Thornton Blackburn and his wife Lucie escaped slavery in Louisville in 1831, making their way north to Canada and eventually to Toronto in 1834. While working as a waiter at Osgoode Hall,Thornton hatched the idea for a taxi service in his newfound home. By 1837, he had built the first cab in Toronto, a red-and-yellow horse-drawn box cab called “The City.”
The Blackburns’ business thrived and they remained active members of the Toronto community, helping other escaped slaves to settle in Toronto, helping build the Little Trinity Church (Toronto’s oldest surviving church) and working with the co-founder of the Anti-Slavery Society, George Brown. The instantly recognizable, iconic red-and-yellow colour scheme of their taxi service was eventually adopted by the City of Toronto’s public transit system and, from 1921 onward, became the official colours of the TTC.
Had the Blackburns chosen to reward themselves for their hard work with a cold beer at the end of the day, it would have been a lot like this one, a classic ale brewed in the traditional style of the 19th century. Join us in raising a glass of this refreshing beer to Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, to a brighter future and to more stories of triumph over adversity, like this one.