Armistice Day in Toronto – November 11, 1918 was a Day of Celebration

1918 - Family reads the headlines on Armistice Day on November 11, 1918
1918 – Family reads the headlines on Armistice Day on November 11, 1918 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 892)

Remembrance Day was once known as Armistice Day. At 11 am on November 11, 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an armistice after four years of war. It was an agreement to end the fighting of World War I, which was also known as the Great War.

News of the signed armistice reached Toronto by wire at 2:50 am on November 11. Toronto newspaper, The Mail and Empire (part of The Globe and Mail) reported that a man who lived on Parliament St had heard the news of the peace at 4 am. He went into the streets in his pyjamas to let his neighbours know of the information. He said, “Women appeared in the flimsiest of clothing, some covered only with a wrap or kimono, and forgot the cold in the heat of their enthusiasm.”

1918 - Celebrations on November 11, 1918 in downtown Toronto
1918 – Celebrations on November 11, 1918, in downtown Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 888)

The Celebrations

Newspaper headlines read “Extra! Extra! Germans Accept the Allies’ Terms” and “VICTORY,” and it was a day of great joy in Toronto. People celebrated that the 1,567 days of war were over by blowing horns and factory whistles, ringing church bells, singing, banging pots, clanging pan lids and playing musical instruments. Many marched towards downtown and Old City Hall. Shops selling the British flag were doing great business with people waving the Union Jack or draping themselves with it. The City’s transit system came to a halt while factories, banks and the Stock Exchange closed for the day.

It just so happened that a Victory Loan Parade was planned for that day. There were soldiers and tanks in the parade, along with an air show. The day’s celebrations continued well into the night.

Those Who Served

Over 420,000 Canadians served overseas in the war. Of those, nearly 60,000 died or were missing, and up to 138,000 were injured. In Toronto, more than 2,500 women worked in the munition factories. They played a significant role in the City’s war effort.

In 1931, Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day. The solemn day is also commemorated by the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Poland and the United States.

2021 - The NOTL Poppy Project at the Niagara Historical Society Museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake
2021 – The NOTL Poppy Project at the Niagara Historical Society Museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The Poppy

Poppies began growing thickly over the graves of fallen soldiers in the fields of Flanders, France. Before the battle, the countryside had been barren; however, the red flowers flourished once the fighting stopped.

In 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, wrote In Flanders Fields after the death of a fellow soldier. The poppy officially became the symbol of remembrance in 1921.

Armistice Day Photos

1918 - Family reads the headlines on Armistice Day on November 11, 1918
1918 – Family reads the headlines on Armistice Day on November 11, 1918 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 892)
1918 - Armistice Day celebrations
1918 – Armistice Day celebrations (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 905)
1918 - Armistice Day celebrations on Yonge St, looking south between Queen St and Shuter St
1918 – Armistice Day celebrations on Yonge St, looking south between Queen St and Shuter St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 887)
1918 - Young men during the Armistice Day celebrations on Bay St, looking southeast near Richmond St W
1918 – Young men during the Armistice Day celebrations on Bay St, looking southeast near Richmond St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 891A)
1918 - Traffic and crowds on Armistice Day at Queen St W and Terauley St, which is known today as Bay St
1918 – Traffic and crowds on Armistice Day at Queen St W and Terauley St, which is known today as Bay St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 909)
1918 - Celebrating the end of World War I on November 11, 1918 in downtown Toronto
1918 – Celebrating the end of World War I on November 11, 1918 at Bay St, just south of King St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 891)
1918 - Armistice Day celebrations at King St W and Bay St, looking east
1918 – Armistice Day celebrations at King St W and Bay St, looking east (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 891D)
1918 - Armistice Day crowds celebrating in front of the Toronto Star Building at 18-20 King St W, looking east
1918 – Armistice Day crowds celebrating in front of the Toronto Star Building at 18-20 King St W, looking east (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 891B)
1918 - Celebrations on November 11, 1918 in downtown Toronto
1918 – Celebrations on November 11, 1918 in downtown Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 888)
1918 - The first rumours of Armistice Day on Queen St
1918 – The first rumours of Armistice Day on Queen St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 888A)
1918 - Tank crushing a car on November 11, 1918, in previously planned Victory Bond Drive on University Ave
1918 – Tank crushing a car on November 11, 1918, in previously planned Victory Bond Drive on University Ave (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 733)
1918 - Armistice Day crowds reading the bulletins set up on a white screen opposite the then Toronto Star Building at 18-20 King St W
1918 – Armistice Day crowds reading the bulletins set up on a white screen opposite the then Toronto Star Building at 18-20 King St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1558)
1918 - Armistice Day celebrations
1918 – Armistice Day celebrations in downtown Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 906)
1918 - Munitions workers lining-up for last day of pay at King St W and Dufferin St, southeast corner
1918 – Munitions workers lining-up for last day of pay at King St W and Dufferin St, southeast corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 924)
2021 - The NOTL Poppy Project at the Niagara Historical Society Museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake
2021 – The NOTL Poppy Project at the Niagara Historical Society Museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake
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