Oshawa’s Newspapers, Past and Present

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Preparing for our latest Sunday FUNday event at the Oshawa Museum, our first in person event since February 2020, brought me down the rabbit hole of newspapers. To celebrate Archives Awareness Week, I wanted the Sunday FUNday to be archives related, so newspapers were a good theme. We were able to bring out copies of papers from the education collection and I went Live on Facebook to talk about newspapers. Here’s a little of what I learned while getting ready for the livestream.

According to amateur historian, Samuel Pedlar, there have been newspapers in our community since the 1840s. His unpublished manuscript claimed that the earliest paper in our community was The Luminary, a Christian paper which started around 1844. Following it was a paper called The Literary Newsletter which started around 1848 and published by Oliphant and White. A name change to The Oshawa Reformer took place in 1850. According to Pedlar, “Its motto ‘cheap Government and trustworthy officials’ would indicate its purpose.” It is unknown when both of these papers ceased publishing. The 1877 County of Ontario Atlas made note of The Tribune and The Friendly Moralist, two papers they claimed to have been printed in Oshawa.

Around 1851, a new paper came onto the scene with The Oshawa Freeman, and shareholders in this paper included well known names: Dr. William McGill, Abram Farewell, Thos. N. Gibbs, and G.H. Grierson.

It appears most of these papers were short lived, but the next paper to establish itself in our community was around for decades.

Due to a fire at the Oshawa Times in 1971, the earliest archives of The Oshawa Vindicator were lost. It is unknown exactly when it started, as many sources give a different year, but it is safe to say that in the mid-1850s, James E. McMillan and James Luke purchased interests in The Oshawa Freeman; McMillan’s interests were purchased by WH Orr, and a new enterprise called The Oshawa Vindicator began. All was not lost for the Vindicator, thankfully, as issues through the 1860s were preserved on microfilm. These issues can be read online from our partner, Canadian Community Digital Archives.

The Vindicator operated with a conservative slant and supported conservative candidates and politics. In 1866, Orr was bought out by John S. Larke, and the paper ended up having a number of different owners through the years until it ultimately ceased publishing in 1917.

Offering the opposing liberal viewpoint to Oshawa readers was the Ontario Reformer. Under the direction of Mr. Climie of Bowmanville, the first issue was published in 1871. For a short time, Luke and Larke operated both the Reformer and the Vindicator until Mr. Mundy purchased the Reformer in the late 1870s.

The Reformer went through a number of name changes through the years, most notably when they became the Oshawa Daily Times in 1927. An amalgamation with the Whitby Gazette and Chronicle in 1942 resulted in the name change to The Oshawa Time Gazette, and a number of years later, the name was shortened to simply The Oshawa Times. In 1994, a labour strike impacted the paper, and this, in conjunction with the paper operating at a deficit for a number of years, led to the closure in 1994.

The oldest paper still operating today is This Week. It started in 1970 by Peter Brouwer, and through different mergers and changes, it is published today on a weekly basis by Metroland Durham Region Media Group.

From 2005 to late 2021, there had also been The Oshawa Express, another weekly paper. In late 2020, they shifted from in-print/online to a solely online news source, but there does not appear to be any new updates on their website since Fall 2021.

If you wanted to read through the historic newspapers, our microfilm collection to the 1930s and physical newspapers have been digitized and are available to read online: http://communitydigitalarchives.com/

As well, one of my favourite columns to research is The Month That Was, where we look at what was making the newspapers for a given month and year, and we publish them on this blog – you can read through the past articles by exploring the Month That Was category.


Sources

Samuel Pedlar’s unpublished manuscript

Oshawa: Canada’s Motor City, M. McIntyre Hood, 1967

DurhamRegion.com and Northumberlandnews.com About Us https://www.durhamregion.com/community-static/3839840-durhamregion-com-about-us/

This Week, 16 June 1993 – Obituary Peter Brouwer: Founder of This Week

Oshawa Express website

4 thoughts on “Oshawa’s Newspapers, Past and Present”

  1. There was another local Oshawa paper back in the mid to later 60’s but I forget the name. My father ( Elmer Stewart ) was part owner of a typesetting business and I used to proof read copy before it printed even though I was in high school at the time. I believe it was a weekly. Not a long lasting venture. The owners name eludes me.

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  2. I have heard the word “advertorial” thrown around when referring to the successors of The Oshawa Times. I’m not sure if there was ever any information regarding articles to ads in the Times, but I remember there being a good quantity of articles (national and local) as well as many photos. The Times was an important part of so many of us growing up here in town.

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