The Archives of Ontario holds a wide range of health-related records from a variety of sources, including papers from health-care providers, hospital records, drawings for newspaper articles, photographs, films, and files from many different government offices. A few samples are presented here.

The medical daybooks of Dr. James Miles Langstaff (1825-1889) give a daily account of the patients he visited, purpose of the visit, and medicines prescribed or administered. Typical of the period, they are a chronological listing kept as an aid for the doctor’s memory. Dr. Langstaff was a physician based in Richmond Hill. The daybooks, together with his account books for keeping track of debts owed by patients, provide a wealth of information about medical practice and pioneer life in rural Ontario.

Medical daybook of Dr. James Langstaff, Dec. 13-24, 1849
Medical daybook of Dr. James Langstaff, Dec. 13-24, 1849
James Miles Langstaff’s medical daybooks
Reference Code: F 4329-1-0-1
Archives of Ontario

The transcribed copies of letters and reports sent by pre-confederation Chief Emigrant Agent A. B. Hawke discuss a variety of subjects, including his work with hospitals and boards of health to co-ordinate medical services during the typhus epidemic that affected many Irish immigrants who came to Canada following the Great Potato Famine.

This is part of a letter to Hon. John A. MacDonald, who was Receiver General and Commissioner of Crown Lands at the time, reporting on the state of health and social consequences of the new immigrants.

Letterbook of A. B. Hawke, 12 August 1847 (page 1)
Click to see a larger image (71K)
Letterbook of A. B. Hawke, 12 August 1847
Chief Emigrant Agent’s letterbooks
RG 11-1-0-3, pp. 130-131
Reference Code: Microfilm reel MS 6910
Archives of Ontario
Letterbook of A. B. Hawke, 12 August 1847 (page 2)
Click to see a larger image (127K)
Letterbook of A. B. Hawke, 12 August 1847
Chief Emigrant Agent’s letterbooks
RG 11-1-0-3, pp. 130-131
Reference Code: Microfilm reel MS 6910
Archives of Ontario

Public health programs intersect with the values and structures of society and can be controversial. Contemporary newspapers and political cartoons tell the stories of public health initiatives and some of the challenges they faced. This cartoon comments on the attempts of Charles Hastings, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, to make Toronto cleaner and healthier in the early 20th century.

M.H.O Hastings: I had no idea you needed cleaning up so badly, [between 1910 and 1914]
"M.H.O Hastings: I had no idea you needed cleaning up so badly", [between 1910 and 1914]
Newton McConnell fonds
Reference Code: C 301, 61
Archives of Ontario, I0006074

The records of provincial hospitals and health care institutions contain information about the development of modern medicine or the training of nurses, as well as other less expected subjects such as building architecture and office procedures.

The document below tells us much about patient life at a time when able patients were expected to pay for their stay in hospital and also “assist in nursing others, or in such services as the Lady Superintendent may require.”

Rules for Patients, Cornwall General Hospital, 1897
Click to see a larger image (528K)
Rules for Patients, Cornwall General Hospital, 1897
Cornwall General Hospital fonds
Reference Code: F 1396, No. 31
Archives of Ontario
Public Health Nurses
Photo: Children being washed by a nurse at school, [ca. 1905]
Children being washed by a nurse at school, [ca. 1905]
Public Health Nursing Branch
Black and white print
Reference Code: RG 10-30-2, 3.03.4
Archives of Ontario, I0005195
Photo: Public Health Nurse sitting on a car at South Gillies, Thunder Bay District, 1923
Public Health Nurse sitting on a car at South Gillies,
Thunder Bay District, 1923
Ministry of Health
Black and white print
Reference Code: RG 10-30-2, 2.20.1
Archives of Ontario, I0005230


















Visiting public health nurses were often the only source of medical assistance in remote areas. Their reports of school inspections, family visits, and other work throughout the province present an evocative picture of social conditions at the time. Some reports include photographs.

School Section No. 2, Spohn Township, Rainy River District (unorganized), June 1926
Click to see a larger image (288K)
School Section No. 2, Spohn Township, Rainy River District (unorganized), June 1926
Public health nursing historical files
Reference Code: RG 10-30-1-1.14
Archives of Ontario
Health Promotion

Governments and private organizations have produced a multitude of pamphlets, posters, videos, and other material designed to promote healthy life styles and reduce the spread of disease. These items are indicative of the prevalent health concerns at the time of their creation and also show the expected interests of the intended audience.

Walter Moorhouse (1883-1957) was an amateur photographer and the Classics Master at Jarvis Collegiate in Toronto from 1918 to 1948. Moorhouse took film footage showing some of the students’ health-related activities.

Video clip of dentist with student,  [Jarvis Collegiate Institute]
Video clip of dentist with student, Toronto, 1946
Jarvis [Collegiate Institute] dental and TB services
Walter Moorhouse fonds
Reference Code: C 231-18-0-8
Archives of Ontario
Windows Media Player   1.90MB
Quicktime 4.89MB




Influenza poster, 1918
Click to see a larger image (140K)
Influenza poster, 1918
Secretary of the Board of Health and Chief
Medical Officer of Health subject files
Reference Code: RG 62-4-9-450a.1
Archives of Ontario

The artwork below is from a Karate Kids comic book produced in 1990 by Street Kids International and distributed in Ontario with the assistance of the Ministry of Health. The comic was part of a series of materials designed to promote AIDS awareness in street children.

Karate Kids comic book, 1990
Karate Kids comic book, 1990
Ministry of Health publications and films
Reference Code: RG 10-13, transfer 95-528, box 43
Archives of Ontario
I got mine buttons, 1973
"I got mine" buttons, 1973
Ministry of Health publications and films
Reference Code: RG 10-13, transfer 84-325, box 68
Archives of Ontario






























Murphy the Molar was the mascot for the Ministry of Health dental programs during the 1970s.

Murphy the Molar Specialty items brochure, 1973
Murphy the Molar Specialty items brochure, 1973
Ministry of Health publications and films
Reference Code: RG 10-13, transfer 84-325, box 68
Archives of Ontario


Video Clip: Murphy the Molar
Murphy the Molar Television Commercials
Reference Code: RG 10-13-0-3
Archives of Ontario
Windows Media Player   1.90MB
Quicktime 4.89MB






Video Clip: Murphy the Molar
Murphy the Molar Television Commercials
Reference Code: RG 10-13-0-3
Archives of Ontario
Windows Media Player   1.90MB
Quicktime 4.89MB