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Biltmore Hats: The 1930s and 1940s

Biltmore Hats from the 1930s into the 1970s

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In 1917, Fried Grill Hats arrived in Guelph. Their owners, John Fried and Mr. Grills had previously operated out of Niagara Falls and Toronto. By 1919, the company had settled in premises located at 154 Suffolk Street. Thirty hands were at work producing various types of hats. A year later, they sold the business at the price of $45,000 to be paid over 6 years. This was the beginning of one of Guelph's longest operating companies - Biltmore Hats.  Through perseverance, the company made it through the Great Depression and beyond the war years. It was not to close until  2011.

Biltmore Hats: A Major Part of Guelph's Industrial History: From Beginnings to 1930

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In 1917, Fried Grill Hats arrived in Guelph. Their owners, John Fried and Mr. Grills had previously operated out of Niagara Falls and Toronto. By 1919, the company had settled in premises located at 154 Suffolk Street. Thirty hands were at work producing various types of hats. A year later, they sold the business at the price of $45,000 to be paid over 6 years. This was the beginning of one of Guelph's longest operating companies - Biltmore Hats.  It was not to close until  2011.

Keeping In Tune: The Bell Organ and Piano Company

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Bell Organ and piano were once one of the largest employers in Guelph. Founded in 1864, they remained a viable concern until they were finally closed in 1934. In fact, Bell pianos were found in parlours around the world. Queen Victoria was the proud owner of one of their models. The employees suffered a variety of blade-related accidents common to factories where machinery was not guarded. This lead to the formation of the Piano Workers' Union in 1902 - the first of its kind in Canada. 

The Rise And Fall of Gilson Manufacturing Company Ltd.

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Townhouses are being built on the land at 249 York Road between Morris and Huron Streets. Beyond the tracks that subdivides the land is a parking lot. This property was once home to the Gilson Manufacturing Co. From 1906 to 1977, the plant produced a variety of items beginning with gas engines and ending up with a full line of washers and freezers. During its long life, it went from being a minor Canadian subsidiary of an American Firm - the Gilson Manufacturing Co. of Port Washington, Wisconsin, launched in 1850 by Theodore Gilson, to being a nationally recognized Canadian owned and operated company.

W C Wood Strike 1959

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W.C Wood’ is best known as a manufacturer of freezers. It relocated from Toronto in 1941, setting up shop on Woolwich Street. During WWII, Wood’s produced parts for aircraft and tails for bombs. After the war, the company went back to manufacturing freezers, adding portable units as well as coolers.

 

The company moved to Arthur Street in 1955, taking over the old Taylor-Forbes Plant. Between 1955 and 1967, they produced bulk milk coolers and bottle cappers as well as freezers. In addition, using designs of the old T-F Company, they produced wood clamps, clothesline pulleys, barn and home ventilators and oat rollers. On April 3, 1959, one of Guelph's most vicious strikes began. It was to drag on almost a year.

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Libby, McNeill and Libby: Guelph's Other Pickle Factory

When people in Guelph talk about the “Pickle Factory,” they are referring to the Matthews-Wells factory - once located at Victoria and York. It opened in 1938 and closed in 1968. This was where many young men and women had their first job – often as summer employment.

However, Matthews-Wells was not Guelph’s first “pickle factory. Over two decades before, in 1914, Libby, McNeill and Libby founded in Chicago by Archibald McNeill, Arthur Libby and his brother Charles in 1868 made Guelph its Canadian headquarters.

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The Pipe Mill in the Ward: The Page-Hersey Tube Company

In 1889, an American, Randolph Hersey (1829-1918) founded Page & Hersey Company in Montreal in partnership with E. N. and G. H. Page. It operated out of a then idle tube mill owned by J. C. Hodgson. Located along the Lachine Canal, under Hersey, the tube mill began to prosper. Then Hodgson threw a wrench into the system. When the lease ended, he sold the property to the Montreal Rolling Mills. Hersey and his partners responded by deciding to move the plant halfway across the country to Guelph, Ontario. It was to remain in operation there for close to 50 years.

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