The most populous city (2.6 million or so in 2011) in Canada, Toronto began as a minor French trading post in 1750 AD after the Iroquois had abandoned the region at the end of the Beaver Wars. But it must not have been a very good location, for the French abandoned it themselves in 1759. The Mississaugas inherited the area by default, but during that American colonial uprising an influx of British Loyalists arrived in the uncivilized frontier north of Lake Ontario. Thus, in 1787 the British negotiated the “Toronto Purchase” with the Mississaugas, securing over a quarter-million acres.
The British built Fort York at the entrance of Toronto’s harbor, just in time for it to be captured and destroyed by American forces during the war of 1812. (Little known fact: the sacking of York was a primary motivation for the burning of Washington by British troops.) After that unpleasantness – and the unsuccessful Upper Canada Rebellion led by Toronto’s William Mackenzie in 1837 – Toronto entered an age of growth, improvement and industrialization. The Grand Trunk and Northern railways joined forces to build Union Station; meanwhile, steamers and schooners on Lake Ontario made Toronto a major gateway to the resources of the interior of the continent.
All this contributed to Toronto becoming an industrial hub. For instance, a number of distilleries began operations, making the city the largest producer of alcohol in North America; the Gooderham & Worts distillery became the world’s largest whiskey factory in the world by the mid-1860s. The Great Fire of 1904 destroyed much of the downtown, but the area was rebuilt in a more genteel manner, and much of the industry was relocated to the suburbs. Factories and warehouses clustered around the rail yards and the port. Besides spirits, Toronto now produces automobiles, iron and steel, chemicals, paper, and packaged foods.