In 1855, Toronto was still a rough frontier town with over 200 bars, beer shops & brothels serving a population of roughly 40,000 people. Local government – including police, firefighters & city council – were dominated by members of Orange Order & so nepotism & corruption had become a real problem.
The S.B. Howes’ Star Troupe Menagerie & Circus had come to town from New York State to perform near St. Lawrence Market, & after a few successful shows, the clowns decided to visit a brothel at King & Jarvis. The brothel they chose was frequented by the local fire brigade, who were less than pleased with the clowns’ arrival. A fight erupted between the firemen & clowns, &the clowns won, encamping for the evening to sample the brothel’s hospitality.
The next day, the firemen rallied all the allies they could muster & started a riot at the big top. Circus wagons were tipped over. Animals were released from their cages. Axes flew. Acrobats jumped into the lake to escape harm. Ironically, the firemen tried to burn the circus tent down. Eventually, the police broke up the riot. The circus pulled up their stakes and hightailed it out of Hogtown.
A few days later, the firemen appeared in court to account for the incident but, conveniently, none of the police (all of whom were Orangemen) could identify the instigators. This was the last straw for the good citizens ofToronto, who demanded an official inquiry.
Soon afterwards, the entire police force was fired. The town cleaned up its act & went on to become known as “Toronto the Good.”