We remember picnics. They stick with us in a way that other things don't. Maybe it's because the history of picnics is essentially the history of humankind and hence so imprinted upon us. Picnicking is a return to who we are as a species—we and our earliest primate ancestors have been eating outdoors for over 55 million years. It's really only relatively recently on the human evolutionary timeline that we stopped being nomads, formed permanent settlements, began to tend crops, and moved further and further indoors.
The following images are from Ontario Picnics: A Century of Dining Outdoors, available now from your favourite bookseller.
Tea Party at Mr. McCurry's, Ottawa, October 10, 1892
"...Photo taken by James Ballentyne, who founded both the Ottawa Literary and Scientific Society, and the Ottawa Camera Club. He was an extremely talented amateur photographer."
Women and Children of Brunswick House First Nation at the Feast During Treat 9 Payment Ceremony, Mattagami, Ontario, 1906
"...The First Nations representatives signed the Treaty in good faith, only to find out that the Crown would later fail to uphold some of the major commitments made in the agreement."
Mothers and Children at a Picnic on Centre Island, Toronto, early 1920s
"Chicksaw" Girls at a Lunchtime Cookout, Camp Tanamakoon, Algonquin Park, ca. 1926
"Camp Tanamakoon, a residential overnight camp for girls, still in operation today, was founded in 1925..."
Tea on the Verandah at Bon Echo Inn, Mazinaw Lake, Ontario, early 1930s
Wilma (Miller) Morrison's friends at the Emancipation Day Picnic, Port Dalhousie, Ontario, August 1941
"...John Graves Simcoe, First Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (1791-1796), passed the Act Against Slavery in 1793... The Act was superseded by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire with some exceptions that were eventually eliminated. Full emancipation was finally achieved at midnight July 31, 1838. From then on, August 1 has been recognized as Emancipation Day. Traditionally the day has been celebrated with parades and community picnics."
The history of picnics in Ontario by Lindy Mechefske, two-time Taste Canada gold-award winning author, is a tour de force. With more than a hundred rare, old images, this book is a rich, visual feast as we look back at over a century of photographs and other treasures all celebrating Ontario picnics.
Packed full of charming and enticing surprises, this is a book that belongs on every single Ontarian's bookshelf.
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