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1911 Meet Me at the Gooderham Fountain


Gooderham Fountain, ca. 1911

Once again, it’s time for the Ex, the world’s largest annual fair.

The Canadian National Exhibition started as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition in September 1879, a grand agricultural fair with urban pretensions. Agri- cultural exhibitions and competitions outnumbered industrial activities at the new waterfront grounds.  Massey Harris – the largest manufacturer of agricultural instruments in the British Empire – was among the local industries racking up prizes and hawking wares to fair-bound farmers.

It appears, however, that Gooderham & Worts did not exhibit or advertise their products, despite their obvious success a year earlier in Europe where they had won a gold medal at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair (for many years, bottles of G&W bore the Paris, and an 1885 Antwerp, seal of approval). No such competition was available in provincial Toronto. Whether this was because Fair organizers were simply uninterested or were morally opposed to the demon whisky, G&W – the largest distillery in the world – was offered no competition. It suffered little from the shunning … and fair-weary farmers undoubtedly enjoyed the odd dram at local watering holes.

Around 1904, the exhibition became informally known as the Canadian
National Exhibition and in 1912 that name was legally adopted. During this formative period, Beaux-Arts architect, George W. Gouinlock, was hired to revamp the fair site. Strongly influenced by Daniel Burnham’s monumental 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, Gouinlock designed Canada’s own “white city”: neo-classical exhibition buildings, arranged around a Grand Plaza … that remained without a central focus until 1911 when the Gooderham Fountain first gushed. The fountain was probably designed by Gouinlock and was opened during George H. Gooderham’s final year as President of the Ex. Thereafter, it became a popular meeting place, both day and night, until it was replaced by the Princess Margaret Fountain in 1958.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from the author, Sally Gibson. Sources include the Canadian Encyclopedia, which identifies the CNE as the world’s largest annual fair.

1911 Meet Me at the Gooderham Fountain

The Canadian National Exhibition started as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition in September 1879...that remained without a central focus until 1911 when the Gooderham Fountain first gushed.


Linked toGeorge Horace Gooderham

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