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Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company of Canada: The Guelph Mercerizer

Although Aberfoyle is not far from Guelph, it had nothing to do with the origins or even the name of one Guelph business. This was the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company of Canada. In fact, this was a small branch plant of the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company – an American firm.

The American Parent

 The Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company was established on 3rd Street and Morton Avenue in Chester Pennsylvania in 1883/8 by William T. Galey. It was a four-storey building that, according to the ads of the time possessed the most modern and improved “dying, weaving and finishing machinery for the production of fine textile fabrics.” In short, the factory focused on textile research and production – more specifically cotton yarns.

The textile mill became the largest mill of its time in the city, employing many of its citizens. It grew and established factories/research laboratories not only in the United States but in Australia and Canada. Much of this expansion took place under the presidency of Charles Edward Lord (1865-1942). It was also Lord who, as part of the second committee formed by the National Retail Dry Goods Association of the United States in 1923, helped to give “false silk” the name it has today – Rayon.

The Guelph Division

Very little is known about the Guelph branch. Its name does not appear in the ads or articles of the expected trade magazines of the time in conjunction with the parent company, including Textile Records. That it was even a branch plant is attested to in at least one reference, a book by Victor Barber titled Mesure De Notre Taille published in 1936. It refers to the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company as a “Filiale de la societe du meme nom (Pennsylvanie).”

Around 1932, the Guelph branch took over the facilities on Metcalfe Street formerly occupied by the Canadian Sprucolite Company. In a discussion from 1932, five city politicians vying in the election made some claim to have brought the company to Guelph. During the Dirty Thirties, this would have been considered a politically positive action. The company was, according to the Canada Gazette “Incorporated October 4, 1932, with a capital stock consisting of 3,000 shares without nominal or par value; provided, however, that the said shares may be issued and allotted at such price and for such consideration as the directors of the company may determine from time to time not exceeding in any case $50 per share.”

Like the parent company, the Guelph branch focused on durene and other cotton yarns. Yarn mercerizing was done on-site. This is a process applied typically to cotton fibres to increase their lustre. Mercerized cotton absorbs more water. It, therefore, is perfect for improving the colour of the dyes. This treated cloth is stronger, brighter and more resistant to any fading resulting from repeated washing.

The Guelph Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company advertised in local yearbooks and events. It was also a subject of visits by students attending the Provincial Institute of Textiles (Hamilton, Ontario). The firm took part in a “Wartime Industrial Exhibition” on April 5, 1945. In 1946, when the First Committee on Textiles met in Brussels, 1946 from November 14 to 22, among the representatives from Canada was Mr. W. A. Kennedy, Director of Aberfoyle Manufacturing Co., Guelph, Ont. The United Textile Workers of America had organized the shop.

In the 1950s, John G. Lecrone was general manager of the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company of Canada. In the later years of that decade, it was only one of two plants described as mercerizers. The other was the Wabasso Cotton Company at Three Rivers.

The End of a Yarn

The Guelph Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company remained active in Guelph until it was liquidated on and around June 30, 1960. The building later became home to several companies, including the Guelph Paper Box Factory and WC Wood.

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