by Aparajita Bhandari

birthday cake candles

It’s a cold March day near Queen’s Park in Toronto. Actually to be exact, it’s March 15th and the year is 1827. Canada will not be a country for forty more years; Toronto is a small city in the colony of Upper Canada. This day is a momentous day in history. It is the founding day of the first higher education institute in Upper Canada, a small royally chartered school called King’s College. Twenty-three years later this school will change its name to a more familiar one—the University of Toronto.

A painting by Sir Edmund Walker of University College in 1858.

Yes, readers, Tuesday last week was the 189th birthday of our amazing school. In honour of the University of Toronto’s birthday, I decided to write a post highlighting a few of the coolest moments and facts from our history.


1861 – The first documented football game was played here. It was a practice game played by students on the fields of University College.

U of T football team, 1870

U of T football team, 1870


1880 – The student paper, The Varsity, printed its first issue. The headlining article on the front page of the issue was one debating whether women should be allowed to attend the school.

The Varsity newspaper nameplate


1893 – The University of Toronto asked its graduate students (all 13 of them) to move out of the residence buildings because they were a bad influence on the undergraduates. The students refused, and the dean threw their belongings out into the dining hall.


1857 – Sir Daniel Wilson established a course called “Ancient and Modern Ethnology” which was the world’s first anthropology course. University College’s residences are also named after this professor.

Sir Daniel Wilson


1866- 1913 –  William Henry Van der Smissen, a professor of German, apparently liked his own lectures so much that he gave the same lecture more than three times to the same class, in the same year.


1969 – John Lennon played a concert at Varsity Arena. Then one week later he officially split up with the Beatles. Hopefully, there’s no correlation between those two things.

John Lennon

John Lennon (Photo: Iain Macmillan)


1982 – The SkyDome (now called the Rogers Centre) was planned to be located completely on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. The university president at that time, President James Ham ultimately decided to pass on the idea.

Rogers Centre, Toronto


I hope you learned some new things here and maybe had your view of our school changed a little bit. We have so many years of fascinating, inspiring and even just weird history here, all of which are part of what makes this school so special.

Happy 189th birthday, University of Toronto. Here’s to many more amazing years in the future!

Do you know any cool or weird things about U of T history? Share them with us in the comments below!