Lost and Found

Banner photo is of King St looking east to Jordan in 1867.  Courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

I have to say, thinking on it now, that I’ve been very lucky in not having ever really lost anything.  I don’t mean this in a grand, life sense – as in losing loved ones, or losing perspective or direction.  No, I mean it very literally, as in I’ve never had something drop out of my pocket and then later thought “Oh crap, where’d that go?”  But if I did (which is quite likely now because I’ve jinxed myself ) there’d be some decent options available to me for tracking it down.  I could, for instance, post my loss on any number of social media sites.  I could also tape up signs around the neighbourhood, and probably even buy a little space in the local papers, if it came to that.

But – and this won’t surprise you, I’m sure – long, long ago, in Toronto’s early days, the options were a fair bit more limited.   It goes without saying, I hope, that there was no such thing as the internet.  But sure, you could put up a flyer – though with paper being something of a luxury item in the early 19th century, few would’ve been able to afford a proper postering blitz, like you could have today.   So really, there was just “word of mouth,” which happily didn’t cost a thing, and newspaper ads, which you had to pay for but which would be assured to reach the widest audience possible.

Well, if you’ve visited this site before, I’m sure you have an idea where I’m going with this.  If you guessed “I bet we’re going to look at some old newspapers”, you’re right!  So, if you’ll just come with me, we’ll head back to 19th century Toronto and see what sorts of things people were losing.

Gold Brooch Canadian Freeman February 8 1827
From the Canadian Freeman, February 8th, 1827.

While you can imagine the upset the loss of this brooch must’ve caused, you do wonder that the advertiser didn’t try a little harder to help readers find it.  I mean, saying “lost about two months ago” and “in York” aren’t exactly great clues.  But here’s the search area in 1827, if you’d like to give it a shot:

Chewett's 1827 Map of York
Chewett’s 1827 Map of York, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

Now here we have another piece of missing jewelry – there’s no information on where it was lost, but at least there’s a concrete place (well, wood) to turn it in for the $2 reward:

Gold locket with Blue Enamel The Globe September 4 1865
From The Globe, September 4th, 1865.

As mentioned in the notice, the locket could be returned to the Carson & Co Photograph Gallery at King and Yonge, which was here:

King St. W., looking west from Yonge St., Toronto, Ont. Carson and CO would be neighbour of Staunton 1870 TPL
The Carson & Co Photograph Gallery occupied the storefront with the first awning to the left of the Room Paper Warehouse, as seen here in 1870. Away in the distance, you can also see the English Chop House.  There really wasn’t a lot of mystery about most 19th century business names, was there?  “Ya want a chop? Here ya go, feller.” “Some room paper for ya? Sure, sure, how much ya be needin’?” Courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

Yet another piece of jewelry which strayed from its owner was this “ear ring”:

Mosaic Earring The Globe February 1 1869
From The Globe, February 1st, 1869.

Personally, I can imagine how irritating this must’ve been for the owner, losing one of a pair.  The whole one-dangling-earring fad wouldn’t come around until the misguided 1980s, which was well over a century away.  Hopefully some lucky soul found it and was able to turn it in for the reward here at the Sheffield House:

King St. W., south side, looking west from east of Jordan St., Toronto, Ont. 1870
The Sheffield House (center) on King St W, just west of Jordan, as seen in 1870. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

Now, I feel I should mention that one of the problems with losing small objects in early Toronto, no matter how shiny, is that the state of the streets (which I’ve written about here) was, most often, not on your side.  The muddy, mucky, rutted stretches were more likely to swallow your treasure whole than hold it aloft for a searcher to find.  I mean, just take a look at this street and imagine losing an earring here:

Osgoode Hall, Queen St. W., n.e. corner University Ave., Toronto, Ont. 1867
Osgoode Hall at Queen and University, as seen in 1867. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

But the good news is that you probably only had to worry about these things in Winter, Spring and late Fall.

Happily, however, not everything lost was a tiny piece of jewelry:

Bar of Iron Canadian Freeman February 8 1827
From the Canadian Freeman, February 8th, 1827.

Sure, we can all imagine wanting to find a lost, treasured item or attempting to reunite one with its owner – but an iron bar?

But actually, iron – which was used by blacksmiths to create any number of essential items (like horseshoes, nails, pots, stoves, etc.) was a pretty hot commodity.  By which I mean “pricey.”  So you can kinda understand why trying to claim a bar of it would mean proving it was really yours.  Though you do wonder how easy that would’ve been to do.  I know I, for one, am lousy at keeping receipts (I mainly use them for disposing of chewed gum – my own, of course.  But you probably didn’t need to know that.)

Now, as much as iron was fairly precious, there’s no denying that it hasn’t the glamour of, say, a large quantity of silver plate:

Trunk of Silverplate British Colonist Sept 16 1843
Browne’s Wharf.  Gunn & Browne’s Wharf.  You can see where someone got confused.  From the British Colonist, September 16th, 1843.

It’s a bit of an odd story – a trunk gone astray in one of two cities, and no one’s really sure which.  But it must’ve made for one upset Major because this ad ran every day for almost a year and a half.  Something tells me it was never recovered despite the offer of a “suitable reward.”  More than likely the person who had the trunk looked at that offer and thought “Is it worth as much as a trunk full of silver plate?  Because I’ve already got that.”

Of course, it’s hard to pin a dollar amount on Major Watson’s lost silver plate when he didn’t provide any details on what make it was, which form it took, and in what quantity.   But some owners (one’s tempted to say “losers”) of other lost items left no detail unmentioned:

Lost Morocco Pocket Book British Colonist September 3 1844
That’s a lot of valuable paper.  From the British Colonist September 3rd, 1844.

Though they didn’t receive the same full-caps treatment that the $71 cash got, the Bank of Montreal notes would’ve been a prized find.  The bank’s notes were the first of their kind in Canada, and the most common form of payment at a time when there were numerous currencies floating around.

Here’s another example in the lost pocket-book line:

Lost pocketbook The Globe September 4 1865
This guy didn’t exactly pinpoint where he lost his pocket book, but at least he didn’t waste any time getting the advert out.  From The Globe, September 4th, 1865.

You begin to get the feeling that people were walking around with all the dough they had – or, at least, quite a bit of it.  Which might not have been a bad idea if you were at all concerned about having your house rummaged through:

Stolen Canadian Correspondent Nov 2 1833
I like the stipulation that the $3 reward will not be given to the thief. From the Canadian Correspondent, November 2nd 1833.

Incidentally, George Kingsmill, whose watch was stolen in 1833, would become the city’s High Constable two years later when the Toronto Police Department was first formed.  As a member of the Orange Order, Kingsmill gained some notoriety for making it a practice to hire only other Orange-men as his constables.  This proved to be pretty handy as Orange parading often turned into Orange rioting – it was probably quite comforting for the revelers to have some “official” support.

Here’s the man himself, if you’re curious:

George Kingsmill 1840 TPL
George Kingsmill, 1840. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library.

I like to imagine that it was the loss of his watch that turned Kingsmill to a life of avenging petty crime – but it probably wasn’t nearly that dramatic.  In any case, here he is again, meting out justice – of a sort:

Cow taken British Colonist September 3 1844
What? This is the damnedest account – makes it sound like Kingsmill, himself, was responsible for the “very suspicious circumstances.” In any case, we see that by 1844, Kingsmill was High Bailiff. Good for him. This ad also ran for a while. While it’s dated August 24th, this one’s from the British Colonist on September 3rd, 1844.

Whatever the backstory on this particular cow, it was just one of many strayed four-legged possessions to appear in print.  By and large, cows and horses made up the bulk of the “lost and found” listings in Toronto’s newspapers:

Lost Mare September 4 1865 The Globe
STOLEN!  Or just strayed … really can’t say.  From The Globe, September 4th, 1865.

Knowing the city today, it’s easier to see a horse straying from the wide-open spaces of Etobicoke than it is to imagine a couple of cows lost on Yonge St, isn’t it?

The trouble with cows The British Colonist Oct 3 1843
The trouble with cows – they’re always looking for greener pastures. From The British Colonist, October 3rd, 1843.

But, of course, 19th century Yonge St was hardly the bustling, flashy, hectic thoroughfare we know today.  In fact, until the late 1800s, large swaths of it (it is after all 83 km long – or 53 miles) looked like this:

Gates, College St., w. side of Yonge St TPL
There could be a cow hiding in this photo for all I know. The gates at College, west side of Yonge, in 1875. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

Anyhow …

With all of these possessions floating, or moseying, about the city – lost and found in myriad ways – they all had at least one thing in common:  someone was concerned enough to visit the newspaper office and lay out a few shillings (the preferred currency for newspaper ads) to get the item home.

Here are a few examples of what the city’s newspapers were charging for advertising:

Rates of Advertising The British Colonist August 2nd 1843
Six lines for 2 shillings and 6d or ten for 3 shillings and 4?  A bargain!  (I don’t know what I’m talking about.) From the British Colonist, August 2nd, 1843.

And from The Globe:

The Globe Rates Jun 25 1858
A decade later and the price hasn’t changed – though you get the feeling there were a lot of folks asking for preferred pricing. From The Globe, June 25th, 1858.

Sadly, the advertising rates of the earlier Canadian Correspondent are less clear:

The Canadian Correspondent Jan 11 1834 terms
From the Canadian Correspondent, January 11th, 1834.

Which is a shame because I’d love to know how much extra it cost to add this little guy:

Canadian Correspondent Jun 21 1834
From the Canadian Correspondent, June 21st, 1834.

Now, I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t find the cost of old advertising very thrilling – but I can’t help but think it added an important wrinkle in the fate of many of these “found” things…

As you may have noted in many of the listings we’ve looked at, the advertiser mentions that the item will be returned not only when ownership is proved, but also when “expenses” have been paid.  In the case of many of these, this would mean paying for the cost of the advertisement itself.  And in the case of the cows and horses, I’m afraid it would also have meant covering the advertiser’s cost of having boarded and fed them.   Considering the length of time some of these ads ran for, I’d imagine more than one advertiser eventually found himself one cow richer.

12 thoughts on “Lost and Found

  1. Hooray! You’ve made my day again with your blog. And, I had to look up $150 in 1865 to see what that person was carrying around — it would be about $2400 today (US dollars … sorry about that, it was the only inflation calculator I could find). I’m not sure I’ve ever even held $2400 cash in my hands, let alone carried it around willy-nilly in my pocketbook. But, I CAN say for sure that if I was carrying $2400 cash around in a pocketbook, I would hold on to that thing like a mountain climber hangs on to a cliff.

    Now I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon wondering if anyone got their items back — which is a vast improvement on spending the rest of the afternoon watching the news … so thank you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, now you’ve made my day!
      $2400?! Jeez Louise, I don’t think I’ve held that much ever, either – in any currency!
      I’m glad if this has offered some distraction for you. I’ve been wondering what happened to the items too. I actually spent a bit of time looking into George Kingsmill’s stolen watch – since he was good enough to record the serial number. It’s a mighty cold case to crack, but I’m on it!


  2. Where do you find these things?! Do you spend hours squinting at the microfiche machine?! Lucky for us 🙂

    What I like about your posts is that you ponder situations we wouldn’t necessarily even think twice about in modern times. It helps give some perspective (and hopefully, gratitude) about the lifestyles of past and present. We’ll always need people who preserve, interpret and reflect on the past, otherwise, sadly, it will be lost. Thanks again for a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I absolutely do – and I’m seriously beginning to think I’ll need glasses soon if I keep it up.
      I’m so glad that you find these oddball histories enjoyable. For myself, I find that I get a better sense of the city’s history on an everyman/ woman level, so I really relish finding little tidbits (like the lost and found ads) that bring their everyday world to life. That you find them interesting too is the cherry on top 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. To be honest, I think I prefer a name like the “English Chop House,” where you know exactly what you’re getting, over some of the names places have today. Didn’t you blog about a place called Pie something-or-other a while ago that doesn’t even serve food, let alone pie? I probably sound crotchety and old, but I do really hate places that promise something delicious in the name, and then you walk in and they’re selling used yoga mats or something.
    I love all the stories about cows, though I also wish Kingsmill or Charles Green elaborated on the “very suspicious circumstances.” Did someone go, “Quick, look over there,” and when he turned back around his cow was gone, or what? I mean, they’re not exactly fast-moving animals. I’d definitely pay whatever the extra cost was to add the cow illustration though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yes! Good memory! It was called Pie 24/7, which should be some kind of heaven, but was actually some scammy company that claimed to train entrepreneurs. I think I’d even prefer a place that sold used yoga mats to that (that line made me laugh!)
      Yeah, that Kingsmill did the public no favours with that strange account. You’d think he’d have used his precious lines more carefully.
      I love those little cows. Given the choice I’d always opt for one to be added as well. They also had some cute illustrations in the horse line, but sadly none for lost dogs. Poor things apparently didn’t merit the same dash of flair.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating as always, Kate, and this post also made me smile. I wonder how many people would go to the trouble to seek out the owner of a gold brooch or money today. And also, of the items lost, how many were returned back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Cynthia! I found myself wondering the same thing. I’d like to believe everyone’s better nature won out and all items made their way home eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you! I’m so glad you liked it! I had so much fun digging through all the ads that it was hard to tear myself away to finally write this one up 🙂


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