Princess Gates 1920s

I have been living in Toronto now for almost 14 years and one of the events I have grown to absolutely LOVE is the CNE-Canadian National Exhibition. The CNE is basically a giant fair that runs for 18 days near the end of the summer and it’s known for its great shows, crazy food (anyone for a bacon, donut burger??), rides and all the cools things to see..bring on the Sham Wow guy! lol

The first Canadian National Exhibition took place in 1879, largely to promote agriculture and technology in Canada. Agriculturists, engineers and scientists exhibited their discoveries and inventions at the CNE to showcase the work and talent of the nation (Wikipedia). Apparently, prior to 1879, the fair had traveled throughout the province, but eventually settled where the crowds were after local stakeholders campaigned to make it a permanent city attraction (

That means that this year the CNE is celebrating its 135th season this year so I thought it would be fun if we checked out some vintage photos, advertising etc. of this historical event. So grab a bag of chocolate covered parmesan popcorn and lets take a trip down CNE memory lane…

CNE 1937 Ad
Image courtesy of the CNE Archives

CNE advertising 1947 TTC Toronto

To start, I’m doing a blog series on the wonderful book “Lets Dance. A celebration of dance halls and summer dance pavilions by Peter Young” and one of the sections briefly covers the “CNE TENT” that was erected in 1938 to bring in top-notch entertainers. Acts like: Benny Goodman with Peggy Lee, Artie Shaw, Guy Lombardo and even the Tommy Dorsey Band made their way to this tent.

In Peters book he even mentions a story how in September 8th of 1939 the Tommy Dorsey band flew to Toronto on the American Airlines flagship craft to appear at the CNE. This was the FIRST time the entire band travelled by air so they marked the occasion by playing a few tunes right at the airport (“Lets Dance..”, pg 23, Peter Young).

CNE dance tent

The image above was from 1940 and you can see the dance tent in the background where apparently Eddy Duchin and his Orchestra were performing that very night (“take a ride back in history” by Mike Filey).

Then while scouring the internet for fun images/stories to share I stumbled upon the most AMAZING FIND! Did you know that the CNE created their own high-kicking dance troupe version of the Rockettes? The Canadettes and they made annual appearances from 1951 until 1967 at the CNE. How fun!

CNE 1960s Toronto
The Canadettes, circa 1961. CNE Archives, Alexandra Studio Collection.

Now for the random vintage pictures I promised you…

Two ADORABLE kids enjoying a coke break in 1959.

CNE-1959 Toronto
Photo Courtesy of “CNE Facebook Page”

CNE 1940’s cooking demo.

CNE 1940 cooking demo Toronto
Photo Courtesy of: CNE Facebook Page

CNE-1937. I LOVE this photo! The couple in the front that stand out in the picture are just outstanding looking.

CNE-1937 Toronto
Photo Courtesy of: CNE Facebook Page

CNE-1961. I’m enjoying eyeballing some of the great fashion in the pic 🙂

CNE 1961 Toronto
Photo Courtesy of: CNE Facebook Page

Want to learn how to take care of your baby in 1918?

CNE Babies 1918 Toronto
Image courtesy of the CNE Archives

I will now leave you with a picture from my engagement photo session that was done at the CNE

CNE Engagement photo Toronto Vintage Inn

Photo Courtesy of David Tom Photography

If you live in Toronto and are attending the CNE or have attended the CNE I would love to hear your stories of your favorite things to do there.

Liz 🙂

8 comments on “Canadian National Exhibition is Here! The Vintage Edition”

  1. I found a old advertisement in the Toronto Star, August 23, 1934 announcing the possibility of dancing to the Music of Duke Ellington at the Fashion Pavilion of the CNE on August 24th and 25th. 50 cents to get in and 10 cents a dance (ah… “jitney dancing”, that strange fashion of the time).

    I tried to paste it in but it didn’t work.

    • Yes jitney dancing was very interesting lol! Can You share the link not the picture as i would so love to have this on my blog? Thank you so much for the heads up and trying to post it.

      • Sadly, no link availble – you’d have to get in through the Toronto Public Library “Pages of the Past” Toronto Star online digitized image collection. Not too hard if you have a TPL card active, you can find the appropriate link on their website. The collection is keyword searchable, I found it just by doing a phrase search for “Duke Ellington.”

  2. Awesome, awesome, awesome post, dear Liz! There are few things I love anywhere near as much as the combination of vintage + Canada, and this wonderful look at CNE combines them so splendidly. Would you believe it? We called Ontario home for six years, and not once in all that time I manage to make it to the CNE (unlike the PNE out here in B.C., which I went to every year as a youngster). One never knows where life will take them though, and perhaps I’ll find myself out that way again sometime and finally able to attend.

    ♥ Jessica

    • Funny that you say that, a friend of mine that is from out west but has been living in Toronto now for about the same time as you did has never been to the CNE either but PNE..she went all the time! I’m dragging her there next Wednesday. I do hope that you will some day get to visit during the CNE…or anytime 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.