Ajax was incorporated as a Town in 1955, but its history of human occupation dates back approximately 12,000 years. Since about 10,000 B.C., the lands that are now Ajax were stewarded by various Indigenous nations. This continued until European settlers began to arrive in the late 1700s. However, it was not until the middle of the 20th century that the community began to resemble what we see today. In 1941, Defence Industries Limited (D.I.L.), the largest shell filling plant in the British Commonwealth was located in this area to provide supplies for the Allies in World War II.  As thousands of workers and their families settled in the immediate area, a community developed and a post office was needed, which meant the area needed a name. A competition among D.I.L. employees resulted in the name Ajax being chosen in honour of one of the three ships that, in 1939, had engaged and defeated the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate near Uruguay.

After the War, the University of Toronto leased many of the D.I.L. buildings for a new flood of engineering students, and a new population base was added to the area. The community continued to grow and by the early 1950's it was clear that it was time for incorporation as a municipality. Twenty years later, the small community of Pickering Village and parts of Pickering Township were amalgamated with Ajax, forming the Town's current boundaries.

Continue on the Journey of the Town of Ajax history

Ajax History Book – Snapshots of Ajax

The Ajax History Book – Snapshots of Ajax is available for purchase for $15 from Ajax Town Hall (65 Harwood Ave. S.).

For a relatively young municipality, the Town of Ajax has an incredibly rich history. Since the Town's incorporation in 1955, Members of Council, Town staff and dedicated residents have worked together to collect and preserve the history of the Town. 

The history of the Town - from its origins through to present days - has been chronicled in a series of books published over the past 40 years. The Town's first history book was published by the Ajax Historical Board in 1972 and provided a pictorial account of the establishment and early years of a new municipality. The second book, titled "A Town Called Ajax" and also published by the Ajax Historical Board, looked at the growth of the Town to 1995.

Carrying on this tradition, a dedicated team of Town staff and an amazing group of community champions recently took on the enormous task of researching, writing, editing and publishing: "Snapshots of Ajax - A Pictorial History, 1791 - 2015", a collection of 700 timeless and historically significant photographs, this book captures the origins, growth and diversity of the Town from its earliest settlement into the 21st century.

Town of Ajax Archives

In February 2010, Ajax Council formally established the Ajax Archives to collect and preserve archival materials which illustrate or document the growth and development of the Town of Ajax. The history of the community that has become the Town of Ajax is as unique as it is diverse. The photos, artifacts and records which document the inception, growth, and development of the municipality are a legacy to future generations. The preservation and conservation of the items in the Ajax Archives is an important step to ensuring this history is kept safe and is accessible to the community. In 2022, the Town of Ajax transferred the management of Ajax Archives to Ajax Public Library.

Many of the photos, documents, and history books in the collection have been digitized and can be viewed by visiting the OurOntario website. The Ajax Archives maintains a display case in Town Hall, 65 Harwood Ave. S., and a display table in the Local History section of Ajax Public Library’s Main Branch, 55 Harwood Ave. S.

The Ajax Archives is located at Town Hall and cannot be accessed by the public. To view items in the collection or for research help, please use the contact information below or visit ajaxlibrary.ca. Requests for in person visits should be submitted at least one week in advance and the visits will take place at Main Branch. At this time, the Archives primarily holds materials related to the Town of Ajax as well as the HMS Ajax. If you are researching outside of these topics, the Archives may be limited in resources.

Request permission to publish, exhibit or broadcast Ajax Archival material by completing the online form.

Additional History and Archive Resources

Ajax has a unique street naming policy, in that the majority of streets have been named after those that served on HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles during the Battle of the River Plate, the first naval victory of the Allied forces in WWII. Several streets have also been named after individuals who played an important role in the creation of our community.

Print Publications

Though Snapshots of Ajax is the only book still in print, the history of Ajax has been well documented. The following out-of-print publications are available through the Ajax Public Library:

  • A Town Called Ajax, The Ajax Historical Board, 1995
  • The Pictorial History of Ajax, 1941/1972, Ajax Historical Board, 1972
  • Ajax the War Years 1939-1945, Ken Smith, Oshawa, 1989
  • Past Years in Pickering, William R. Wood, Toronto, 1911
  • The Village of Pickering 1800-1970, Corporation of the Village of Pickering, 1970
  • The Pickering Story, William A. McKay, 1961

OurOntario Digital Archive Quick Links

Historic Video Links