cut Hoffa off from the various sources of union income he had and even fired Hoffa’s wife, Josephine, from the $40,000-a-year pretend job she had with the Teamsters.

But in the summer of 1975, Hoffa was still fighting the Nixon ban on union activity in the courts and still marshalling his loyal supporters in the Teamsters rank and file. He was determined to regain the throne — and his enemies were worried he could very well pull it off.

Hoffa had been tight with various Mafiosi since at least the 1940s, probably as far back as the mid-’30s when he was a tough and fearless young union organizer who still needed all the muscle he could muster to fend off the management thugs and anti-union law authorities aligned against him.

So, as he tried to regain control of the Teamsters organization, Hoffa had been reaching out for backing to old Mafia friends he had installed in the local union hierarchy over the years. One of those was Anthony Giacalone — Tony Jack — who was big with the Teamsters in Detroit.

Anthony-Giacalone

Now, as well as reaching out, Hoffa was also threatening. He was that kind of guy — charming and intimidating. And one of the threats was that he really would tell all in an autobiography he was working on, to be called Hoffa: The Real Story. Which, of course, did not sit well with the Mafia.

There were other reasons the Mafia did not want Jimmy Hoffa back in the Teamsters driver’s seat. The Mafia liked Frank Fitzsimmons as head of the Teamsters. They worked well with him. Hell, some of them — including Tony Jack — even went on golf vacations with him.

And Fitzsimmons had opened up access to the rich Teamsters pension fund for a big Mafia expansion in Las Vegas (again, so the story goes). The top Mafiosi were not sure Hoffa would keep the money train rolling to Vegas. And they sure as hell knew he would not be as easy to get along with as Fitzsimmons. Hoffa was independent and ornery and possessive of his union.

So when Jimmy Hoffa was reaching out to his supposed friend Anthony Giacalone, he was also probably reaching out to a sworn enemy — or at least the loyal subordinate of an enemy.

Hoffa may have had some sense of that — he was not a trusting man — but he and Tony Jack went back a long way and they were close enough that the Mafioso had already warned him to pull in his horns on the threats to spill the beans if he didn’t get his way.

So when Hoffa got a phone call on the morning of July 30, 1975, confirming a late lunch meeting with Tony Jack and a New Jersey Mafia (and Teamsters) boss, Anthony Provenzano (known as Tony Pro), at a familiar restaurant near Hoffa’s summer home north of Detroit, it was supposed to be a peace meeting.

Provenzano

Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano

 

Tony Pro was a confederate — and golf partner — of Frank Fitzsimmons in the post-Hoffa Teamsters leadership. Hoffa and Provenzano had once been allies but had since butted heads repeatedly, so a conciliatory meeting mediated by mutual friend Giacalone was an important step if Hoffa had any hope of returning to power. Hoffa had been rebuffing Tony Jack’s attempts to set up the meeting for months, but had finally agreed the week before.

 

Here’s what mob expert Thom L. Jones had to say about the relationship between Hoffa and Provenzano in an incredibly detailed 2010 post about Hoffa’s disappearance on the Gangsters Inc. website:

“According to inmate Eddy Edwards, bank robber, escape artist and former headliner on the FBI’s ‘Ten Mosted Wanted’ list, Hoffa once told him ‘…that guy Provenzano is nuts.’ In August 1967, in the prison mess hall, the two men came to blows. As they were separated, Provenzano was apparently heard screaming, ‘ … old man! Yours is coming! You know it’s coming one of these days…..You’re going to belong to me!’…

“Hoffa obviously hated the thought that a man as powerful as Provenzano was backing a man who Jimmy obviously thought of as a temporary back-stop for the job of running the Teamsters, until such times as he himself, could regain control. At a Teamster’s convention held in Miami in the early 1970s, after both Provenzano and Hoffa had been released from prison, the two men had another go at each other. According to Dan Sullivan, a New York teamster, Hoffa told him, ‘Pro threatened to pull my guts out and kidnap my children if I attempt to return to the presidency of the Teamsters.’”

 

Hoffa-wife-Josephine-flanked-JimmyJr-and-daughter-Barbara-Ann-Crancer

Jimmy Hoffa and wife Josephine, flanked by their children Jimmy Jr. and Barbara Ann, both lawyers.

About 1:15 p.m., Jimmy kissed Josephine goodbye and headed out in his green Pontiac Grand Ville from his summer home on Lake Orion to a restaurant and cocktail lounge called Machus Red Fox in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills for the scheduled 2 p.m. meeting.

He was dressed casually in a blue short-sleeve sports shirt (the one he’s wearing in the photo below, actually), dark blue slacks, his usual white socks and black Gucci loafers.

Hoffa-24July1975

Hoffa at his summer home on Lake Orion a week before his disappearance on July 30, 1975.

According to the manager of the Red Fox, Hoffa never entered the restaurant. He parked in a corner of the restaurant’s lot and waited. And waited. At 2:30 p.m., with no sign of Tony Jack and Tony Pro, an impatient Hoffa went to an adjoining strip mall and called his wife from a pay phone to see if they had been in touch. (This was, after all, in those long-ago days before mobile phones.) No such luck. Hoffa returned to his car in the Red Fox parking lot.

machus-red-fox

About 2:45 p.m. a local real estate agent who knew Hoffa spotted him standing by his car in the parking lot and stopped to chat for a few minutes before going on his way.

And that was the last time anyone not connected with his disappearance saw Jimmy Hoffa. One minute he was talking to a real estate agent. The next minute he was gone.

But there was one more possible contact…

Louis Linteau, owner of an airport limousine service and sometimes-friend/sometimes-enemy of Hoffa, later told police Hoffa had called him about 3:30 p.m. to say Tony Giacalone had not shown up for the 2 p.m. meeting. The timing of that call really doesn’t make sense and the FBI were never comfortable with Linteau’s version of events.

Later, in the investigation of his disappearance, Hoffa was reported to have been seen getting into a dark maroon Mercury in the Red Fox parking lot, but police and the FBI could never satisfactorily confirm that supposed sighting.

His family became worried when Hoffa did not return home that evening but — Jimmy Hoffa being Jimmy Hoffa — they held off shining a spotlight on his private affairs until the following day at 6 p.m. when Josephine Hoffa filed a missing person’s report (#75-3425) with Detroit police.

Police found Hoffa’s green Pontiac unlocked in the Machus Red Fox parking lot, but there was no sign of Jimmy and no sign of any apparent struggle. The assumption was made that he had willingly left the scene in another vehicle with someone he trusted — never to be seen again.

Hoffa-Detroit-Freep

Within a few days, the FBI had taken over the case and began the largest missing-person’s investigation in the bureau’s history. Over the years, more than 200 FBI agents have been occupied in the fruitless search to find the Teamster boss or his corpse.

Both Tony Jack and Tony Pro denied a meeting had been arranged with Hoffa that day and both had iron-clad alibis elsewhere on the fateful afternoon. Tony Pro even had witnesses swearing he was in New Jersey on July 30, 1975.

But one thing the FBI did discover almost immediately was that on the day of his disappearance, a close associate of Hoffa had borrowed a 1975 maroon Mercury Marquis Brougham from Detroit hood Joey Giacalone, son of the aforementioned Tony Jack.

The person borrowing the car was Charles (Chuckie) O’Brien, son of Hoffa’s longtime family friend — and former lover — Sylvia Pagano (later Scaradino, later O’Brien, later Sylvia Paris).

Charles-OBrien

Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien

Sylvia and Chuckie had even lived in the Hoffa household for several years while Chuckie was growing up and Hoffa considered the boy an adopted son, although nothing was ever formalized.

So, the FBI theorized, if anyone could get Jimmy Hoffa to willingly enter another vehicle to be driven to another, unknown location, it would be Hoffa’s “son” Chuckie.

In coming days, the FBI identified a fingerprint on a pop bottle under the front seat of Hoffa’s car as belonging to Chuckie O’Brien. And a police sniffer dog (that had been exposed, if that’s the right word, to a pair of underwear Hoffa had worn the day before he disappeared) gave strong indication that Hoffa had been sitting in the borrowed Mercury.

And a hair was found in the trunk of the vehicle that might or might not have belonged to Jimmy Hoffa. (Decades later, when DNA testing was reliably available, the hair was compared with hairs taken from one of Hoffa’s brushes and was declared a match.)

But Chuckie O’Brien denied up and down that he had been anywhere near the Machus Red Fox restaurant that day and that Jimmy Hoffa had ever been in the Mercury during the time Chuckie had it in his possession.

Although they were certain Chuckie was involved somehow, the FBI agents could not conclusively prove anything, so no charges were ever laid.

Although the FBI was hamstrung, Detroit was no longer a safe place for Chuckie. So, as soon as he could, Chuckie O’Brien slipped away to Florida — to a job arranged for him by Frank Fitzsimmons, president of the Teamsters union and one of the men who most directly benefited from Jimmy’s Hoffa’s removal.

As I said, the FBI continued to investigate Hoffa’s disappearance for decades — in fact, still keeps the file open and active — but fewer and fewer fresh leads in the case were turning up. And neither was the body of Jimmy Hoffa.

In January 1976, six months after Jimmy Hoffa went missing, an agent conference was held at FBI headquarters to bring together all the known facts (and reasonable suppositions) in the case.

Here’s a link to the official (but highly confidential and long-suppressed) report prepared for that gathering. The Hoffex Memo, as it is known, is fascinating reading (although the photocopying is a little difficult to make out in places).

The report concluded that Hoffa had almost certainly been murdered on the day he went missing and named more than a dozen suspects the FBI considered criminally implicated in the crime.

Among those deemed suspects by the FBI in the Detroit area (along with Chuckie O’Brien, Tony Jack and Tony’s brother Vito) were known mobsters Raffael Quasarano (“considered by sources as likely to be involved in actual murder of JRH, because of violent activities in the past”) and Paul Vitale (“associate of Quasarano who sources believe is likely to be involved in JRH disappearance”).

Non-Detroit suspects included New Jersey’s Tony Pro and associates Thomas Andretta, Sal Briguglio and Gabe Briguglio (all “reported by Newark sources to be involved in actual disappearance of JRH”) and Delaware Teamsters official Frank Sheehan (“known to be in Detroit at the time of JRH disappearance”).

Although considered the FBI’s definitive documentary position on the case, neither the Hoffex Memo nor the gathering of FBI agents in Washington produced any arrests or answers in the case.

But clues, tips, accusations and admissions did keep arising over the years — sometimes too plentiful and often too fanciful — about Jimmy Hoffa’s fate.

The given in most cases is that he was knocked off by the Mafia and his remains disposed of, but some conspiracy theories have reached out to include U.S. government participation.

In the decades since Hoffa’s disappearance, the FBI has spent millions of dollars running down leads and digging up backyards, farmers’ fields, basements and swimming pools throughout Michigan.

Other testimony has the murdered Hoffa’s body being run through a) a commercial meat rendering machine, b) a wood chopper, or c) a giant trash compactor with the subsequent remains buried or dumped in the Florida Everglades or shipped off to Japan as component elements of sheet metal for the Japanese car industry.

And plenty of people have claimed credit for Hoffa’s murder — usually mobsters or ex-mobsters in prison or at death’s door, and usually just about the time they are publishing “true” accounts of their supposed misdeeds and misadventures.

My favourite, of course, is the urban legend that Hoffa is buried in the cement foundation of Giants Stadium, which was being built in East Rutherford, N.J., at the time Hoffa disappeared.

giants-stadium

That one started when former mob hitman and government witness Donald Frankos told Playboy magazine in a 1989 interview that he didn’t participate in Hoffa’s murder but that he was reliably informed two other New Jersey hoods were involved in the slaying and subsequent burial of Hoffa — in dismembered form — under one of the stadium’s end zones.

It’s an enticing legend but one given little credence by either the FBI or Hoffa’s family. And one that seems to have been thoroughly discredited when a careful analysis of soil in both end zones was done before the demolition of the old stadium in 2010 — with no trace of human remains detected.

Another building site that supposedly incorporated Hoffa’s remains was a poker club in Gardena, California. Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt bought the property in 2000 and tore down the old poker club to build a casino. But first Flynt had a careful examination of the site done in hopes of coming up with a sensational exclusive about finding Jimmy Hoffa’s body. You never read that exclusive, did you?

Another flight of fancy came from Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski who, over the past 20 years in prison, has claimed to be a Mafia hitman with more than 100 notches — including Jimmy Hoffa — on his various guns, knifes, garrotes, syringes and other implements of destruction. Kuklinski is certainly a psychopathic serial killer, convicted of five murders, but it is extremely doubtful that he killed as many people as he claims or that he was paid $50,000 a hit as he claims or that his targets included rival Mafia dons and Jimmy Hoffa.

Kuklinski said in 2009 that he had stabbed Hoffa in the back of the head with a knife and then carted the body back to New Jersey in the trunk of his car as proof and to claim his bounty, after which Hoffa’s corpse was dismembered and dumped.

Kuklinski’s supposed murder of Jimmy Hoffa — much like his claim to have assassinated  Gambino Family godfather Paul Castellano — seems to be wild, self-serving fantasy and has been debunked and dismissed by both knowledgeable law enforcement officials and real mob insiders.

The truth about Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance and death will likely never be known. Or else we already know it but have not been able to distinguish the truth from the myriad of lies, red herrings and unfounded rumours littering the Hoffa landscape.

Every year, it seems, claims from another “reliable source” launch the FBI on a new Hoffa fishing expedition.

The latest unsuccessful search was in June 2013, when the FBI spent three days digging on a property in Oakland, Michigan. The FBI had to do due diligence because the tip came from Tony Zerilli, then 85, the son and successor of longtime Detroit mob boss Joe Zerilli.

Not surprisingly, Tony Z (who said he was flat broke) had a self-published e-book coming out at the same time he was making headlines with his tip to the FBI and — equally not surprising — the land he identified as the burial site of Hoffa’s remains belonged to a mob rival who had replaced Tony Z as boss in Detroit when Zerilli was sent to prison.

And — again not surprisingly — the FBI search came up empty-handed.

But that was more than a year ago, which means it’s time for another old mobster to come out of the woodwork and claim to have the “real” scoop on the death and final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa.

As for the other main characters in this saga, Tony Pro and Tony Jack were both sent to prison for unrelated crimes soon after Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance.

Tony Pro died of a heart attack in prison in 1988.

Tony Jack was released from prison — that time — shortly thereafter and returned to live relatively quietly (but surely not legally) in Detroit, dying in hospital in 2001.

Jimmy Hoffa’s daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, is a retired judge in Missouri and his son, James P. Hoffa, is current president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, as he has been since 1999.

As for Chuckie O’Brien, the “other son” widely suspected of having helped set up Jimmy Hoffa … well, we know Chuckie went to Florida with help from Frank Fitzsimmons after Hoffa’s disappearance.

ChuckieObrien

Chuckie O’Brien in 2006

And there, it seems, he remained although he spent at least a year in prison for lying on a loan application. When last heard of in 2006 (according to the industrious Thom L. Jones), Chuckie was working as a janitor at the University of Miami. By that time, Chuckie was in ill health, having already had two cancer surgeries, a bladder operation and four heart by-pass operations. I think it’s safe to say Chuckie O’Brien is now dead and gone. At the very least, he’s living a life not worth living.

That’s the story of Jimmy Hoffa, whose life almost certainly ended exactly 39 years ago today — and whose mystery took on a larger life of its own at the exact same time.

Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
§
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
0
-
=
Backspace
Tab
q
w
e
r
t
y
u
i
o
p
[
]
Return
capslock
a
s
d
f
g
h
j
k
l
;
\
shift
`
z
x
c
v
b
n
m
,
.
/
shift
English
alt
alt
Preferences

Colour Photos Of World War I

- July 21st, 2014

Reims-1917

A child with her doll in the besieged French city of Reims, 1917.

 

Today — July 28, 2014 — marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

July 28, 1914 was not just in another century: It was in another world, another universe, a lost universe smashed and obliterated by the Great War, then salvaged and re-invented and smashed and obliterated again and again by the events of the 20th Century.

Yet it really wasn’t that long ago. A century is a mere blink of the eye in the grand scheme of things.

Hundreds of thousands of people are alive today who were born before World War I began (as many as 500,000 by some estimates, although exact numbers are impossible to determine).

So it’s a war that is literally within living memory. And many of the flash points that triggered that war are still swirling around in the background of most of today’s crises in Europe and the Middle East.

Gott-strafe-England-1917

Wall graffiti on a French wall, reclaimed by the Allies in 1917 after having been occupied by the Germans. “Gott strafe England” — God strike (or punish) England — was a common cry in Germany during the war, often a mass shout at military gatherings and movie showings and even substituting on occasion for mealtime graces.

 

Yet it seems so long ago, so far away, so disconnected from the world we live in now. Part of that has to do with the way we see the world, experience the world now. The technological advances of that intervening century are astounding — beyond any possible rational belief for anyone who was an adult on July 28, 1914.

Movies were in their infancy then, still black and white, silent and jerky, and the first transcontinental telephone call in the U.S. had only been accomplished the year before war broke out (Canada’s first transcontinental telephone call wouldn’t come until years after the war ended in 1918). The Panama Canal, which transformed international trade and sewed the eastern and western sides of North America together more closely than even the railways did, opened only a few months before the world went to war.

Now we can fly around the world in less time than it takes a cargo ship to negotiate its way through the Panama Canal. And we can record colour movies with our mobile phones, upload the video images and bounce them off a satellite to be picked up by a friend on the other side of the world — in seconds.

So we see and experience a very different world in very different ways now than we did then.

And one of the reasons we now experience that world in such a disconnected way is because almost all of the photos from that time were made in black and white. For eyes accustomed to interpreting what we see as colour images, the jump to black and white — even if we don’t consciously realize it — is alienating.

fr-pissoir-1917

A French pissoir, camouflaged but obviously well behind the front lines, in 1917.

 

TVO is currently running a very good documentary series called Apocalypse: WWI which uses colourized (but originally black and white) film footage to tell the story of the War To End All Wars — and the colourization does make it seem somehow more you-are-there modern. But, like hand-tinted antique photographs whose colours owe as much to imagination as they do to reality, it just doesn’t quite cut it.

Enter the Autochrome photo process.

Although millions of black and white photographs still exist from World War I, people who know about these things say that fewer than 5,000 real colour photographs were made on all the battlefields of Europe and the Middle East during the war — and almost all of them used the Autochrome process.

Crude, complicated colour photography existed as early as the mid-19th Century (only a decade or so after Louis Daguerre gave black and white photography to the world — literally, he renounced patent copyright on the process to make it accessible to everyone).

But the first commercially viable — and successful — colour photographic one-plate process was Autochrome, invented and introduced by French motion-picture pioneers, the Lumiere brothers, in 1907.

Autochrome had some disadvantages — it was very expensive and required long exposure times — but it produced beautiful, vivid, realistic colour one-plate images (if seen in good light). And it was the colour process used almost exclusively by professional photographers in Europe and North America by 1914.

In fact, Autochrome continued to dominate the world of colour photography until Kodak brought out Kodachrome colour film in the mid-1930s.

German-troops-champagne-1914

Above, German troops at a mail depot in Champagne, 1914. Below, French troops before the Battle of the Marne, 1914.

battle-of-the-marne-French-1914

That wonderful, quixotic German publishing house Taschen — which produces some of the most expensive art books in the world but also creates a wide range of beautiful, inexpensive mass-market art, photography, design, culture and erotica books — has just come out with a new book of more than 320 Automchrome photographs to mark the centenary of the start of World War I.

cover-german-edition

The German and English editions of the new Taschen book. The German edition came out first, a month or so ago. I don’t know why they changed the cover photo, but I think I prefer the English-edition cover. The cover photo of the German edition would have been taken about the same time as the earlier photo of French troops at the Battle of the Marne since they are all wearing the bright red pants that were standard French army uniform in 1914. By early 1915 — after months of needlessly high casualties due to the striking visibility of the pants — French troops were issued new all-blue uniforms (that were still more visible than khaki or grey would have been).

cover-Taschen

Most — but not all — of the photos I will show you here are included in that book. Almost all of the photos here are also Autochrome, but two or three aren’t. Unfortunately I don’t remember which two or three aren’t or I would tell you or just eliminate them from this particular collection. So blame my collecting sloppiness but enjoy (if that’s the right word, perhaps “appreciate” would be better) the photos for what they are. Remember, the Autochrome process needed very long exposure times, so you’ll find usually static subject matter chosen. The photos still give you a sense of immediacy and contact that is often missing from similar black and white shots.

The photos are generally from national archives and have been made increasingly available over the past decade, with several exhibits staged in Europe in recent years. Taschen has chosen what they consider the best of the best for their collection. Here’s a link to a private website where you can find some others not included in the Taschen book.

As I said, the Autochrome process was used by professional photographers everywhere, so the images here come from French (Jules Gervais-Courtellemont, Paul Castelnau, Leon Gimpel, Fernand Cuville, Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud) and German (Hans Hildenbrand) and American (Charles Zoller) and even Australian (Frank Hurley) photographers.

french-photographer-Reims-1917

A French photographer looks for a place to set up his camera in the shattered city of Reims, 1917.

German-troops-Berlin-1914

German artillerymen parade through Berlin, 1914.  By the following year, the spiked helmets you see here — designed to deflect sabre slashes from mounted cavalry in the previous century — were no longer being issued for combat purposes but were still being worn for some ceremonial occasions.

German-trenches-1916

Above, German trenches in northern France in 1916. Below, French trenches in the same sector, also in 1916. Note the similar flowers growing on the sides of both trenches. Are they poppies? 

French-trenches-1916

Austrian-soldier-Eastern-Front-1915

Above, an Austrian soldier on the Eastern Front, 1915, and below, French troops on the Western Front, 1917.

French-troops-N-France-1917

french-and-Belgian-troops-in-trench-1917

Above, French and Belgian troops in the trenches, 1917. Below, Canadian sappers with one French soldier, 1917.

Canadian-sappers-and-one-French-soldier-N-France-1917

Western-Front-1916

Above, the Western Front in 1916, and below, in 1917.

N-france-battlefield-1917

no-mans-land-seen-from-French-observ-post-1917

Above, No Man’s Land seen from a French observation post, 1917. Below, another battlefield in Northern France, 1917.

N-france-1917

fr-haircut-at-the-front-1917

Above, French soldiers getting haircuts at the front. Below, Russian soldiers fighting with the French on the Western Front, 1917.

Russian-soldiers-in-Reims-1917

austrian-pow-in-Russia-1915

Above, Austrian prisoners of war in Russia, 1915. Below, Scottish prisoners in Germany.

scottish-POWs-in-Germany

French-field-hospital

Above, a French field hospital. Below, a British ambulance.

British-amblulance-1914

Camel-ambulances-Palestine-1918

Above, camel ambulances in Palestine, 1918. Below, the Australian Light Horse Brigade in Palestine, 1917.

Australian-lighthorse-brigade-palestine-1917-frank-hurley

 

algerian-spahis-N-France-1917

Above, Algerian spahis in northern France, 1917. Below, a soldier from French Indochina in northern France.

french-soldier-from-indo-china

Senegalese-artilleryman-1917

Above, a Senegalese artilleryman. Below, a French army chaplain.

french-army-chaplain

 

french-and-belgian-military-gendarmes-1917

Above, Belgian and French military policemen. Below, French sailors.

french-sailors

French-biplane-Caudron-G3-1914

Above, a French Caudron G3 biplane, 1914. Below, the French airship Alsace, shot down behind German lines in 1915. The airship’s crew survived but were taken prisoner.

French-airship-Alsace-shot-down-near-Rethel-3Oct1915-crew-taken-prisoner

Verdun-1916

Above, Verdun, 1916. Below, Reims, 1917.

Reims

Captured-British-tank-with-German-markings-destroyed-1918

A destroyed German tank, 1918. The tank is actually British, but captured by the Germans and given new markings. Most of the tanks operated by the German army were captured equipment. The German high command was late in accepting the tank’s value and, as a result, produced fewer than two dozen tanks of German design before the war ended. 

Arc-de-Triumphe-victory-celebration-14Juli1919

Arc de Triomphe victory celebration in Paris, 1919.

 

Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
§
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
0
-
=
Backspace
Tab
q
w
e
r
t
y
u
i
o
p
[
]
Return
capslock
a
s
d
f
g
h
j
k
l
;
\
shift
`
z
x
c
v
b
n
m
,
.
/
shift
English
alt
alt
Preferences

The Dickeys of Toronto: A Family Saga Spanning Centuries And Continents — Part 1

- July 16th, 2014

Toronto-waterfront-1873

A bird’s eye view of Toronto from over the lake, 1873. Click on the image to enlarge it.

 

This started out as a short, simple, straight-forward story about a city, a house and a man.

Then, like most things in my life, it got complicated.

The house I’m referring to is the High Victorian mansion Sir John A. Macdonald owned in Toronto from 1876 to 1886 and which was his family’s principal residence for the first two years of that decade of ownership.

The house is located at 63 St. George Street on the University of Toronto campus. It  is surprisingly unknown despite being an important landmark — one of the very few still existing — of the deep and important relationship between this city and Canada’s first, best and greatest (perhaps “grandest” would be a better word) prime minister.

63-St-George-front

The building is still in relatively good shape — but has been treated by its current owners (U of T) with what might charitably be described as benign neglect and with what must truthfully be described as utter disrespect over the past century.

I recently wrote an entire blog post on that situation, which you can find here.

Here’s the historical plaque beside the house at 63 St. George Street. (It still rankles me that it’s called the “Macdonald-Mowat House” and not just “Sir John A. Macdonald’s Toronto House” … but never mind. And I definitely wouldn’t call the eclectic building style “French Second Empire” … but never mind about that either.)

Macdonald-plaque

One thing that intrigued me about the plaque was the reference to its builder, “Nathaniel Dickey, a Toronto iron founder.”

When seen properly the house really is quite beautiful — interesting, anyway, sort of like Gérard Depardieu’s face — and was situated in what would have been a magnificent setting at the time. It is large and certainly would have cost a fortune to build.

So why, I wondered, would Nathaniel Dickey — an obviously established and prosperous businessman — build his dream house in 1872 only to turn around just a few years later and sell it to Sir John A.? Was it the result of a personal tragedy or a business collapse or a simple change of heart? Perhaps the house — on the northwestern outskirts of the city when it was built — was just too far away from Nathaniel Dickey’s place of business and he got tired of the daily commute.

I would love to show you a photo of Nathaniel Dickey right now … but I can’t. I’ve worn out my eyes and my fingers and heart looking for any kind of pictorial representation of Mr. Dickey. With no success. BUT I know a picture of Nathaniel Dickey exists somewhere and I’m bound and determined to find it and show it to you. Why do I know it exists for certain? Because Nathaniel Dickey was a member of Toronto City Council for most of the 1860s, and local politicians were camera hogs back then just as much as they are now. So somewhere there’s a sepia-tone image of Nathaniel Dickey scrunching closer to Mayor Bowes or Mayor Medcalf or Mayor Smith at the official ribbon-cutting for a public horse trough or the opening of a new brewery. I know it’s there and I’ll find it. Someday. I promise.

So I looked into Nathaniel Dickey. I had an itch to know the background to his story and — the most important thing, from my point of view at the time — the story of the house that Nathaniel Dickey built.

It was actually fairly easy to get an early quick-fix on Nathaniel Dickey. Which was good, because I saw the Dickey connection as merely a footnote to the much more important Macdonald story.

But one thing led to another, one bit of information raised questions which led to another door, which opened into a hallway with half a dozen more doors (some just closed, others locked tight). And those new doors led to still more doors and still more questions. And behind many of those doors was completely contradictory information. You get the picture.

Thus my short, simple, straight-forward story turned into “a family saga spanning centuries and continents.” And only “Part 1″ to boot. Lordy.

I doubt that many people will continue with me on this whole journey, but I welcome those who do and wish us all good luck. This thing will evolve over time as new facts and perspectives come to light, so I will add updates as seems appropriate.

But right now I have to start writing something; it’s better to make changes later than to wait until I think I know everything about the subject, a day that will never come. Besides, I don’t want to make the story of one family with which I have absolutely no connection (apart from curiosity) my life’s work. I still have Rob Ford and Steve Harper and Vlad Putin to deal with.

So let’s start with my entry point into the story of Nathaniel Dickey, iron founder, and his family. That would be this biographical sketch on Nathaniel’s brother James from Volume II of the 1885 History of Toronto and County of York published by C. Blackett Robinson.

1885-bio-James-1

1885-bio-james-2

It all seems straight-forward enough, doesn’t it? The two immigrant Dickey brothers “retired” in 1876, the same year Nathaniel sold his house to Macdonald, and turned over the successful business to their brother-in-law and partner, John Neil (or Neill — it goes back and forth all over the place).

Keep moving, folks, nothing to look at here. Except …

Except when you do keep looking, so much of that brief entry turns out to be coverup or disputed or just plain wrong.

For starters, both of the Dickey brothers were just in their early 40s at the time — in the prime of life, career-wise, and certainly nowhere near an age any entrepreneur with gumption would retire either then or now. And neither of those Dickey boys was what you would call “retiring” in a commercial, social, political, legal or militant sense either.

So let’s go back, as best we can, to the beginning of the Dickey saga and see where it takes us.

The Dickey family was what used to be known as “Scotch Irish” — poor Scottish Protestant farmers and labourers recruited by the English (and Scottish) King James I in the first two decades of the 17th Century to colonize Ireland and subdue the rebellious Catholic natives.

I’ll tell you which Dickey made that crossing of the North Channel soon enough, but we can trace the family line back five generations before that to one Scottish landowner named Robert Dik who was born in 1463 in the reign of the fifth Scottish Stewart king and who sired eight children before he died at the ripe old age (for that time) of 75 in 1538 in the reign of the seventh Stewart sovereign, father of the notable (and beheaded) Mary.

(NOTE: The name is spelled both Stewart and Stuart but since it comes from a man known as “Robert the Steward” I think the “Stewart” spelling is probably more faithful to the origin.)

Before Robert Dik died, the family surname had become Dickey and, with eight children to carry on the line, a huge number of people now named Dickey — perhaps all of them, for all I know — can count Robert Dik as their ancestor.

We move ahead half a century and move from the fields and farms of rural lowland Scotland to the shops and houses of urban Glasgow where John Dickey III was born in 1584 (about 20 years after Shakespeare was born, although neither John Dickey III, his children nor his children’s children would have ever heard the name Shakespeare). John had the misfortune to lose his parents in his early teens but at least his father had been a  successful small merchant and left the boy with some property and what appeared to be a modestly comfortable future.

Until disaster struck in the form of Glasgow’s Great Fire of 1601. Everything the 17-year-old owned was burned to the ground and he was left penniless.

So poor and without prospects in his native land, John Dickey III was a prime candidate to join the flotilla of Scottish Protestant colonizers sent across the narrow sea of the North Channel to conquer Ireland a few years later by James I, King of Great Britain, as he styled himself.

ScottishU-landlords

At this point, the English had been trying to subdue Ireland for centuries — since at least the Norman period — with varying degrees of success. And the Gaelic Irish had been resisting — with varying degrees of success — for centuries.

This latest attempt at subjugation was focused on the northern part of Ireland known as Ulster not so much because it was closest to Scotland, but because Irish resistance had been strongest in Ulster and the English wanted to replace the most rebellious Irish Catholics with loyal and dependable Scottish Protestant subjects.

So John Dickey III was one of those who came in and drove off the Irish, built fortified towns and established what was known as the Ulster plantation.

At almost exactly the same time as the English were planting themselves in colonies on the inhospitable shores of wild America, the Scots were planting themselves in colonies on the green but equally hostile terrain of wild Ireland.

John Dickey III died in Ballymenas, Antrim, in 1641, having fathered three children and established the Dickey family in Ireland.

What followed is known as the Ascendancy, the establishment of a minority Protestant elite ruling over a disenfranchised Catholic majority, with its high point being Protestant William of Orange’s defeat of Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Now not all the Protestant “Scotch Irish” made it into this ascendant elite. A lot of them were relatively poor tenant farmers and tradesmen — but all of them were better off than the impoverished Gaelic Catholic masses, received at least a smattering of education, had more opportunities for advancement and had more rights and privileges. And they fought to hold on to those advantages.

irish-rebellion

The Dickey family weaved through all this turmoil, surviving and growing and staying mostly grounded in Antrim.

By the early 1700s “Nathaniel” was an established name in the Dickey family. And by the time our Nathaniel Dickey emigrated to Canada with his brother James in 1847, he was the sixth generation of his family in direct succession to be named “Nathaniel.” (Our Nathaniel for some reason didn’t name any of his children Nathaniel, although one — born W. Arthur Dickey in Toronto in 1869 — appears to have later changed his name by deed poll to Nathaniel Adam Dickey as an adult in the U.S.)

One of those earlier Nathaniels was quite famous as a leader of Methodists in Ulster who broke with the parent church in 1798 over the right of the people to choose their own ministers. I don’t want to get caught up in the intricacies of Methodism’s schism any more than I wanted to step into the whole Irish Catholic-Protestant quagmire. Suffice it to say, the Dickeys’ standing rose within the lower ranges of Scotch-Irish Ulster society but still did not elevate them into the elite.

The family had moved to Lisburn  (still in Antrim) just south of Belfast by the time our Nathaniel’s grandfather (also named Nathaniel, of course) died there at age 71 in 1828.

(If you’re a Dickey genealogist, you may have come across some information saying this Nathaniel was our Nathaniel’s father, not grandfather. Couldn’t be: Our Nathaniel was born in 1829 — not 1826 as is often erroneously reported — the year after that Nathaniel died, and several of our Nathaniel’s siblings were born even later. The plethora of “Nathaniel Dickey” namesakes probably led to the confusion. It was our Nathaniel’s brother James, by the way, who was born in 1826. In the 1881 Canadian census, James lists his age as 55 and Nathaniel lists his age as 52, ages which coincide with the 1826 and 1829 birth years.)

Now one thing that’s interesting here is that our Nathaniel’s grandfather was married to a “Quakeress” (name unknown — which indicates the information on the gravestone was supplied much later and with sketchy authority) so the family was obviously not dogmatically rigid at this time.

Anyway … our Nathaniel Dickey was born in Lisburn, as were siblings James, John, Thomas, William, Robert, Adam, Samuel and Sarah. Quite a crowd. Too many to be supported by one family farm.

Fortunately for the Dickeys, the Industrial Revolution came along just in time to provide factory work for some of the increasing number of farm folk headed for the cities and towns.

old-belfast

And also fortunately for the Dickeys, they were Protestant Scotch-Irish with a basic education, so they were considered employable by the other Protestant Scotch-Irish who owned the factories.

James for sure and almost certainly Nathaniel and possibly one or two other younger brothers were engaged as apprentice machinists in the MacAdam Brothers’ Soho Foundries in Belfast.

Like many iron foundries around the world, the Belfast Soho operation was named in honour of the original Soho Foundry in Birmingham, where James Watt developed the first truly efficient steam engines, thus making the Industrial Revolution possible. Steam engines and turbines and boilers were the cutting edge of technology in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, so calling your iron foundry Soho was a little like independent computer designers today calling their operations “Apple” — the difference being that people could get away with it 200 years ago. And it was, after all, a mark of respect and homage. Keep that in mind when the name Soho Foundry comes up later.

Anyway, several of the young Dickeys got their grounding in mechanical engineering and iron foundering with the MacAdams. The Belfast Soho Foundries built steam engines and turbines (as well as spinning machines) for mills throughout Britain and even exported some of their engines as far away as Egypt.

So the Dickeys are now gathering in Belfast in the mid-1840s. And this is where we will pause.

The Great Famine of 1845-50 is about to descend on Ireland and blow the entire Dickey family (in several waves) across the Atlantic to Canada. But we’ll get to that in a few days. I’m still opening doors and poking in the Dickey family closets. I am, after all, Nosey Parker.

See you soon.

 

 

 

Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
§
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
0
-
=
Backspace
Tab
q
w
e
r
t
y
u
i
o
p
[
]
Return
capslock
a
s
d
f
g
h
j
k
l
;
\
shift
`
z
x
c
v
b
n
m
,
.
/
shift
English
alt
alt
Preferences

John A. Macdonald’s Hidden Toronto Treasure

- July 6th, 2014

John-A-Macdonald-in-1873

As we stumble through the summer toward John A. Macdonald’s  200th birthday on Jan. 11, 2015, I want to take a few minutes to consider the grand old man — and especially his relationship to Toronto.

After all, as Richard Gwyn so aptly put it a few years ago, “No Macdonald would have meant no Canada.”

Period.

John A. had a long and intimate relationship with the city of Toronto and I really don’t think we pay enough attention to that relationship or to the man himself.

John A. was more than just a Father of Confederation. He was the Father of Confederation. He was as much “the father of his country” in Canada as George Washington was “the father of his country” in the United States.

Pretty much everything Washington touched in the U.S. is now a national shrine and “Washington slept here” signs litter the Eastern Seaboard like so many McDonald’s Golden Arches.

In Canada it’s a different story when it comes to the father of our country. Oh sure, there are a few plaques and statues (like at Queen’s Park) here and there. And a couple of his former residences are national historic sites.

But the beautiful Italianate Bellevue manor that is now a must-see heritage site in Kingston was just a rented property that Macdonald and his first wife Isabella lived in for less than two years before their first child was born.

Bellevue

earnscliffe

As for Earnscliffe, Macdonald’s stately home in Ottawa for the last decade of his life and the place where he died in 1891 … well, that’s been owned by the British government since it became their High Commissioner’s official residence in 1930 — and most ordinary Canadian citizens will never get to set foot inside it, or even walk through the gardens. Harrumph.

Now, John A. Macdonald owned a lot of properties in his life. He was, after all, a profligate real estate speculator throughout his adulthood (although not a very successful one — and one who seemed to be a rather bad judge of character when it came to choosing investment partners).

Yet he actually owned surprisingly few of the houses he and his immediate family lived in— a couple in Kingston, a couple in Ottawa … and one in Toronto. (Please feel free to correct me if I’m missing any; I’d rather be properly informed than momentarily right.)

For the most part he rented or leased residential properties for his own wives and children and usually did the same for the wider clan of relatives he supported (and often housed) throughout his life.

Agnes-and-baby-Mary

And — especially during the peripatetic decades of the 1840s, ’50s and early ’60s when the government seat of the Province of Canada (East and West) wandered between Quebec City and Montreal and Kingston and Toronto before Queen Victoria put her foot down and declared buggy little backwater Ottawa the permanent capital — Macdonald was just as likely to be staying at a hotel or lodging house or crashing at a friend’s place after a night on the town.

Even in the early 1870s, when the knighted John A. had been prime minister of Canada for half a decade and was lionized as his country’s chief founding father, when visiting Toronto for politics or business he would often just make use of a spare bed in his son Hugh John’s apartment on Carlton Street.

So a house that Sir John A. Macdonald actually owned and in which he lived a considerable part of his domestic life is a rare thing, something to be treasured. Especially if it is (or was) a beautiful, interesting building in and of itself.

Toronto actually has one such wonderful structure.

And we ignore it. Treat it in a pretty shabby manner, to tell the truth.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a blog post I’ve just done on the man who built the house that this whole post is about. The first part of his story, anyway.

For starters, I doubt that many people can tell me where this particular building is without looking it up on the Internet. That’s a pretty damning indictment right there, that the people supposedly protecting and promoting Canada’s rich heritage have done such a terrible job protecting and promoting this particular important slice of our past.

And the people who now own the building have actually gone out of their way to deface and disrespect the property over the past 15 or 20 years.

Stand up and take a shamefaced bow, University of Toronto. Knox College, to be precise.

Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. It’s not a complete dump. U of T slapped a few coats of paint on over the years and did some renovations a decade or so ago.

But …

They haven’t done much more than that. Take a look at this photo, especially note the miniature grain elevator stuck to the left side of the building. That’s an external fire escape enclosed in … metal siding. (These photos look much better than the place does in real life. But at least they show what the place can be.)

63-st-george-fire-escape

Gee, I wonder which U of T wiseguy thought, “Hey, let’s take a classic mid-Victorian mansion once occupied — and owned, a rarity — by the first prime minister of Canada and slap a bunch of sheet metal on the side to … what, cover up the hideous sight of a mandatory fire escape? … protect the 13 post-grad students inside from the horror of climbing down said exposed fire escape in the middle of winter (every, what, 10,000 or 20,000 days)? … be used as an emergency grain elevator when U of T comes under attack from Ryerson in the College Wars?”

Or whatever. There is no good or acceptable reason for putting sheet metal on the side of a national heritage site of historical and architectural significance. For any reason.

Welcome to 63 St. George Street in the heart (now) of Toronto. When John A. lived there it was the wild western suburbs, with open fields on the other side of St. George where the hulking U of T department of chemistry now squats.

63-St-George-map

Here’s another view of the house where our first — and most important, ever — prime minister lived in Toronto from 1876 to 1878. (Nice air-conditioner boxes in the heritage-house windows, by the way.)

63-St-George-front

This is the proper view because the frontage of the building actually faces south. The photo is taken from St. George Street looking north-east.

You can walk down (or cycle down, as I usually do) St. George and never even notice No. 63 because it’s a relatively plain front on the St. George side.  That’s because the house was built with a south frontage, looking out over broad, treed expanses to the lake (since you could actually see the lake from the rise at that time) and surrounded by wide expanses of open, green … semi-emptiness.

St. George Street was just the sandy delivery route. Would you rather have that on the front of your house or the side of your house? You know the answer.

This is an appropriate time to show the official Ontario plaque that stand in front of 63 St. George Street — well, not so much front and centre but more off to the side.

Macdonald-plaque

I’ll tell you more about the house’s builder — “Nathaniel Dickey, a Toronto iron founder” — and his incredible family (and why he had to sell his dream house to Macdonald in early 1876) in a few days.

Here’s another look at the front of John A’s principal Toronto residence.

garbage-cans

Thank you, Knox College, for placing your garbage cans as close as you possibly can to Sir John A. Macdonald’s principal habitation in Toronto. Well done, sirs and madams, well done. This is definitely a theological institution/university college that has its historical head screwed on straight.

Not that John A. bought a house squashed up against a dark and dreary Gothic monstrosity.

No, when John A. bought the house in 1876, it was a suburban paradise — free and wild —facing open fields and backing on to the wide-open grounds of University College. The area was so wild then, the two or three residences on St. George didn’t even have address numbers.

Here’s what the great Donald Creighton had to say in The Old Chieftain, the second volume of his 1950s biography of John A. Macdonald:

“That autumn, after another long and peaceful summer at Riviere du Loup, he moved up to Toronto. For the past eighteen months, he had been spending a good deal of time there, but as a guest and lodger, not as a householder; and in the city directory, he was listed discreetly, without specific residence, as “of Ottawa and Toronto”. Now at last the definite move was made, and the transplanted Macdonald family established in a house, belonging to T. C. Patteson of the Toronto Mail, which stood on the east side of Sherbourne Street, a little north of Carlton Street.

“It was a long, low, flat-fronted place, built of grey stock brick, with a single gable over the central entrance. The grounds were spacious and gently rolling; Sherbourne Street was only a peaceful sandy lane; and away to the north-east, towards Parliament Street, were open commons where Patteson had exercised his horses. It was comfortable and quiet enough on Sherbourne Street; but Macdonald had taken the house on only a short lease, and he had no intention of staying there permanently.

“He had his eye on a large property on St. George Street, close to University College, in a suburb which was distinguished, though perhaps not so fashionable as Jarvis Street. The St. George Street house would certainly be a large investment. But was not everything really settled? It was so obviously sensible for him to establish himself in Toronto. His firm had its head office there. He had scores of amusing friends and acquaintances in the city; and one of his old colleagues in the Conservative Cabinet, Charles Tupper, had also moved to Toronto and resumed his medical practice. They were both settling down into a species of comfortable semi-retirement.

“And why not? Macdonald was getting on. They were all getting on. He was conscious of his sixty years, of time’s increasingly peremptory reminders of its passage, of the disappearance of comfortingly familiar circumstances, of the arrival of strange and disturbing problems. “‘We are all getting old,’ he told his brother-in-law, Professor Williamson, ‘and have earned rest.’”

(By the way, that rented residence on Sherbourne north of Carlton is long gone now. The land where it stood is now occupied by the parish hall of Sacré Coeur Church.)

Sacre-Coeur-Church

But back to 63 St. George Street a bit later in Creighton’s The Old Chieftain …

“In Toronto (in 1876), he was settling down into an easy professional existence, as into a well-upholstered arm-chair. The new house on St. George Street, in its pleasant rural and academic setting, with University College nearby and the open countryside to the north and west, was at last nearly ready for occupation. A swarm of carpenters and painters had invaded the building and every day Agnes went up the muddy road to mark their progress. By May, he hoped, the place would be ready for them.

“Spring came, the removal was accomplished, the morning and everiing journey between St. George Street and Toronto Street became the steady habit appropriate to the householder and the professional man. But he could not settle down. He did not want to settle down…”

Let’s take a look at what John A.’s Toronto house would have looked like when he bought it — at least what the setting would have looked like. What is now 63 St. George Street is the building encircled in yellow. A dowdy addition now tacked onto the back of the building didn’t exist in John A.’s day. The original house was a well-proportioned and elegant manor facing south over sweeping, treed lawns. If you click on the photo, it will enlarge to give you a much better view of the image.

birds-eye-view-of-toronto-1876-63-St-George

This is a detail from Peter Albert Gross’s amazing pictoral map known as “A Bird’s Eye View of Toronto, 1876.”

I’ll tell you more another time about Gross, an itinerant Pennsylvania German artist (and a fascinating guy) who moved to France … after drawing every single building in Toronto.  Really. Here’s how the whole thing looks. (Again, click on the map to get an enlarged image — although one not nearly as big as a version of the map I’ll point you to momentarily.)

Birs-eye-view-Toronto-1876-whole-map-marked

Gross spent almost three years walking through the city of 60,000 sketching every one of the 14,000 public and private buildings there — from grand halls to hospitals to factories to saloons (as they were called, not taverns) to houses to shacks to stables — then stitched them all together for publication as this bird’s eye view lithograph that still amazes and delights.

Here’s a link to the full, detailed map on the U of T library website where you can scale up and down to get as much overview or fine detail of what Toronto looked liked in the 1870s as you want. The little images above don’t do the map justice. Call up the real thing and wallow in it.

So yes, U of T has done a good thing by making this beautiful map available to us in all its glory.

But U of T has also done a bad thing by ignoring and neglecting the mansion owned by Sir John A. Macdonald ever since Knox College bought the property in 1910 — and began building their enormous building just a laneway’s width from the front door of the Macdonald house … and blocking it from the sun half the time too … and then adding insult to injury by piling up their dumpsters right there.

Now U of T seems to be trying to make amends. Sort of.

Tucked away on its “donate.utoronto.ca” website, the university has a little blurb that says this:

“In honour of Sir John A. Macdonald’s 200th birthday, we invite you to support the restoration of one of U of T’s most prominent landmarks by making a contribution today.”

john_a-_macdonald_-_brady

Well, that’s nice as far as it goes. But it doesn’t give one a lot of hope that they’re actually committed to a serious restoration, does it?

Besides, they’ve already spent a century blocking the house from view (and the sun) and ignoring it and adding those monstrous sheet-metal fire-escape sheaths and turning it into a dumpy admin office. (It’s used as the student services building for the school of graduate studies.)

I really don’t think U of T deserves to be in charge of this piece of Toronto’s John A. Macdonald heritage. I think the building should be taken away from U of T and turned into a proper museum and resource centre showing John A. Macdonald’s  rich and varied relationship with this city.

It’s the least we can do for a man who did so much for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
§
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
0
-
=
Backspace
Tab
q
w
e
r
t
y
u
i
o
p
[
]
Return
capslock
a
s
d
f
g
h
j
k
l
;
\
shift
`
z
x
c
v
b
n
m
,
.
/
shift
English
alt
alt
Preferences

Sorry, Mike, Ford will ‘eff it up’

- June 29th, 2014

 

Let’s get this straight — Mike Strobel is my friend and I admire him as a human being and as a writer and as a straight shooter when it comes to … well, anything.

And Mike is currently wishing Rob Ford good speed in his addiction recovery and return to the pressure cooker of politics — both public and family. Good for Mike. I hope he’s right. For all our sakes. I’m just pretty darn sure he isn’t.

Ford is coming back slimmed down and full of energy and swearing he’s a recovered addict — again. Been there, done that.

Serious addiction recovery rates generally break down into thirds — a third recover, a third are recidivists (that means they go back to doing their bad shit again and again and again until they go back to rehab and start the cycle again), and a third die within a few years.

I really hope Ford is in the third that recovers, but I don’t think he is.

Oh sure, he’ll be fine through the summer. But he’s only gone through two months of rehab, for God’s sake. Normal rehab guidelines say six months of rehab just get you to the point where you have a fighting chance to be in the winning third — no guarantees.

So Rob Ford’s six-months probation (just the bare beginning) comes up around election day. If he wins — and you’re a fool if you count out that possibility — I think he’ll celebrate with a snort or a huff or a stiff drink.

And if he doesn’t that particular night, he will want to some time soon after. And with the pressures of office and the enablers surrounding him and the myriad of opportunities available to him, I can pretty much guarantee a re-elected Rob Ford will be apologizing to us again within a year of his re-election.

Do you really want that — for either him or us?

I won’t vote for him because I have a firm personal rule that I never vote for politicians who are dumb enough to be caught lying to me.

I didn’t vote for him in the last municipal election for a variety of different reasons, but he actually did some good things during his first year in office. Then he went off the tracks.

So he had one good year and three bad years. That’s not a positive ratio.

I think he’s still off the tracks.

A  big part of being Mayor of Toronto with only one of 45 votes on council is building consensus — being a leader, in other words. In the past three years, Rob Ford has kicked the stuffing out of that proposition. He’s a one-man band. Sorry, I forgot about Doug — a two-man band, with a couple of yapping dogs running around them.

But not a majority. Never a majority. Sometimes the Fords are on the right side of a winning council vote, but it’s not their doing any more.

When Rob Ford begins his mantra of apology over the next few weeks, I want to see if he apologizes for — among many other things — being such an asshole in the past three years that he alienated almost every single natural ally he had on council.

If he does that, I might consider forgiving him for lying to us — again and again and again.

I still won’t vote for him because he’s a serial liar. But I might forgive him.

 

Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
Preferences
§
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
0
-
=
Backspace
Tab
q
w
e
r
t
y
u
i
o
p
[
]
Return
capslock
a
s
d
f
g
h
j
k
l
;
\
shift
`
z
x
c
v
b
n
m
,
.
/
shift
English
alt
alt
Preferences