OTD: City of Guelph incorporated

On today’s date in 1879, the City of Guelph, Ont., was incorporated.

Founded by John Galt on St. George’s Day – April 23 – in 1827, the City of Guelph was named in honour of the royal family and is considered one of the first planned towns in Canada. Galt was then the superintendent of a British firm established to colonize Upper Canada.

“The city was named in 1827 to honour the British Empire’s King George IV, whose family name was Gwelf,” reads the University of Guelph’s 2013 International Handbook. “The spelling has been altered over time, but it is pronounced just as it was 185 years ago and rhymes with “self.'”

As was the custom in the early 19th century, Galt cut down a large maple tree to mark the ceremony. A respected Scottish novelist and superintendent of the British development firm the Canada Company, Galt designed the quaint town to attract settlers, choosing a picturesque site for his new settlement at the junction of the Speed and Eramosa Rivers, west of Toronto.

The city didn’t grow beyond the size of a village until 1856, when the Grand Trunk Railroad reached its borders from Toronto. Many of Guelph’s prominent buildings, including some designed by high-profile Toronto-based architects and others by local architects, builders and carvers, quickly followed the railway’s arrival. Ontario’s “Royal City” boasted a distinctly European flavour, with century-old limestone buildings, downtown squares and wide avenues radiating out from the city centre.

Today, the City of Guelph has a population of 100,000 and is home to the Guelph Stamp Club.


On April 23, 2002, Canada Post featured the city on a commemorative envelope designed by Ottawa’s Bernie Reilander.

A total of 14,000 envelopes were printed. They’re each franked by a 48-cent stamp, tied by a April 23, 2002-dated pictorial postmark with the numeral “175” in the centre (to mark the 175th anniversary since Guelph’s founding).

On the front, the predominantly white envelope features a photo of the Church of Our Lady Immaculate and the Priory alongside the first log building Galt erected in 1827. In the lower-left corner is the City of Guelph crest.

On the back of the envelope, in blue type, the story of Guelph is told in English and French: “It is the seat of the world-class University of Guelph and the birthplace of both operatic tenor Edward Johnson and Colonel John McCrae, the soldier poet who wrote “In Flanders Fields.” Now home to over 100,00 people in the City of Guelph remains a prosperous manufacturing centre and agricultural district, and a leader in the development and implementation of environmentally friendly policies and practices.”

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