C.H.J. Snider: Why Stories Matter

by JaneFairburn on February 2, 2013

Hello everyone, I’ve been very busy these past few weeks, gathering the images and writing the captions for the over 250 paintings, drawings, photos, and maps that will appear in full colour in Along the Shore. I wanted to share this interesting photo with you that I found as I raked through the Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Room’s incredible image collection.

TRL, TEC 433 T

Some of you may be wondering about its relevance — it’s a picture taken of the defunct Toronto Evening Telegram Reporter’s Office, by an unknown photographer in 1904. The man on the right hand side of the door was one of the most influential writers on the marine history of the Toronto region and the Great Lakes in the first half of the twentieth century. His name was Charles Henry Jeremiah (C.H.J.) Snider.

Rising through the ranks of the Telegram’s offices to the position of Editor, Snider’s interest in the Great Lakes was wide and varied — he authored a series of books on the marine battles and skirmishes fought on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812, and also discovered a vessel sunk during the course of that conflict, the Nancy, a British supply ship. An experienced sailor, he was also an accomplished marine artist, and provided many illustrations for John Ross Robertson’s classic series on old Toronto, Robertson’s Landmarks.

CJH Snider

“J. W. Steinhoff”, 1876-1899 C.H.J. Snider TRL, JRR 2654 Cab. IV

Above is Snider’s rendering of the steamer J.W. Steinhoff, that plied the waters of Lake Ontario from the downtown docks of Toronto Harbour to Victoria Park, an early pleasure ground and later amusement park, located at the east end of the present day Beach district.

Rather than presenting the reader with a straight recitation of fact and academic argument, Snider relied heavily on oral tradition to tell stories, many of which were published in his well-loved column, “Schooner Days”, which ran in the Evening Telegram from 1935 to 1956. His work included the first hand information he gleaned from aged captains of schooners, stonehookers, and steamers, Great Lakes sailors, and others who had an intimate knowledge of the inland seas of North America and the Toronto waterfront.

Snider’s work has been quite influential to me in writing Along the Shore. I believe, for many of us, that it is the telling of the story that creates memory and makes history relevant to us in our everyday lives. The anecdotes and experiences of those who previously occupied the Toronto waterfront — the First Peoples, the pioneers, the sailors and swimmers, the waterfront entrepreneurs, and those who eked out a living at the water’s edge, are a vital part of the historical narrative that grounds us in the past — a past that might seem otherwise too distant and irrelevant to matter much in our busy lives today. So thank you C.H.J. for your stories, and for helping us to connect to our own place at the water’s edge, along the shore.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Sainsbury March 16, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Are all the snider photos and records at the Toronto Reference Library? I understand captains donated schooner log books to him. I am wondering where these may be viewed. Do you have any idea? Someone in my family tree is mentioned in two different Schooner Days articles in the Toronto Telegram.


JaneFairburn April 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hi Sharon,
Sorry that it’s taken me a while to get back to you on this – Snider’s records, drawings and writings may be found in a number of different archival institutions and locales, which makes searching a little challenging at times! I suggest you start your search by looking at the Snider Fonds at the Archives of Ontario: http://ao.minisisinc.com/scripts/mwimain.dll/144/PROV/PROV/REFD+F+1194?SESSIONSEARCH

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston also has some interesting materials on Snider, including a very useful index to his Evening Telegram column “Schooner Days”, that may be accessed online. The difficulty is that unlike the Globe and the Star, back issues of the defunct Telegram may not be accessed online, but you can veiw the newspaper on microfilm at the Toronto Reference Library. The Baldwin Room at the Reference Library also holds some interesting images drawn by Snider, some of which will be appearing in my upcoming book, Along the Shore.

The City of Toronto, Museum Services, also holds an interesting Snider collection, but the material has not yet been entirely indexed or sorted through at this point, so your best starting points are those mentioned above.

Hope that helps and good luck with your search!
Jane Fairburn


Grace Snider April 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Dear Jane,

I am delighted to have discovered your website, with the meaningful and thoughtful tribute to my ‘Uncle Charlie’. CHJ Snider was my late father’s great uncle. My father spoke highly of Uncle Charlie throughout his lifetime. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay that much attention when my Dad told his stories, which I now deeply regret. My father was fascinated by Uncle Charlie, and, now that I’m doing my own research, I can understand why. My son is currently doing his elementary school heritage project on the Schooner Nancy and her involvement in the War of 1812, all of which got us delving into Uncle Charlie’s book collection (which we’ve inherited from my Dad) and his life story.

Would it be possible to get a higher resolution copy of the photo of Uncle Charlie and the other people at the Toronto Telegram? I would love to have that.

I feel that Uncle Charlie – and my late father – both have BIG smiles on their faces as their descendants discover the story of the Nancy as well as the journeys that stories take us on. Thank you for keeping these stories alive, Jane.

With gratitude,
Grace Snider
Whitehorse, Yukon


Jane Fairburn February 16, 2016 at 11:44 am

Hi Grace, First of all, apologies for only seeing this comment now. Your Great Great Uncle was a true Renaissance man and made such a valuable contribution to the history of the Great Lakes. I’m happy to help you sort out the photo — I’ll be in touch.


susan wells February 14, 2016 at 8:11 pm

The Oakville Historical Society has a complete set of Snider articles published in the Telegram, and they are indexed. You may see them at 110 King St. Oakville. Tue and Wed 1 to 4:30. 905 844 2695


JaneFairburn February 16, 2016 at 11:30 am

Hi Susan, Thanks for this information — the articles are not only a wonderful research tool for the history of the Toronto waterfront, but for the north shore of Lake Ontario and beyond. Glad to hear that they may be obtained so close to home. Will they be available online any time soon?


susan wells February 28, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Yes the big step – digitization. We are working on that, getting grants and someone to do it. So, no, not tomorrow anyway.


Bruce Skeaff November 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm

I met him once, must have been within a couple of years of his death, and I think it was in his big old house in Parkdale. I remember a tall man. I would have been 9 or 10. My grandfather, Bert S. Wemp, was first a reporter under him and then an editor. The Tely successfully ran him for Mayor in 1930. His daughter, my mother, was who took me for a visit to “Jerry” one afternoon. Separately, she told me he was apparently hellishly tough to work for. Nevertheless The Tely was a family and mum remembered hot summer days with her parents and other Tely staff out on CHJ’s sailboat, escaping the city heat. We’re talking the late 1920s and/or 1930s. In our family home (my parents home when I was a little boy) we had hanging in the living room an oil painting of the Nancy. It’s frame was made of timbers from the ship. I went with mum one day in the late 1960s when she donated it to the old Marine Museum on Exhibition Place grounds. God knows what happened to it when the museum closed. Hopefully it’s safe, somewhere.


JaneFairburn December 28, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for getting in touch with me about your memories and information about CHJ Snider. The oil painting of the Nancy sounds like a real treasure. As far as I know, most of the contents of the Marine Museum are stored by the City of Toronto in various warehouse locations throughout the city. Feel free to email me — I’ll try and connect you with someone who might be able to tell you more.


Harriet Morris August 24, 2018 at 5:18 pm

I have a pristine copy in covers of CHJ Snider’s The Griffon 1956.
It is beautifully illustrated.


dave platt September 26, 2018 at 5:09 pm

hello have you ever seen the 2 drawings he did of the hms. st. lawrence


JaneFairburn September 26, 2018 at 9:49 pm

Hello Dave,

I’m aware of this outstanding painting attributed to CHJ Snider, though I have to confess I know little of the circumstances behind its provenance or commission. Can you tell me more?


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