Class of ’67

What was it like to grow up at the time of Canada’s Confederation?

Explore our online exhibit, then play the Class of ’67 interactive story — where you decide what happens!

 

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EXPLORE THE EXHIBIT

James Beatty

Hi! My name is James Beatty.

I grew up in the years when Canada was becoming a country.

I am the Class of ‘67 — 1867, that is!

Those of us growing up at the time of Confederation helped shaped Canada into the country we have today.

 

poster for 1872 Dominion Day celebration
Poster for Dominion Day celebrations in Richmond Hill, ON, 1872. Archives of Ontario poster collection, C 233-1-4-0-1956, Archives of Ontario, 10073709

So What Was Confederation?

Canadian Confederation happened when Britain’s North American colonies got together to take care of issues that were important to them.

They wanted to cooperate in politics, build a strong economy, increase Canada’s land, and protect themselves from war.

It turned out that Britain found Canada expensive to keep anyway!

Canada became its own country, peacefully. But that’s not to say all Canadians agreed. Some were excited, some hated the idea. And some couldn’t care less!

 

Select images to view full-sized.

political cartoon about Confederation from 1870
Political Cartoon, 1870. McCord Museum M993X.5.1039
photograph of Confederation proclamation at Queens University in Kingston in 1867
Celebration of July 1, 1867, Kingston ON. Courtesy of Queen’s University Archives V23-His-Con-1

 

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What Was It Like to Grow Up in Canada in 1867?

 

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Life in 1867: AT HOME

Many people living in mid-19th century Ontario were commercial wheat farmers. Local businesses such as stores, inns, and mills were often located at busy crossroads, where community hubs dotted the landscape.

In these rural farm communities, day-to-day life revolved around the growing season.

Select images to view full-sized.

archival-photograph-of-Village-of-Laskay
Village of Laskay in King Township, ON, showing inn, store, and mill. Black Creek Pioneer Village collection
archival photograph of farm children in 1860s
Photograph of Canadian children in about 1860. Courtesy of the McCord Museum N-0000.1545.14
archival photograph of women doing laundry
Women Doing Laundry, undated. Black Creek Pioneer Village Collection

But it wasn’t all work! Outdoor fun kept everyone busy in the free time they had.

For fun, children played with toys and games, some homemade and some from stores. Toys normally had a moral teaching, often reinforcing society’s expectations of how boys and girls, and men and women, should behave.

Winter was an especially popular time for fun, with skating, tobogganing, and dancing all the rage! These kinds of activities provided the chance to be with friends, for young men and women to mingle … and maybe find someone to marry!

Select images to view full-sized.

1863 illustration of skating rink in Toronto
Victoria Skating Rink at Gerrard and Sherbourne Streets in Toronto, 1863. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library JRR 536 Cab
archival photograph of a picnic in Toronto in the 1860s
Picnic on the Queensway in Toronto, c. 1865. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library 989-5
archival photograph of a Victorian family enjoying a vacation by the lakeside in 1870
A Victorian family on vacation in bathing wear in Murray Bay, QC, c. 1870. Courtesy of the McCord Museum MP-1981.178
ticket to the Union Hook and Ladder company annual ball in 1859
Card of admission to the annual ball of the Union Hook and Ladder Company. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library 1859
marriage certificate from 1886
Marriage Certificate, 1886. Black Creek Pioneer Village Collection

Life in 1867: AT WORK

ARE YOU READY TO WORK?
Can you: Hold a needle? Pick up a bucket?
YOU’RE HIRED!

Industrialization was changing how people lived and worked. Toronto was becoming a larger city. The products that skilled tradespeople made, such as furniture, were quickly being replaced with mass-produced goods.

Children and adults alike found work in places like factories and mills, where the hours were long and the conditions were dangerous.

Select images to view full-sized.

1864 pastel drawing of Toronto Rolling Mills
This pastel drawing by William Armstrong (1822-1914) depicts the interior of the Toronto Rolling Mills in 1864. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library JRR 1059
archival photograph of family butcher business in Toronto
William Wordley’s butcher business at Church and Carlton Streets in Toronto. He is shown here with his employees, both adults and children, c. 1872. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library 939-3
archival 1867 photograph of teenage girls working in a mine
Here, teenage girls work in a mine in Bolton, QC, 1867. After marriage, young working class women were expected to leave the workforce, and dedicate themselves to caring for their children and the family home. Courtesy of the McCord Museum N-0000.94.56

 

Life in 1867: AT SCHOOL

Most parents wanted their children to receive an education, but family needs were just as important. This meant that instead of going to school, sometimes children worked on the family farm or had a job outside the home to earn extra money.

When schooling became mandatory in 1871, it applied to children aged 7 to 12 — for only four months of the year!

Select images to view full-sized.

1845 illustration of a one-room school-house
Depiction of Mr. St. Leger’s class inside a one room school house in Adelaide Township, ON, 1845. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library JRR 3338 Cab II
student writing lesson from 1866
Writing lesson at the McGill Model School in Montreal, QC, dated June 22, 1866. Black Creek Pioneer Village collection
student report card from 1867
Report Card from the McGill Model School in Montreal, QC, dated December 20, 1867. Black Creek Pioneer Village Collection

With what time they had for school, rural children tended to go to common schools, where they learned the “three R’s” — often in a one-room school house.

Middle-class children normally attended private schools, where they received a more rigorous, classical education. Boys were prepared for university and careers in the professions, while girls were prepared to be good wives and mothers.

 

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PLAY THE GAME

You’ve seen the exhibit! Now play the Class of ’67 interactive story — where you decide what happens!

illustration of characters from the Class of 67 game

MEET THE CLASS OF ’67

Note for Teachers: Want to play the game with your students? Check out our Online Learning page for curriculum-linked lesson plans.

Note for Families: Take this adventure into life in 1867 together as a family. Debate and make decisions as a team, or play on separate devices and compare where your characters end up!

This game offers an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing youth in 1867 and how they overcame their difficulties to achieve their goals. At the end of the game, use the prompt questions to start a family discussion about the story that you read.