A campus reborn: The Roy Horney photographic collection

The Ryerson campus is in a constant state of growth and change. The last several years have been exciting ones with the re-opening of the Image Arts Building, The Mattamy Athletic Centre, and the construction of the Student Learning Centre. But what about the first major change to the Ryerson campus – the construction of Howard Kerr Hall?

Through the donation of a scrapbook of photographs and some of the hundreds of slides, taken by former faculty member Charles Roy Horney to the Ryerson Archives, we see the transformation that began with the demolition of the Toronto Normal School buildings and the construction of Howard Kerr Hall.


C. Roy Horney seated at his desk.
(May 1957)
F 536.15.01.06

Charles Roy Horney started teaching math and physics at Ryerson in 1952, and worked here until his retirement in 1983. During his time at Ryerson he acted as departmental head, assistant chairman and even the Registrar. He was also the coach of the Ryerson Zebras – the early men’s soccer team.

His photographs allow us to piece together a timeline of demolition and construction that was previously unknown to Archives staff.  Here is a sample of the images:


Front of the Ryerson Hall Building. Egerton Ryerson statue is in its original location. This photo is one of the only colour photographs of the original Normal School buildings in the Archives’ collections. (April 26, 1961)
F 536.14.06

F 536.15.04.05

Home Economics “Dream House” where students lived and studied.
(April 1961)
F 536.15.04.05

F 536.15.08.02

South gates for original campus out onto Gould Street. Parking lot that became Lake Devo and O’Keefe Breweries Head Office which became Heaslip House are visible in the background. (August 1961)
F 536.15.08.02

F 536.15.01.02

South East corner of Unit I – Howard Kerr Hall. (September 1961)
F 536.15.01.02

F 536.15.13.03

Clearing of lot in front of Ryerson Hall. Egerton Ryerson Statue and end of Howard Kerr Hall visible on the left and Oakham House and O’Keefe House visible on the right. (1961)
F 536.15.13.03

F 536.15.14.01

The Egerton Ryerson statue and plinth undercover during construction.
(October 1961)
F 536.15.14.01

F 536.15.22.06

The metal framework along Victoria St and onto Gould Street. Ryerson Hall is almost completely obscured by Howard Kerr Hall. (1962)
F 536.15.22.06

F 536.15.21.06

Howard Kerr Hall metal framework along Gould Street looking East. Ryerson Hall is completely obscured from this angle. (June 1962)
F 536.15.21.06

F 536.15.24.01

Last section of Howard Kerr Hall. The section featuring the clock and carillon tower. This section would eventually house the Principal’s office and the Board Room. (1962)
F 536.15.24.01

F 536.15.03.06

North end of campus along Gerrard Street. Gorrie’s Motors is visible in the background. (July 1961)
F 536.15.03.06

F 536.15.13.04

Excavation for foundation of the North and West section of Howard Kerr Hall. Partially demolished building appears to be sitting on an island. (1961)
F 536.15.13.04

F 536.15.16.01

Same view as picture above – but building is completely demolished allowing for further foundation excavation. (October 1961)
F 536.15.16.01

F 536.15.17.05

Construction of the steel framework on the North West corner of Howard Kerr Hall at Victoria and Gerrard Streets. (March 1962)
F 536.15.17.05

F 536.15.24.02

Same view of building as photographed above – but with exterior brick work complete, staircase in place and “Athletes” bas-reliefs above the doors and between the windows. (1962)
F 536.15.24.02

F 536.15.30.03

Demolition of the heating plant building. (1963)
F 536.15.30.03

F 536.15.26.03

Looking South along East road inside Howard Kerr Hall. A juxtaposition of old and new. (1963)
F 536.15.26.03

F 536.15.32.02

A poignant photograph – one of the last taken of the old cupola on the Ryerson Hall building. Visible underneath it is the date of construction, 1842. (1963)
F 536.15.32.02

F 536.15.32.05

Main entrance into Ryerson Hall with the name sign visible on the right side. The facade is is the only section of the original building that still stands – as the entrance to the RAC in the Howard Kerr Hall quad. The Ryerson Hall sign is now on display in the Ryerson Archives. (1963)
F 536.15.32.05

F 536.14.206

Aerial view of Howard Kerr Hall and the almost completed quadrangle. The facade is visible on the right. Construction continues on the fountain and walkways that intersected the quad. Before the construction of the RAC – there was parking around the outside circle of the quad. (c. 1964)
F 536.14.206

This amazing collection of photographs is not yet available for public consultation. They will be available for viewing via our collections database in the near future.









The History of RyePride exhibition

RyePride History Exhibit

An Equity Service Group of the Ryerson Student’s Union, RyePride has been raising awareness LGBTQ rights and promoting inclusivity on campus for nearly 40 years! The group offers advocacy, education and an annual memorial bursary named for Christopher Skinner.


In anticipation of World Pride 2014, coming to Toronto this June, Ryerson Library and Archives has put together a display using items from RULA and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives  to highlight just some of the campaigns and events they’ve spearheaded since their beginnings in 1977. Drop by Special Collections on the 4th floor of the library and learn more about the history of RyePride at Ryerson University.

Visit the RyePride website or contact them for more information on the programs and services they offer: ryepride@rsuonline.ca.  Have a look at the RyePride Timeline for more information on the groups history. 

Forgotten Amusements

Living in an image saturated world, it is easy to forget that photography is still a relatively new invention. Less than two hundred years ago, people saw extremely detailed and realistic images of the world captured in a permanent photograph for the first time. Needless to say, the invention of our favourite past-time, the motion picture, is even newer still. It is human nature to seek entertainment, yet we rarely consider what our great-great grandparents did for leisure. There has always been a desire to learn and discover new parts of the world, but long-distance travel was much less feasible during the 1800s, thus substitutes were made in a variety of forms of amusement. Before film and television, at a time that was full of innovation and creativity, there existed a number of forgotten optical spectacles involving the use of light and movement that have since disappeared from our generation.

Magic Lanterns

The magic lantern existed in many different formats for thousands of years and was based on the idea of projecting images with light onto a wall or surface. In fact, this idea is still one that is in popular demand, most familiarly with the projectors that are used for PowerPoint and other presentations in many classes here at Ryerson. However, this is by no means a new idea. The fascination with projection dates back to drawings made by Da Vinci that look similar to a Bull’s Eye lantern. First described in 1646 by Anthanasius Kircher, a German scholar, for use in science and philosophy, the magic lantern was quick to become a form of public entertainment.

Hand-painted lantern slide with a circular image, circa 1890.

A reflective and transparent image of a hand-painted lantern slide with a circular image, circa 1890.

Although first limited to small audiences because of the strength of its illuminants, throughout the nineteenth century significant improvements were made to the technology, such as advances in lenses, illuminants and the use of mirrors that allowed for bigger, indoor shows and more fanciful and detailed slides. Magic lanterns were eagerly adopted as a form of entertainment and were used for shadow puppet shows, to illuminate engravings and create apparitions, and with hand-painted and photographic slides.

Hand-painted lantern slide circa 1890 illustrating the 1782 poem, “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” by Robert Burns.

Hand-painted lantern slide circa 1890 illustrating the 1782 poem, “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” by Robert Burns.

Especially during the nineteen hundreds, new types of magic lanterns began to appear. There were projecting microscopes, which were used in the field of biology, and magic lanterns that were used in pairs or sets of 3 that, with the aid of a fan-like device, were capable of creating dissolving views and other special effects. With the advent of photography and cinema, magic lanterns began to appear on the mass market under numerous names in a variety of formats. The Lumière Brothers used the technology for their first film screening in 1895. The 1950s saw the opto-mechanical advancements that began the popular trend of the slide projector, which was often used as a form of entertainment to show photographs to family and friends.

A motion picture projector circa 1950.

A motion picture projector circa 1950.

The idea behind them all was the same and they were actively used to tell stories, to educate, and to show audiences views of faraway places. Here in Special Collections we have a number of more recent examples of both slide and motion picture projectors, as well as photographic and hand-painted slides in a variety of formats.




More about magic lanterns can be found on The Magic Lantern Society webpage.


Today when we hear the word “panorama” a 180 to 360-degree photograph is likely what comes to mind. However, the first patent for a panorama was issued in 1787 to Robert Barker, over 50 years before the invention of photography around 1839. It was one of the most popular forms of entertainment during the nineteenth century, yet something we rarely hear about today. Translated from Greek, the term panorama means ‘see all’ and that is exactly what they aimed to do. To really understand what the term panorama meant during the late 18th and 19th centuries, try to imagine walking through a dark corridor into a large, circular, naturally lit room in which, constructed from floor to ceiling, is a continuous representation of a distant land, a battle scene, or an escape from the industrializing city landscape that completely surrounds you. The painting has been made to appear as realistic as possible: the top edge has been masked by a veil or roof, and the bottom edge is concealed by a fence which you can walk up to. The average size of a panorama was 15 by 20 metres and took an immense amount of teamwork to build, but the results always attracted a crowd.

Hand-painted lantern slide. Panoramic slides such as this could be moved through a magic lantern to create a moving panorama type of effect.

Hand-painted lantern slide. Panoramic slides such as this could be moved through a magic lantern to create a moving panorama type of effect.

As the popularity of the panorama took off in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the term began to take on other meanings, and new formats of the medium began to be created. Any sort of large or oversized painting began to be considered a ‘panorama’ as well as huge paintings that would only cover a semi-circle rather than 360-degrees.  Another popular format of the panorama was the moving panorama. Spectators of the moving panorama were seated in an auditorium and instead of being surrounded by the panorama a long roll painting was moved across a window, often set up with curtains similar to a typical theatre stage. A mechanical cranking system was used to pull the painting across the audience’s view. Often, music, lecturers or sound and light effects would accompany the presentation of the work. Unlike the circular panorama, the moving panorama used a transportable format that could tour to new cities and towns, saving on the costly operation of construction and making it more accessible. The panorama, in any sense of the word, was truly a spectacle that gave viewers a chance to experience the world without having to travel far from home, some of which still exist and can be viewed today.

Black and white glass lantern slide in a wooden frame circa the 1890s. Handwritten on the frame is “Panorama of Cairo” suggesting the use of magic lanterns to create panorama-like effects.

Black and white glass lantern slide in a wooden frame circa the 1890s. Handwritten on the frame is “Panorama of Cairo” suggesting the use of magic lanterns to create panorama-like effects.

For examples of full panoramas still existing today:





If you have taken a photography course at Ryerson, it is likely you have heard of L.J.M. Daguerre and his infamous diorama. The diorama often competed with the panorama and used a combination of ideas from both the panorama and the magic lantern to create a theatrical experience for the audience. The diorama consisted of an exhibition of enormous transparent paintings under changing lighting effects. With these effects, audiences could witness changes in mood and scenery, such as the weather. The illusions immediately got attention for their ability to transform paintings into three-dimensional renderings that many claimed could not be distinguished from large-scale models that used real objects. Similar to the panorama, the viewer was walked through a dark hallway into an auditorium that could hold close to 350 people, where they were kept stationary with the illuminations revolving slowly around them, only visible through screen tunnels that created depth and hid the edges of the paintings. The pictures measured close to 22 metres wide by 14 metres high and were situated 13 metres back from the front row. The viewer was kept in very dim lighting until the start of the show when the curtain was drawn up and the image was revealed. Effects were rendered through use of transparent and opaque painting techniques and coloured screens that altered the daylight passing through the back of the picture.

Information and images about Daguerre’s recently restored diorama at Bry-Sur-Marne can be found here:



A more modern colour slide from the 1960s.

A more modern colour slide from the 1960s.


Hence, our enjoyment of light, image and motion did not begin with the photograph, or the motion picture. Multiple forms of entertainment experimenting with these elements existed from the 1400s through the 1800s and were very popular with audiences. Although here we have only discussed the panorama, the magic lantern, and the diorama, inventions for optical entertainment were not limited to these, and often shows would use a combination of each. If you are still curious about these forgotten forms of entertainment, visit Special Collections to find out what kinds of materials we have to facilitate further research into the subject, including books, slides and projectors. We are located on the 4th floor of the Ryerson University Library and Archives. Call us at 416-979-5000 ext. 4996 or send us an email at specialcollections@ryerson.ca

Kodaslide Merit Film Projector. Manufactured from 1951 to 1956.

Kodaslide Merit Film Projector. Manufactured from 1951 to 1956.



Balzer, Richard. Optical Amusements: Magic Lanterns and Other Transforming Images – A Catalog of Popular Entertainments. Watertown, MA: Richard Balzer, 1987.

Chadwick, W.J. The Magic Lantern Manual. London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1878.

Comment, Bernard. The Panorama. Translated by Anne-Marie Glasheen. London: Reaktion Books, 1999.

Daguerre, Louis Jacques Mandé. An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Various Processes of the Daguerreotype and the Diorama. Paris: Béthune et plon, 1839. Reprinted with illustrations and an introduction by Beaumont Newhall. New York: Winter House, 1971.

Greenacre, Derek. Magic Lanterns. Princes Risborough, Bucks, England: Shire, 1986.

Huhtamo, Erkki. Illusions in Motion: Media Archeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.

Souvenir of Toronto: Announcing the Robert MacIntosh Collection on the History of Toronto

Ryerson University Library and Archives is pleased to announce the donation of the Robert MacIntosh Collection on the History of Toronto to the Special Collections department.


A few of the souvenir booklets in the collection, featuring photographs of the major sites to see in the city.  These early keepsakes often included views of Casa Loma, the Canada Life Assurance Company building, the CNE, and Sunnyside pool.

The collection of 141 books was carefully curated by collector, author, and longtime Toronto resident, Robert M. MacIntosh. Ranging in date from 1807 – 1988, topics include historical accounts, biographies of notable Torontonians (including John Toronto himself, Bishop Strachan), tourist keepsakes through the years, maps, centennial publications, and TTC brochures.  

An economist by trade, MacIntosh authored “Different Drummers, Banking and Politics in Canada” in 1992 before focusing his research on the early history and formation of the City of Toronto and publishing “Earliest Toronto” in 2006.

Browse all books in the collection.


Books from the MacIntosh collection focused on significant individuals in Toronto history. Bishop John Strachan (often called “John Toronto”), was a staunch Tory, the city’s first Anglican bishop in 1839, and superintendent of schools.  An ideological rival to many of Strachan’s views, Jesse Ketchum was a representative in the 10th Parliament of the then Upper Canada. A writer and artist, Elizabeth Simcoe was the wife of Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe and her diary is an important account of life in early York (Toronto).


Some of the volumes that detail the history of specific streets in the City of Toronto.  Yonge Street, the major artery through Toronto and once the longest street in the world, began construction in 1793 to link the new capitol of Upper Canada to Lake Simcoe.  Jarvis street, now home to the only reversible lane in Toronto, was once one of the most affluent areas of the city.  Taking it’s name from the original 1818 manor belonging to Dr. William Baldwin, Spadina now houses Toronto’s Chinatown, one of the largest in North America.

To view this or any of our other collections, give us a call and make an appointment: 416-979-5000 ext. 4996. Or email us at specialcollections@ryerson.ca.


Some examples of celebratory publications and reports in the MacIntosh Collection.

The Kodak Girl: Women in Kodak Advertising

Take a Kodak With You

The iconic Kodak girl, in her blue and white stripped dress, became synonymous with Kodak products. From the Kodak Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection at Ryerson University Library and Archives.

It’s an image that is familiar to many: the fashionable, romantic woman, on a wind swept beach cradling her Kodak camera.  Bearing a striking resemblance to the Gibson Girl, this representation of an independent women at the dawn of the progressive era was part of a savvy marketing strategy by Kodak that came to be known as the “Kodak Girl” (Jacob, 2011).

At this time, Kodak had begun to produce roll film, cheaper, more portable cameras, and a system that allowed film to be sent back to the company (and later your local drug store) for development.  With the need for the amateur to have a darkroom and complicated and expensive chemicals and equipment was eliminated, photography was now accessible to everyone.

And Kodak knew who they should advertise to.  Around the turn of the last century, women were becoming more self-sufficient and began to enjoy more freedom, engaging more often in work outside the home and past times (Nordstrom, 2012).  From beach vacations to snowy winter outings to tennis matches, the modern woman was fun-loving and independent.  She now felt free to go out and explore the world – and she was taking her Kodak camera with her!


Covers of Kodak catalogues from 1915 and 1918, from the Ryerson University Library and Archives. Accession number: 2005.


Covers of Kodak catalogues from 1912, from the Ryerson University Library and Archives. Accession number: 2005.003

But this was not the only image of the Kodak girl; Kodak also understood, and as Dr. Kamal Munir points out helped spread, the notion that if women also wanted to be responsible mothers and wives, they would ensure that all the key moments were duly captured (2012). Women were seen as the memory keepers of the family.  It was their duty to make sure that the precious moments of her children’s lives were captured.  Birthdays, first steps, holidays, graduations – all needed to be recorded and saved for posterity, and it was up to women to make sure that happened.  This marketing strategy proved very lucrative for the company, and theme continued in their ads for many years.


"Keep Christmas with a Kodak!" 1922 advertisements from the Canadian Kodak Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives, accession number 2005.001.1.1.

“Keep Christmas with a Kodak!” 1922 advertisements from the Canadian Kodak Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives, accession number 2005.001.1.1

"The snapshots you want tomorrow, you must take today!" 1939 advertisements from the Canadian Kodak Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives, accession number 2005.001.1.7

“The snapshots you want tomorrow, you must take today!” 1939 advertisements from the Canadian Kodak Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives, accession number 2005.001.1.7

Over time, the Kodak Girl fell out of favour.  While she was still around in film and camera advertising, her job was no longer to sell women on the idea of photography.  From the mid 20th century, she was more likely to be seen in a bathing suit, often in the form of a life-sized cut out, reminding customers to re-stock their film supply before the summer holidays.


“She’s a Girl Watcher’s Dream!” Ads from 1952 and 1964 Kodak dealer circulars, showcasing the kinds of in-store display items available to help summer film sales. From the Ryerson University Library and Archives, Accession number: 2005.001.6.

An in-store cardboard ad for Kodak Film, [ca. 1985]. From the Kodak Canada Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection, accession number, 2005.

An in-store cardboard ad for Kodak Film, [ca. 1985]. From the Kodak Canada Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection, accession number, 2005.

The later Kodak girls likely did not have the same impact on female customers.  Some suggest that Kodak’s neglect of advertising strategies directed specifically at women in their later marketing campaigns for digital cameras may have meant ignoring a significant portion of their potential market – possibly adding to the decline that the company has experienced since the digital boom (Munir, 2012). 

For more information on the history of the Kodak company in Canada, or to browse some of the cameras and equipment they produced over its nearly 125 year history, visit the Special Collections department on the 4th floor of the Ryerson University Library and Archives.  Call us at 416-979-5000 ext. 4996 or send us an email: specialcollections@ryerson.ca

For more Kodak Girls, visit the Martha Cooper Collection website.


Gautrand, Jean-Claude. (1983). Publicites Kodak: 1910-1939. Paris: Contrejour. Get it at Ryerson

Jacob, John P. (Ed.). (2012). Kodak Girl : From the Martha Cooper Collection. Germany: Steidl. Get it at Ryerson

Munir, Dr. Kamal. (2012). The Demise of Kodak : Five Reasons. The Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2012/02/26/the-demise-of-kodak-five-reasons/

Nordstrom, Dr. Alison. (2012). Lovely, Smart, Modern: Women with Cameras in a Changing World. In Jacob, John P. (Ed.), Kodak Girl: From the Martha Cooper Collection (65-70). Germany: Steidl.

West, Nancy Martha. (2010). Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.  Get it at Ryerson

Oakham House – and Home

William Thomas portrait. (Original painting housed in the Toronto Reference Library. Printed copy from Oakham House doc. file)

William Thomas portrait. (Original painting housed in the Toronto Reference Library. Printed copy from Oakham House doc. file)

A year after Ryerson was erected, William Thomas, a prominent architect of the 19th century, moved into his new home. He built for himself the building that is now known as Oakham House, the original name given by Thomas in 1848. The designated historic building has lived through a few lifetimes as Oakham House, the Working Boys Home, Kerr Hall, Eric Palin Hall, and presently once again as Oakham House. Thomas adopted a gothic style of architecture for his home. Trademarks of Oakham House are the two ornamental dogs that adorned the entrance and that are now housed here in the Archives (see blog post for more information: http://library.ryerson.ca/asc/2011/01/feature-of-the-week-the-oakham-house-dogs/). Thomas resided in Oakham House until his death in 1860. The house was sold to John McGee, a relative of D’Arcy McGee (a Father of Canadian Federation), shortly prior to his death.

Oakham House. (Ryersonia yearbook, 1962)

Oakham House. (Ryersonia yearbook, 1962)

The Oakham House remained in the McGee family until the city purchased it in 1899. For the next sixty years it was known as the Working Boys Home, a place for “boys with problems, not problem boys” as the superintendent Bartholomew Cacan described.

The Home had enough space for fifteen troubled or disadvantaged male youth ranging from ages fourteen to eighteen once renovations were made. Rooms were cut into cubicles and a wing was added to the building.

The Working Boys Home, with the added red brick wing. (from Oakham House 1 doc

The Working Boys Home, with the added red brick wing. (from Oakham House 1 doc. file)

For ten dollars a week, the boys had room and board, laundry service, medical care, counselling, recreational space, and two meals a day. The number of staff was small and the boys did much of the cleaning. Over the years, the Home provided refuge for thousands of boys, most of which belonged to the YMCA and were placed through Children’s Aid Societies. When the Ontario Government bought the house in 1958, the Working Boys Home was relocated and renamed the Clifton House.

Kerr Hall, formerly the Working Boys Home. (RG 95.1, Oakham House doc. file 1)

Kerr Hall, formerly the Working Boys Home. (RG 95.1, Oakham House doc. file 1)

Ryerson Polytechnical Institute acquired the building and named it Kerr Hall, after Ryerson President Howard Kerr. It was intended for use as a residence and a student government office space and the students raised over $100 000 to realize these goals. After undergoing more structural changes, it reopened in 1960 and welcomed forty-two male resident students in its upper floors. The basement housed the student organization offices, a conference room and a tuck shop.

A Kerr Hall residence room in the early 1960s. (RG 95.1, Oakham House doc. file 1)

A Kerr Hall residence room in the early 1960s. (RG 95.1, Oakham House doc. file 1)

“Momma” and “Poppa” Wycik operated the Hall and resided on the second floor. Kerr Hall also held a peculiar resident: a ram named Eggy, the school’s mascot. 

Living on campus, Eggy II with his caretaker “Poppa” Wycik and his companion dog Lucky / Toronto Telegram, 24 April 1964 / with permission from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC07140

In the early 1960s, a new Kerr Hall building was under construction and the current Kerr Hall was again renovated and renamed Eric Palin Hall. Eric Palin was the founder of the schools of Electronics and Radio and Television Arts and was the executive assistant to Principal Kerr. Palin Hall opened in 1971 and remained as a residence and social centre for the next two years until the Fire Department deemed the second and third floors unsafe to live in. The rest of Palin Hall welcomed Ryerson students, staff, and faculty as a community centre with dining facilities, lounges, games, and meeting rooms.

Working Boys Home lounge, before renovations. (The Rambler June 1962)

Working Boys Home lounge, before renovations. (The Rambler June 1962)

Kerr Hall lounge, after renovations. (RG 95.1, from Oakham House 1 doc. file)

Kerr Hall lounge, after renovations. (RG 95.1, from Oakham House 1 doc. file)

Once again, in 1976, the building underwent renovations and reopened with its original name Oakham House in the summer of 1978, this time with a pub on the lower level.

Oakham House became commonly known for The Oakham House Societies, social organizations that operate for Ryerson community members, including the Oakham House Choir and the Oakham House Theatre Society.


Flyer from the Oakham Theatre Society, 1994 (RG 114.14)

Oakham House Choir flyer, 1993 (RG 114.14)


Oakham House Choir flyer, 1994 (RG 114.14)


Oakham House Theatre Society flyer, n.d. (RG 114.14)

For more information about Oakham House and other campus buildings, please visit the Ryerson University Archives located on the third floor of the library in Room 387. The Archives is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, Monday to Friday.

Polaroid versus Kodak: The Battle for Instant Photography

In 1947, Edwin Land unveiled a new process that would change the direction of amateur photography. It was a one-step, one-minute process that produced a fully finished photograph, something no one had ever seen before. This process was the beginning of a new genre of creating photographs called instant photography. The camera that was made for this in-camera process was the Land camera, named for the inventor of synthetic polarizer and the instant film process, and the founder of the Polaroid Corporation. Many different models of these first Polaroid cameras, as well as many later models, can be viewed at Special Collections in the Ryerson University Library Archives, along with examples of different Polaroid photographs and instant film.

Polaroid Land Camera, model 95a

Polaroid Land Camera, model 95a. Manufactured 1949-1950.

Polaroid dominated the market for this unique and easy photographic process that was a huge hit with amateur and professional consumers. However, also among the shelves of Special Collections, are examples of cameras, prints and film made by a number of different manufacturing companies who tried to get in on this popular genre of photography. None were nearly as successful, as no one could compete with the Polaroid name or their (what is often referred to as brilliant) marketing campaign. Stars such as Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Mariette Hartley & James Garner, Blyth Danner, Candice Bergen, and The Muppets loaned their talents to promoting Polaroid products at a time when many stars were wary of doing commercials.  

Then, in 1976, Polaroid was finally faced with their first real competitor for the instant photography market, an already established manufacturer of photographic equipment and materials: the Eastman Kodak Company. But Polaroid was prepared to deal with their competition, and by 1986, all of Kodak’s instant photography films and cameras had been pulled from the market, and Kodak ceased to manufacture any products that would directly compete with Polaroid’s instant photography niche.

Polaroid JoyCam, ca. 1995.

Polaroid JoyCam. ca. 1995.

In fact, from 1963-1969, the Eastman Kodak Company had actually manufactured Polaroid’s instant film for them. At this time, Kodak was planning to introduce themselves to the market with a packfilm design, but later, after Polaroid released their SX-70 system in 1972, Kodak decided to go in a different direction and follow Polaroid with an integral type process instead. Although Kodak’s design differed from Polaroid’s in numerous ways, Polaroid filed suit against Kodak mere months after the release of the new products for the infringement of 12 Polaroid patents, accusing Kodak of illegally incorporating instant photography technology into their products. They claimed that during the 10 years the Eastman Kodak Company produced instant photography materials, they had cost the Polaroid Corporation $12 billion.

Kodamatic 940. 1983.

Kodamatic 940. 1983.

The final charges, announced in 1990, did not amount to $12 billion (what many considered a huge exaggeration), but at $909 million, they did come close to a billion. Found guilty on 7 of the 12 patent infringements after a trial in 1985, Kodak was forced out of instant photography the following year.  The widely reported ruling was bad news for customers who had purchased a Kodak Instant camera.

The case did end favourably for Kodak though, especially after the high demands from Polaroid, who felt that Kodak had intentionally copied their technology. After a 14-year legal battle, in 1991 Kodak was finally ordered to pay Polaroid a total of $909 million, $925 million with interest, the largest settlement ever paid out until last year when Apple was awarded $1.049 billion in damages from Samsung infringements.

As part of the settlement, Kodak needed to provide compensation for customers who had bought any of their instant cameras between 1976 and 1986 and would no longer be able to purchase film to use in them. Owners of Kodak instant cameras were invited to call a toll free number and register themselves in order to receive a settlement packet. The packet was mailed out to those who registered, and provided customers with instructions of how to receive a rebate check or certificate, which often involved removing the name plate off of the front of the camera and mailing it in as proof of purchase.

Kodak Colorburst 250. ca. 1979.

Kodak Colorburst 250. ca. 1979.

The Eastman Kodak Company did manage to recover after the Polaroid lawsuit, and with the sales of their popular movie films were able to regain their success. Unfortunately, the company was much slower with the uptake of the digital market, and in 2012 filed for bankruptcy due to lack of demand for the primary products made by their company, photographic films.

If you wish to pay tribute to some of Kodak’s instant photography cameras, you can make an appointment to come and see examples such as the Kodamatic 940, the Kodak Colorburst models 250 and 300, and the Kodak Trimprint 940 (with nameplates still intact!), as well as a wide range of instant cameras, film, and equipment made by Polaroid and other instant photography manufacturers that Special Collections keeps in their Heritage Camera Collection and the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives.

More information

Have a look at some of the original television advertisements for the Kodak instant Cameras.

For more detailed information on how the instant photography process works, have a look at this article by Tom Harris at How Stuff Works.

To make an appointment with Ryerson Library Special Collections, contact:


416-979-5000 ext 4996


Frezza, Bill. “Polaroid, Kodak, Apple: No One Escapes the Winds of Creative Destruction” Forbes, Sept 5, 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrezza/2012/09/05/polaroid-kodak-apple-no-one-escapes-the-winds-of-creative-destruction.

Holusha, John. “Kodak Told it must Pay $909 Million.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Oct 13, 1990. http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/108482495?accountid=13631.

“Instant Camera Settlement.” Kodak Service and Support. http://www.kodak.com/global/en/service/faqs/faq0098.shtml.

“Kodak Settles Dispute With Polaroid the Fight Over Instant-photography Technology Took 15 Years and Cost Kodak $925 Million in Damages.” The Inquirer, July 16, 1991. http://articles.philly.com/1991-07-16/business/25783982_1_polaroid-patents-instant-cameras-instant-photography-business.

McCarty, Dawn and Beth Jinks. “Kodak Files for Bankruptcy as Digital Era Spells End for Film.” Bloomberg, January 19, 2012. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-19/kodak-photography-pioneer-files-for-bankruptcy-protection-1-.html.

Wurman, Richard Saul. Polaroid Access: Fifty Years. [S.I.] : Access Press, 1989. 

The Man behind the Glass: Robert Hackborn

Pictured is Hackborn visiting the Ryerson Library and Archives on March 7, 2013 with archivist Curtis Sassur. Hackborn explains the technique behind the matte glass. (Photograph by Dave Upham, University photographer)

Pictured is Hackborn visiting the Ryerson Library and Archives on March 7, 2013 with archivist Curtis Sassur. Hackborn explains the technique behind the matte glass. (Photograph by Dave Upham, University photographer)

Ryerson University students and researchers now have access to an extensive collection of materials related to Robert Hackborn’s work. For nearly four decades, Robert Hackborn worked at the CBC in the design and production of sets and visual effects for television shows. On display now at the Special Collections Library are some of these materials generously donated by Hackborn.

Robert Arthur Hackborn was born in 1928 in Toronto, and attended the Ontario College of Art (OCA) from 1948 to 1952. In 1955, Hackborn embarked on what would become a long and important career in the design and production of sets and visual effects for television when he took a position in the nascent Television Production unit at the CBC. His often leading-edge contributions to the many shows he worked on are of great cultural and technological significance.

While at the CBC, Hackborn helped to design a staggering array of variety, comedy, musical, sports, news, children’s, and scripted television programs. Starting with The Juliette Show in the late 1950’s, and continuing into the 1990’s, Hackborn’s designs and visual effects defined and enhanced the production of a vast number of shows at the CBC.  Among those featuring Hackborn’s input were: Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood, Mr. Dressup, The Tommy Hunter Show, World Tour ’67, Wayne & Shuster, I Married the Klondike, Fraggle Rock, The Royal Canadian Air Farce, and The Kids in the Hall.

Hackborn also worked as a production designer with director Donald Brittain on several CBC/National Film Board (NFB) co-productions including: Canada’s Sweetheart: the Saga of Hal C. Banks and The King Chronicles.

This section of the display shows photographs taken by Hackborn during his career which document the processes of working on a television set.

This section of the display shows photographs taken by Hackborn during his career which document the processes of working on a television set.

During his career, Mr. Hackborn was also responsible for the execution of a very large collection of photographs that document the processes of working on a television set.  With a professionally trained eye for composition and his camera, Mr. Hackborn systematically documented the television production process of the shows that he worked on.  Featured in some of these photographs are Jim Henson and Fred Rogers.

On display are a group of color photographs taken by Hackborn, a sweatshirt, a children’s picture book, and figurines related to the production of Fraggle Rock.

On display are a group of color photographs taken by Hackborn, a sweatshirt, a children’s picture book, and figurines related to the production of Fraggle Rock.

Fraggle Rock

As part of the Robert Hackborn Collection, Ryerson has several objects, textual records, and photographs related to the production of Fraggle RockFraggle Rock was a popular children’s television show developed by Jim Henson and featuring his beloved live action puppets. The original English language version of the show ran for five seasons and 96 episodes between 1983 and 1987. On display are a group of photographs taken by Hackborn that show Jim Henson and others working with puppets on the set of Fraggle Rock, a sweatshirt and a children’s picture book produced as part of the show’s promotional marketing campaign, and three specially commissioned ‘Doozer’ figurines used by Hackborn during the set design process.

“The Fraggle Rock Crystal Cave” matte shot. This painting, executed by Hackborn, was used as a background effect on the show. The blue portion acted like a green screen and pieces of glass protrude from the canvas. (2012.005.06.41)

“The Fraggle Rock Crystal Cave” matte shot. This painting, executed by Hackborn, was used as a background effect on the show. The blue portion acted like a green screen and pieces of Plexiglas protrude from the canvas. (2012.005.06.41)

Hackborn is credited with the art direction for Fraggle Rock during the inaugural 1983-84 season, and as a set designer for two episodes in the second season.

The Glass Matte Shot

During his career at the CBC, Hackborn worked to pioneer various special visual effects techniques for television production including the “Glass Matte Shot”.  To achieve this effect, images were painted onto a transparent glass matte placed in the foreground of and realistically inserted into the “real world” shot.  This type of special effect was typically used to add facades onto buildings, or to create historically accurate ‘period’ effects for shows set in earlier times.  The CBC film drama I Married the Klondike, and several sketches from The Royal Canadian Air Farce feature great examples of how the glass matte technique was used. The “Glass Matte Shot” process relied on a strong proficiency in lens-angle mathematics and a mature artistic vision in order to generate a realistic perspective and convincing effect. Shooting techniques like these were an important cost-saving tool on many CBC productions.

The “Glass Matte Shot” technique was pioneered by Hackborn during his time at the CBC.

The “Glass Matte Shot” technique, which incorporates reflective transparent glass matte into the shot, was pioneered by Hackborn during his time at the CBC.

Robert Hackborn retired from the CBC in 1993 after 38 years of service. Included in the collection here at the Ryerson Special Collections are photographic and textual documentation of the various film-based special effects pioneered and employed by Hackborn in his work, as well as documentation of the earliest show development process for the major children’s television programs Mr. Dressup and Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood. There are also records related to the creative processes behind Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock, including images of, and correspondence with Henson.

The Robert Hackborn collection represents a valuable resource for students and academics studying the history of Canadian television production and cultural output.

The Robert Hackborn Display at the Ryerson Special Collections Library.

If you would like to see this display and part of the collection, or for more information, please drop by the 4th floor of the library, or make an appointment: specialcollections@ryerson.ca. You can search our collection online at http://minisis.library.ryerson.ca/m2a/.

The Hackborn collection has also been profiled in the summer 2013 edition of the Ryerson University Magazine. “http://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/ryerson/alumni_2013summer/#/32.

Mystery Images Found Around the Library…

For the past few years at the Ryerson University Library & Archives, mysterious photographs have been showing up in random library books. These photographs are housed in small paper envelopes that refer to them as “supplementary image plates” and label them “Property of V.I. Fonds”. Each envelope of ‘supplementary plates’ has ended up in a library book with a  theme similar to the subject of the pictures within it. Only recently has the library solved the mystery of where these envelopes have been coming from.

A  yellow envelope reading "Property of V.I. Fonds" TR790 .T35 1993 - Travel Photography. Supplementary image plates on temporary loan to Take Better Travel Photos/

An example of the V.I. Fonds envelopes found in books around the Library

It turns out that the planted photographs are the result of a project assigned by Image Arts Professor Vid Ingelevics to his Documentary Media MFA students for the course “Databases, Archives and the Virtual Experience of Art.” For the project, students were presented with an archive of 100 images on CD and asked to create a system to classify them. Past student Mark Laurie, who graduated from the program in 2010, chose to rely on the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress Subject headings to help categorize the disparate images.

The title of the project – “Supplementary plates: The V.I. Fonds distribution project” – describes Laurie’s decision for classifying the images through placing them into library books. Each individual photograph remains connected to the others in archival fashion by fonds, acknowledging the original source and organization of the images, in a group of 100 from Vid Ingelevics.

The artist printed the images as photographs, and divided them into library books because “without knowledge of the images’ provenances and the archival motivations behind their co-mingling, [Laurie] realized that by merely organizing them into batches, [he] could not hope to restore their meaning or significance.” Assigning each image, or small group of similar images, a Library of Congress Subject heading, Laurie searched the Ryerson Library catalogue and chose books with identical subject headings to place the photographs in. He used the Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress Subject heading to complete the classification of his images, and placed them into books indicating that they were “on loan” from the V.I. Fonds to that book, adding to the Ryerson Library’s collection of images on that subject.

For example, Edward Ruschca’s book Twentysix Gasoline Stations was found with an envelope that reads:

NA6370 .R8 1967 – Service stations.
Supplementary image plate(s) on temporary loan to Twentysix gasoline stations. ( [s.l. ]: Cunningham, 1967).
[Fig. 1] A typical gasoline station in the United States.
\Loan expires October 31 2008 – if overdue, please inform Loan Administrator: vifonds@mail.org.

The envelop contained the photo of the gasoline station in the United States.

Photograph showing the book Twentysix Gasoline Stations by Edward Ruscha, along with the envelop and photograph placed inside as part of the V.I. Fonds project.

Twentysix Gasoline Stations by Edward Ruscha, with the V.I. Fonds supplement

Other images that have been found include 7 photographs of people in the act of taking photographs in the book “Taking Better Travel Photos”, and a photograph of a group of friends dining together in the book “Dining Customs Around the World, with Occasional Recipes.”

Kodak how to book for taking travel photos, seen with the inserts from the V.I. Fonds.

V.I. Fonds inserted photographs

The Ryerson Library is still on the lookout for more of these envelopes, so far only 28 out of 54 envelopes have been found. If you are interested in seeing those that have already been found, they are being held on the fourth floor of the library in Special Collections.  You can help us with this mystery! If you happen to find one of the V.I. Fond envelopes, please bring it to the attention of library staff, so that we might add it to our collection.

Also hidden on our shelves…

Staff at the Ryerson University Library and Archives have also been surprised to find new titles added to our shelves throughout the past year. Donations to the library including books titled: My Erotic Life: Richard” Dick Nixon, Why Are Babies So Ugly? by Oprah Winfrey, Circus of Desire by Penelope Brimshaw, and Puppies for Africa by Jeffrey Sachs were found, anonymously donated, throughout the library.

Photograph of fake book covers created by the Marxist Nudist Taxidermy Club. Titles include Circus of Desire by Penelope Brimshaw, My Erotic Life by Richard "Dick" Nixon and Why are Babies so Ugly by Oprah Winfrey

Examples of books donated to libraries around Toronto by the Marxist Nudist Taxidermy Club.

With a little research, Ryerson Library staff was able to find the culprits and credit the donations to The Marxist Nudist Taxidermy Club of Toronto. The MNT club celebrated April fools day last year (2012) by making some library visits.  The Ryerson library was one of only five libraries in Toronto to which the club kindly donated books that can’t be found anywhere else.  The library is still on alert for the two missing titles from the MNT Books Project collection…

– Cassandra Rowbotham, June 2013

Links and further information

For information about Ryerson Library Special Collections: http://library.ryerson.ca/asc/

For more information about the Ryerson University graduate program in Documentary Media: http://www.ryerson.ca/graduate/documentarymedia/index.html

More information about Mark Laurie’s project can be found here: http://mlaurie.wordpress.com/2008/11/19/supplementary-plates-the-vi-fonds-distribution-project/

More information about The Marxist Nudist Taxidermy Club can be found here: http://www.mntclub.com/about/