Ross McKitrick, in his non-climate life, writes from time to time on particulate matter pollution in Ontario. The Toronto Globe and Mail ran a a story a few days ago about Toronto in 1912, showing the picture at left in its print edition. The amount of pollution looks like some present-day images of Chinese cities. It is also a challenge to those who think that pollution in Toronto (or similar cities) is at “unprecedented” levels.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Toronto’s primary form of home heating was coal. There was a substantial changeover to oil heating in the mid-20th century. The trans-Canada natural gas line reached Toronto in the 1950s and Toronto’s home heating is now mostly natural gas. Ontario’s history on this issue is probably similar to many North American (and perhaps European) jurisdictions.
I traced the image to a recent blog article here, which had other remarkable images. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that one of the commenters at the blog mentioned a story about his Aunt Molly ( I also have an Aunt Molly). He went on to mention the delivery of a coal stoker to his grandmother’s house on Cornish Road (where my grandmother McIntyre lived). (The commenter was one of my cousins.)
Even in the 1950s when I was a boy, there was still so much particulate matter in the air that your collars would get black after a day at school. “Ring around the collar” was the slogan of a popular detergent of the day. The blog showed the following interesting comparison of the amount of grime on Toronto buildings in the 1950s and 1960s versus today.
Confederation Life Building, Toronto. left -then; right – now.
A couple of other pictures that interested me from another blog thread.
This thread also has pictures of winter skating in Toronto in the early 20th century on the Don River and Toronto Harbour – activities that are presently as inconceivable as winter skating on the Thames.