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Historical Vignettes


Caribbean Law Students in Toronto during the Second World War
During the Second World War, an influx of international students at the University of Toronto’s law school led to a student body more racially diverse than was the case before or for some time afterwards. In 2007, the Law Society Archives acquired a series of photographs that documents this little-known development.

Elkanah Billings: Lawyer/Journalist/Paleontologist
Some Ontario lawyers who left no lasting mark on the practice of law in the province nevertheless have reflected well on the profession by making a contribution in other areas of Canadian life. One such example is Elkanah Billings, who practised law for less than a decade before he became a journalist, then a geologist and a renowned paleontologist.

Law Society's First Treasurer Killed in Duel - Jan. 1800
John White, first Treasurer of the Law Society, was killed in a duel in January 1800. Item will provide brief account of his Canadian career and death. Photo(s) of re-enactment of duel on the front lawn of Osgoode Hall during bicentennial celebrations will form the visuals, as no image of John White himself can be found.

Governors General of Canada and the Law Society
This time capsule looks at the relationship the Law Society has had with the Queen's representatives.

Helen Kinnear 

John Alexander Boyd  

Lally McCarthy's Boyhood Trip to England
An account of the trip to England that future lawyer and Law Society Treasurer D'Alton Lally McCarthy took with his parents in the summer of 1885.

Lieutenant Victor Topping
 After a horrific war accident and many subsequent reconstructive surgeries, Lieutenant Victor Topping pursued careers in engineering and the law, married and had a family, and became an accomplished athlete.

Newton Wesley Rowell 

Ontario Lawyer-Artists
As part of a continuing series about Ontario lawyers eminent in fields other than law, this spring's time capsule features lawyers also known as artists.

Ontario Lawyer-Writers
As part of a continuing series on lawyers in fields other than law, this time capsule focuses on lawyers also active as writers of fiction, drama and poetry.

Queen Mother Named Honourary Bencher Thirty Years Ago
Thirty years ago this month Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, visited Osgoode Hall. In an event that caused great excitement among Benchers, Judges, and staff, Her Majesty was called to the Bar of Ontario and named an Honourary Bencher of The Law Society of Upper Canada on June 28th, 1974.

Robert Baldwin Born 200 Years Ago
Robert Baldwin was the first Ontario-born Treasurer of the Law Society. Although best known for his contributions to Canadian political life as one of the fathers of responsible government, Baldwin also made significant contributions to the Law Society itself as a student, Bencher and Treasurer.

Sir Æmilius Irving - The Law Society's Longest-Serving Treasurer
In early 1844, future lawyer, politician and Bencher Æmilius Irving was admitted to the Law Society as a student member. Æmilius had come to Canada from England with his family at age ten, and was 21 years old when he began to study law.

William Perkins Bull, K.C. 

William Ralph Meredith Died Eighty Years Ago
William Ralph Meredith had a long and distinguished career in law and politics from 1861, the year he was called to the Bar, until his death in August 1923. A prominent London lawyer, Meredith was the first Bencher of the Law Society from that city. He went on to become Chief Justice of Ontario.   

York County Court Judge F. Montye Morson, 1853-1944
Frederick Montye Morson was a York County Court judge from 1891 to 1931. Known for his wit and forthright language, Morson was celebrated as a local "character" who attracted visiting American lawyers and judges to his courtroom to see him in action.

Documents and Artifacts

The Black Bay Duck Club Guestbook
Why would a couple of pages torn from the guestbook of a hunting club be housed in the Law Society of Ontario Archives? A short exhibition on an intriguing spy story.

Notebook of John Maxwell
A vignette based on a bound volume in which L'Orignal lawyer John Maxwell had written notes in preparation for a murder defence in 1883.

The Judge and the Sunken Ship: the E. Henrietta Osler Donation
In January 2007, the Law Society received five objects from the estate of Elizabeth Henrietta Osler. The collection consists of: a black tricorne, a tin storage box, a cap, a rosette and a leather hat box. The artefacts are interesting because of their provenance, because they are unique in our collection, and because they document legal dress in the 19th century.

Pressing Matters
The Law Society has in its possession a copy press, which was a gift from the estate of Stanley C. Biggs, QC, LSM, L.L.B, J.D. The copy press was used to copy letters, and was the leading technology of the reprographic world for 150 years. It was invented in the late 1700s but was not in general use in offices until the development of better inks in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Osgoode Hall

First Convocation in Osgoode Hall
On Feb. 6, 1832, Treasurer George Ridout and seven benchers met for the first time in Osgoode Hall, marking the beginning of the Law Society’s permanent residence in the building.  

Law School Student Life in the Gay 90s
The lives of students at Osgoode Hall Law School in the 1890s involved more than the serious scholarly pursuits of attending classes, articling, and writing examinations. Debates, dinners and dances, held under the auspices of the Osgoode Hall Legal and Literary Society, provided respite from the hard work of the school year.

Lot 11, 1st Concession from the Bay - Osgoode Hall
A short article on the selection of the property for the construction of Osgoode Hall.

Touring Osgoode Hall in 1879
What did a tourist to Toronto do in the 1870s? Complain about the heat... and tour Osgoode Hall.

Remembrance Day Service at Osgoode Hall
Each year since 1956 the Law Society has held a Remembrance Day service at Osgoode Hall. The Benchers had honoured members of the legal profession and law students who had died on military service in the First and Second World Wars by erecting memorials inscribed with their names, but there was no annual service until the Treasurer and Benchers seized on the proposal of Mr. Justice Colin W.G. Gibson in 1956.  

Overview of the Benchers' Quarters 

Benchers' Dining Room

The Great Library

The Committee of Oeconomy 

Student boarders at Osgoode Hall

The War Memorials and the Remembrance Day Service 

The Upper Canada Rebellion and Osgoode Hall

Legal History

75 Years of Obiter Dicta
Student newspaper Obiter Dicta was founded in 1928 when the law school's home was still at Osgoode Hall. Obiter Dicta,'s first editors hoped that with its inaugural issue of Feb. 2nd, "one more great step has been taken towards the development and ultimate realization, within our school of a distinctively "Osgoode Spirit". 

Compensation Fund Hits Half-Century Mark
Convocation’s adoption of the report of the Special Committee on Compensation Fund in January 1953 represented a pioneering effort by the entire legal profession of Ontario to accept responsibility for the illegal activities of a minority of its members.

Superior Court on Autumn Circuit
An overview of a two-hundred year old tradition of Ontario's criminal justice administration.

The Anderson Case

Terms or Concepts Explained