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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Price: $19.95

Paperback 224 pp.
25 b/w line drawing, 24 b/w photographs, 6" x 9"



Publication date:
October 2010

Imprint: OUP Canada

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The Revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company

Sunday Streetcars and Municipal Reform In Toronto, 1888-1897

Christopher Armstrong and H. V. Nelles

Series : The Wynford Project

Bribery! Corruption! Fist fights on the steps of City Hall. Thunderings from the pulpits! Mass meetings, petitions, rallies, unrest in the streets! The Revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company is a lighthearted, impeccably researched excursion through the thickets of chicanery, hypocrisy, and sanctimony that were the special marks of High Victorian Toronto.

The story is simple: big-money interest who owned Toronto's street railways wanted to run streetcars on Sundays. They claimed this would be a boon to the working man on his day of rest, but it was clear that profit was their real motive. Respectable leaders of Toronto society were adamantly opposed; Sunday streetcars were a desecration of the Sabbath, the work of the Devil. But ultimately, the robber barons won and the cars ran on Sunday - just as the first great bicycle craze began. Everybody bought bikes - some of them from the Methodist Bicycle Company - and the Sunday streetcars were virtually empty.

Revenge is a rollicking good story peopled by flamboyant characters with Good and Evil fighting it out in public view. Richly illustrated with cartoons and photographs from the period, it is an exuberant refutation of the notion that Canadian history is dull.

With a new Preface by the authors, the attractive Wynford edition brings this award-winning classic to a new generation of readers.

Readership : A classic Toronto story, Revenge will appeal to the general reader interested in Canadian history, and more specifically, local history at the turn of the century. The book will also be useful to those interested in local politics and the evolution of public transportation.

Preface to the Wynford Edition
Preface to the First Edition
1. A Sense of Time and Place
2. Ned Clarke's Toronto
3. Senator Smith's Goldmine
4. The Sale of the Railway and the Purchase of the Council
5. Weathercocks and Flapdoodlers
6. A Business Man and a Business Plan
7. The City Virgin
8. Boodle Everywhere
9. The Redemption of the City
10. Organizing to Whip the Saints
11. The Unbluing of Toronto
12. The Revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company
13. Postscript

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Christopher Armstrong is Professor of History at York University. His numerous books on Canadian history have won critical acclaim, and in 2002 he received the Ontario History Society JJ Talman Award for his study of Canadian capital markets in Moose Pastures and Mergers: The Ontario Securities Commission and the Regulation of Share Markets in Canada, 1940-1980.

H.V. Nelles is the L.R. Wilson Professor of Canadian History at McMaster University. He has written widely on Canada's history, and his book, The Art of Nation Building, won the Sir John A. MacDonald Prize for the Best Book in Canadian history and Le Prix Clio for the best book on Quebec history.

The Peoples of Canada - J. M. Bumsted
The Oxford Companion to Canadian History - Edited by Gerald Hallowell
A Little History of Canada - H.V. Nelles
Labouring Canada - Edited by Brian D. Palmer and Joan Sangster
A History of Canadian Culture - Jonathan Vance

Special Features

  • Co-winner of the 1977 Toronto Book Awards with Timothy Findley's The Wars
  • H.V. Nelles is an award-winning writer and the recipient of the Sir John A. MacDonald Prize for Canadian history and Le Prix Clio for Quebec history
  • 50 historic line drawings and photographs recreate the city of Toronto at the turn of the century