Members only

For most of the 19th century, organized sports was largely reserved for upper class men who could afford to join elite private member’s only clubs and leagues. The city's working class had little leisure time, aside from holidays and special occasions.

At first, Toronto's early sporting clubs were primarily social clubs. Over time, these clubs shifted focus towards formalizing playing rules or inter-club and inter-city competitions.

By-laws and sailing rules

By-Laws and Sailing Rules
Royal Canadian Yacht Club
Toronto: Mail Job Department, 1888

The Royal Canadian Yacht Club was established in 1852 under the name Toronto Boat Club. In 1854, with a warrant from the Queen, the club became the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. This book of by-laws and rules governed all different aspects of sailing such as the types of flags used and attire worn as well as club governance and operations. Behaviour and etiquette were also covered in detail.

Rosedale Golf Club (Toronto)

Rosedale Golf Club
Federic Waistell Jopling, 1859-1945
Pencil and scraping out on tinted cardboard

The Rosedale Golf Club was founded in 1893. Originally located in Rosedale Park, it moved to its current site in 1909. It remains one of the city’s most exclusive golf courses.

Toronto Golf Club, Gerrard St. E., n. side, e. of Coxwell Ave.

Toronto Golf Club
Josiah Bruce
Photograph, 1895

The Toronto Golf Club was established in 1876, making it the third oldest golf club in North America. The club originally used vacant farm lands until new grounds were secured in the 1880s. A luxurious clubhouse featuring dining rooms, reading rooms, and a pro shop was opened in 1894.

Toronto Athletic Club members ticket

Toronto Athletic Club member’s ticket

The Toronto Athletic Club was first established as a social sports club in 1800. By 1891, the annual fee for Active Members was $10 ($5 for women). It would have been a considerable fee for most – average earnings for manual labourers was around $400 per year.

Toronto Snowshoe Club

Toronto Snowshoe Club
Unknown photographer
Photograph, ca. 1884

By the early 1880s, snowshoeing had gained tremendous popularity, and clubs and competitions popped up across Canada. Toronto Snowshoe Club consisted of members of the Toronto Lacrosse Club. The club participated in long-distance “tramps.”