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Toronto Telegram

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Toronto Telegram
Toronto Telegram (front page).jpg
Owner(s)John Ross Robertson; John Bassett - part owner
Political alignmentPopulism, Conservative
Ceased publication1971
HeadquartersToronto Telegram Building (now part of Commerce Court) and later 444 Front Street West, Toronto, Ontario

The Toronto Evening Telegram was a conservative, broadsheet afternoon newspaper published in Toronto from 1876 to 1971. It had a reputation for supporting the Conservative Party at the federal and provincial level. The paper competed with the liberal The Toronto Star. "The Tely" strongly supported Canada's imperial connection with Britain[1] as late as the 1960s.


The Toronto Evening Telegram was founded in 1876 by publisher John Ross Robertson. He had borrowed $10,000 to buy the assets of The Liberal, a defunct newspaper,[2] and published his first edition of 3,800 copies on April 18, 1876.[1] The Telegram's editor from 1876 to 1888 was Alexander Fraser Pirie (1849-1903), a native of Guelph. Pirie had worked for the Guelph Herald which was his father's paper. The newspaper became the voice of working-class, conservative Orange (Protestant) Toronto. In 1881, Robertson erected a building for the paper at the southeast corner of King and Bay Streets, on Melinda Street.[3] John R. Robinson succeeded Pirie as editor-in-chief in 1888 and held that position until his death 40 years later.

The Telegram focused on local issues[1] and became the largest circulation daily in Toronto, but lost that position in 1932 to The Toronto Star and never regained it.[2] During the early 20th century, The Tely (as it was popularly known) was one of the first Canadian newspapers to introduce Saturday (and in 1957, Sunday) colour comics section (which by its later years spanned two sections), and a radio (and after 1952, television) magazine with listings for the entire week. Following the death of Robertson's widow in 1947 (Robertson had died in 1918), the paper was bought by George McCullagh, the publisher of The Globe and Mail, for $3.6 million.[2] "Evening" was dropped from the paper's name in 1949.

McCullagh died in 1952 and the paper was then purchased by John Bassett for $4.25 million[2] with money borrowed from the Eaton family.[1] In March 1957, the paper introduced a Sunday edition—the first Toronto paper to do so—and was threatened by the Ontario attorney-general with charges under the province's Lord's Day Act.[4] The Sunday edition was unsuccessful and ceased publication after four months.[1] In December 1959, Bassett bought a 3.6-acre (15,000 m2) property on Front Street West and in 1963 moved the Telegram to a new building at that location from the site at Bay and Melinda Street where the paper had been produced since 1899. At the same time, Telegram Corporation acquired majority interest in Toronto TV station CFTO-TV.

In July 1964, the International Typographical Union called a strike at the Telegram, the Star, and The Globe and Mail. All three papers continued to publish, despite the strike.

The Telegram lost $635,000 in 1969 and $921,000 in 1970, and was on pace to lose another $900,000 in 1971 when it was shut down by Bassett in October 1971, just as a strike was looming.[5] Many employees moved to the Toronto Sun, which launched at the same time the Telegram shut down. The Telegram's subscriber list was sold to the Toronto Star for $10 million. The Star also leased the Telegram's Front Street facility, which was sold to The Globe and Mail.

In the book The Death of the Toronto Telegram (1971), former Telegram writer Jock Carroll describes the decline of the paper, and provides many anecdotes about the Canadian newspaper business from the 1950s until 1970.

York University's library holds about 500,000 prints and 830,000 negatives of pictures taken by the Telegram's photographers. Over 13,000 images are currently searchable on line, with more appearing on a regular basis.

Notable staff members

Well-known reporters, editors, columnists and cartoonists included:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Tely's 95 years: How the Old Lady went mod," John Brehl, Toronto Daily Star, September 18, 1971, p. 6.
  2. ^ a b c d "Founder John Ross Robertson made the Telegram explosive force in life of Toronto," Ralph Hyman, The Globe and Mail, September 20, 1971, p. 8.
  3. ^ "Goad's Fire Insurance Maps". Toronto: Chas. E. Goad. 1903.
  4. ^ "Prosecutions put Lord's Day Act on spot--Queen's Park," Toronto Daily Star, March 20, 1957, p. 1.
  5. ^ "Negotiators given mandate for strike in Telegram dispute," Wilfred List, The Globe and Mail, September 17, 1971, p. 5.
  6. ^ "Toronto reporter and writer Gordon Donaldson dies at 74," Expositor, Brantford, Ontario: June 12, 2001, pg. A.24.

Further reading

External links

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Robarts Library, University of Toronto. Archival and photograph collection of J. Douglas MacFarlane's newspaper career in Toronto.

This page was last edited on 22 September 2020, at 13:21
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