George Leslie: Let’s go to the Ex

Exhibition Canadian Illustrated News, October 17, 1874
Exhibition Canadian Illustrated News, October 17, 1874

By Joanne Doucette

George Leslie was also one of the founders of the “Ex” – the Provincial Exhibition, forerunner of the Canadian National Exhibition (C.N.E.).  He showed his seeds there in 1858 and continued to exhibit over the years, winning many prizes. When the Provincial Exhibition incorporated in 1879 George Leslie Jr. was one of the Directors. Toronto Nurseries exhibited often over the years. The Leslies stayed active in the Exhibition throughout their lives. They were also involved in the Toronto Electoral Division Society’s Agricultural Society and the Fruit Growers’ Association. The Association promoted fruit growing and was concerned that varieties selected work in Ontario’s climate, a concern that drove George Leslie.  “The adaptedness of different varieties of fruit to different localities, and especially the hardiness with which they withstand the severity of our climate, are subjects of the greatest interest…” D.W. Beadle.[1] After the formation of the Fruit-Growers’ Association, fruit growing, especially that of apples, was more and more popular. Apples became a huge export crop. 


[1] Globe,January 31, 1861.

Exhibition Canadian Illustrated News, October 17, 1874

In1866 George Leslie Jr. was the secretary of the Toronto Horticultural Society. That year Toronto hosted the Provincial Exhibition for the fifth time since it began in 1846.  There were many more buildings as well as a Midway.[1] 


[1] Guillet, Edwin C.  Toronto: From Trading Post to Great City.  (Toronto:  The Ontario Publishing Co., Limited, 1934), 288-292.

Exhibition Canadian Illustrated News, October 17, 1874
Exhibition Canadian Illustrated News, October 17, 1874
Exhibition Canadian Illustrated News, October 17, 1874
Exhibition Canadian Illustrated News, October 17, 1874

George Leslie Jr. was Deputy Reeve, Township of York, but still very involved in the nursery.[1] By 1877, George Leslie was himself 73 years old and becoming known as “Old Man Leslie”. He was still involved in the Toronto Industrial Exhibition. The Exhibition moved each year from city to city around the Province, however, many groups pressed for the Exhibition to be permanently held in Toronto. The first annual fair was held in Toronto during the first three weeks of September in 1879.[2] George Leslie, Jr. was a Director of the Toronto Exhibition.[3] He stayed working with his father in the family business.


[1] Fisher & Taylor’s County of York Townships Directory, 1876. Township of East York, 179.

[2] Guillet,  288-292.

[3] Globe, August 19, 1880. 

Published by Leslieville Historical Society

Welcome to the Leslieville Historical Society's website. Please feel free to join us, to ask questions, to attend walking tours and other events, and to celebrate Leslieville's past while creating our future. Guy Anderson, President, Leslieville Historical Society and Joanne Doucette, local historian and webmaster.

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