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Looking for clues about OUP Canada in an early photograph

By Thorin Tritter

I had the pleasure of writing the chapter about Oxford University Press’s early operations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand for volume three of the new History of Oxford University Press. A photo editor added an early photograph of the first home to the Canadian branch as the cover image for my chapter. It is a photograph I have seen before, but to be honest, I had previously not looked at it very closely. One thing that did catch my eye was the lack of a date for the image. Neither the current photo editor, nor any of the writers and editors who included the same image in the booklet produced for the 100th anniversary of the Canadian branch in 2004, were able to concretely identify when the photograph was taken. I am hoping that some of the readers of this blog will be able to help. Perhaps someone with more knowledge about Canadian automobiles would be able to provide some help?

We do have quite a bit of information about the building that is useful and a close look at the picture offers several additional clues. We know, for example, that the first office opened at 25 Richmond Street West in Toronto on 10 August 1904, so the photograph must be from after 1904. The signage to the right of the entrance provides another bookend date. The sign reads “Doubleday Page & Co.” In 1927 Doubleday Page merged with the George H. Doran Company and took the name Doubleday Moran, so the photograph is almost certainly from before 1927. Lack of fire damage narrows it a bit further, as a fire burned through this building on 20 October 1927, gutting the top floor and forcing the branch to move out — finally settling into Amen House on University Avenue in 1929.


Some of the other signage on the building is also useful. Notably the building carries “Clarendon Building” on its cornice, pushing the earliest date to 1905. When the branch initially opened, it took over an existing lease in the building that was then owned by a Mr. Gowler. Less than a month later, the owner was offered twice as much rent by another prospective tenant and it appeared that the branch would have to find a new home when its lease expired in June 1906. The Press responded by purchasing the entire building, closing on the deal on 2 January 1905. It would have been after that date that the Press added its name to the building and put up what appear to be OUP seals on the second story windows.

Another photograph included in the 100th anniversary booklet produced by OUP Canada in 2004 offers one further clue that suggests the picture is from after 1913. That picture, taken from a slightly different angle, shows a street sign directly in front of the building that reads “Henry Frowde – Oxford Bibles.” Frowde, of course, was the Publisher to the University and the man behind the opening of branches in New York in 1896, Toronto in 1904, and Melbourne in 1908. That sign, however, is not present in this image, perhaps because it was taken after his retirement from the Press in 1913.

My own guess is that the photograph is from much closer to 1927 than 1913, but if anyone has other insights, I’d be eager to hear them.

Thorin Tritter taught history and American studies for six years at Princeton University. He has directed the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s History Scholars program since its inception in 2003 and currently is the managing director of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.

With access to extensive archives, The History of Oxford University Press is the first complete scholarly history of the Press, detailing its organization, publications, trade, and international development. Read previous blog posts about the history of Oxford University Press.

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