The Toronto Book of the Dead

The Toronto Book of the Dead by Adam Bunch is an engaging and fascinating look into some of the darker moments of Toronto’s past.

Written by Joanna Dawson

August 1, 2019

When U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while attending a theatre performance on April 14, 1865, his wife, Mary, was so distraught that she barricaded herself in the White House. The widow stayed there for weeks while Lincoln’s funeral train travelled from Washington to Illinois and Americans gathered in a series of ceremonies to mourn the passing of their president.

When Mrs. Lincoln emerged from her cloud of grief, one of her first acts was to give Lincoln’s famous shawl to his dear friend, Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott. Abbott was the first Black doctor born in Upper Canada and one of a thousand Black Canadians who enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

The story of President Lincoln and the Canadian doctor who stood vigil over his deathbed is just one of the lesser-known histories revealed in The Toronto Book of the Dead by Adam Bunch. The book — which can be read as a collection of short stories — tells the history of Toronto through the lens of death, whether by war, illness, accident, or disaster.

With stories that range from gruesome to heartbreaking, The Toronto Book of the Dead is an engaging and fascinating look into some of the darker moments of Toronto’s past.

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Joanna Dawson is the acting Director of Programs for Canada’s History Society.

This article originally appeared in the August-September 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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