1889 - Not-So-Humble Beginnings
Although Osgoode Hall can trace its history back to the 1820s, and count such Canadian luminaries as Sir John A. MacDonald among its graduates, it is in 1889 that Osgoode Hall is reorganized and the Law Society of Upper Canada permanently establishes the Law School on-site. From September to April, students go to lectures in the morning and spend the rest of the day working in a firm on Bay Street. There are only five subjects in first year. Each class is taught by one of two part-time lecturers and one principal: William A. Reeve.
1892 - A Generous Bequest
A "students' library" is established in Osgoode Hall. Called the Phillips Stewart Library in recognition of the bequest from Thomas Brown Phillips Stewart, a poet and student-barrister, registered in the first year of the new school in 1889, who died tragically at the age of 27 before he could graduate. He left his estate of $7,599.64 to the Law Society to endow a fund to purchase books expressly for the use of students. Today's Osgoode Hall Law School Library still has most of these books in the collections.
1892 - The Legalites
The Osgoode hockey team, “The Legalites,” become the Ontario champions. They are responsible for establishing the Ontario Hockey Association. The Osgoode football team, the creatively named “Legals,” win the Canadian Football Championship in 1891, and again in 1892.
1895 - Benchers Scandalized by the ‘Introduction and Consumption’ of Liquor at a Debate
The Osgoode Literary and Legal Society organizes annual “At-Home” balls, musical-literary evenings, debates, mock trials, and elaborate dinners at Webster’s Parlours. This dance card was handed out at one of the “At-Homes” in 1892. A pencil was attached with a string so guests could write in their dance partners.
1897 - “Banish All Maiden Mawkishness”
Clara Brett Martin becomes the first woman in Canada to be admitted to the Bar, also making her the first female lawyer in the British Commonwealth, after the Law Society of Upper Canada unenthusiastically changes its rule to admit women.
1901 - Vote the Douglas Ticket!
The Legal and Literary Society becomes the official student society of the Law School. Students had to be elected to their positions. Cards like this one would have been handed out as part of a campaign strategy in 1891. Candidates under this ticket promised to expand the student library, establish a gym, found a student club, and create two new scholarships.
1904 - Academic Legal Education
John Cleland Hamilton writes Osgoode Hall: Reminiscences of the Bench and Bar and makes the suggestion that legal education should be turned over to University of Toronto. The Canadian Law Review describes Osgoode as a ‘splendid institution’ but proposed its affiliation with the University, since ‘the Law Society cannot expect to compete for any length of time with a provincial university.’
1905 - Room for Rent: No Hot Water, Shared Bathroom Outside
Principal Hoyles asks Convocation to provide a student common room, ‘something like a club for men,’ to provide a gathering place for law students living in cramped boarding-houses without sitting-rooms. Overcrowding and sub-par living conditions became a serious concern. Osgoode Hall was located next to one of the worst slums in the city, the notorious Ward.
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