Along with Blacksmiths, carriage and wagon makers and repairers played a significant role in the development of Ontario, physically and economically. Until the arrival of first the railway and then the automobile, wagons and carriages were the main mode of transportation. They not only carried people from one point to another, they also conveyed various types of supplies and goods, including those for retailers. Until the railway made shipping goods faster and more practical, wagons fulfilled this essential role in any community, including Guelph.
Wagons and Carriages are similar in one way. They all required horse, oxen or mule power. Beyond that, shape, sizes and styles differed. Of course, the purpose also varied. Wagons were designed for hauling goods and other items; carriages were for riding in. However, wagons often came with more than the one seat intended to hold the driver. A Concord type of wagon could carry 4 passengers instead of or even as well as freight, while most carriages and their winter version – cutters, were usually not intended for freight, although they could carry luggage and mail.
In the United States, the most popular type of wagon was the Conestoga wagon. However, except for the Amish Mennonites who brought them with them during the early 19th centuries to Waterloo, they were never as popular a wagon style in Ontario as they became in the United States. This is probably because they were meant for carrying freight, belongings and people for extended periods of time.
More common in settled agricultural communities was the farm wagon. Farm wagons were used by, no surprise, farmers in a number of ways. One of the most common, however, was to haul goods from town to farm and vice versa. A farmer going to market would load up a wagon with produce. Returning, he or she would fill the wagon with needed supplies. Sometimes, due to the distance of the farm from the town and road conditions, the wagon would be loaded with enough supplies for a month or more. In winter, replacing the wheels with sleigh runners made trips into town feasible. The same wagons, particularly if they had rows of seating, were handy for driving the family to church or special events.
The other major type of wagon commonly used in Ontario was the freight or delivery wagon. Much like the farm wagon, it was large and capable of carrying a substantial amount of goods. In winter, some could be converted to address the weather by adding sleigh runners. However, people, their personal goods and mail would most frequently be transported using horse-drawn sleighs – converted carriages. For winter travel, extra blankets and heated bricks helped to ensure comfort and warmth for the journey.
Carriages tended to be personal forms of transportation – except for stage coaches which were designed to carry paying customers and mail to their destinations. Carriages were available in a wide array of styles. Like today’s automobiles, they came in both functional and sporting models. They also could be found listed in a range of prices to address the difference between practical and luxury models. A basic carriage or standard buggy cost significantly less than a sporty phaeton. Yet, whether an expensive Armstrong Speeder, Excelsior Buggy or a standard delivery wagon, all would require repair and/or replacement at one time or another. For the former, Guelphites turned to blacksmiths and wainwrights; for the latter, they would have to contact a manufacturer.
Wainwrights and Manufacturers
Before wagon/carriage manufacturing became part of Guelph’s early industrial life, the town had several wainwrights and blacksmiths. Wainwright was the term used to describe someone who repaired wagons (wains). Blacksmiths, in addition to the shoeing and other related matters of horses, could also make repairs to wagons and carriages. In Guelph, several such individuals operated blacksmiths and wagon and carriage shops. Among them were the following:
· Anderson, Thomas: He ran a smithy and a wagon repair shop out of the premises formerly operated by Robert Armstrong. Later, he opened his own carriage works on Woolwich Street in around 1853. In 1865, he “disposed of his interest in the business, together with his large and carefully selected stock of material” to Robert Parker and William Miller.
· Armstrong, JB: The most successful of all Guelph carriage makers (See JB Armstrong), this company was also referred to as the Guelph Carriage Works and Guelph Carriage Goods. In 1882/83, it is listed as having 50 to 70 employees.
· Armstrong, D.: He had a small shop on Cardigan near Trafalgar in 1882/3
· Armstrong, Robert: He had a repair shop on Macdonell Street in 1839. When he died in 1854, it was taken over by Thomas Anderson. Armstrong supplied the basis for the building of a successful carriage manufactory for his JB Armstrong.
· Armstrong, William (& Son): In 1834, William Armstrong had a shop in a large stone building at Woolwich and Thorp, near the Court House. It remained in operation until at least 1873 under William and his son, David producing “Buggies, Wagons, etc.” It was later operated by Robert Parker.
· Bruce, George A: Founded around 1867, near Andrew’s Church, Bruce and Bruce and Son operated a small, but respected carriage manufactory.
· Chase, Caleb: In 1870, Chase had 14 hands. This carriage manufactory was listed as occupying 143-145 Woolwich Street in 1870 and 113 Woolwich in 1875.
· Crowe, William: He had a small wagon shop for repair work near the Dundas Bridge by 1832. He died before 1882.
· Dietrick and Orman: They bought the former premises of Reid and Ross at 8 Gordon Street. One reporter stressed how both men were “practical mechanics.”
· Dyson Carriage Works: Situated at 1 Eramosa Road corner of Woolwich St, the Dyson works was operated by John Dyson (1837-1880) a wheelwright with his son, William who helped operate it in 1873 but went into the saddlery business in 1882/3.
· Excelsior Carriage Works: In an 1873 directory, this was the name given to JB Armstrong and Company’s carriage factory.
· Gibson, James: At the corner of Gordon near Essex, Gibson opened a carriage manufactory by 1882/83.
· Guelph Carriage Company: This, possibly the former Guelph Carriage Goods Company, was around in the early 19th century. John Mitchell was the proprietor in 1913 – the year Armstrong’s went into voluntary receivership.
· Guelph Carriage Goods/Works: Founded by Robert Armstrong in 1834, this was one of the names given to JB Armstrong’s – one of the largest manufacturers of carriages, wagons and buggies of all types in Guelph, including, in 1881, the “Eureka Buggy.” It had a branch plant in Flint, Michigan. In 1882/3, with W.E. Slater, secretary of the company, the workers received a free membership to the Mechanics’ Institute in 1882. For further information see, Armstrong, JB.
· Kelly, John: With 3 employees in 1891, this company produced carriages for locals.
· McConnell, John: His shop was around by 1875 and was operating in 1882/3. Located on Woolwich Street opposite the Wellington Hotel, 12 to 15 hands produced carriages and sleighs in 1875. The building was considered a large structure that produced quality products, even shipping several buggies in 1886 (their third such shipment) to Australia. In 1896, the newspaper announced the company had purchased “an electric motor, six-horse power, made by the Johnston Electric Company, Toronto.” This made them a truly “up to date” factory. The premises were later occupied by Muller’s Carriage Works
· Matthew Brothers – The New Carriage Shop: Situated on Gordon Street, the Matthew Brothers, sometimes Matthews, Reid and Company, hired 7 hands to produce Carriages, Phaetons, Democrats and Buggies of “a superior quality and of a very stylish make.” They were around from 1891 to at least 1896.
· Muller’s Carriage Works: C. B. Muller was behind the 1907 company that produced carriages, wagons sleighs and similar vehicles “noted for strength of construction, ease of motion and elegance of finish.” It was located on 141-143 Woolwich Street opposite the Wellington Hotel in the former McConnell Carriage Works and, as was the custom, made repairs as well. With the arrival of the automobile, it adapted offering “general repair work” and painting of automobiles as well as carriages.
· Parker, Robert: Parker manufactured carriages as early as 1862. In that year, he employed 8 to 10 hands. In 1865, he and William Miller took over the premises operated by Thomas Anderson on Woolwich Street remaining there for a few years. However, his name remains attached to premises on 25-27 Macdonell East, next to JB Armstrong’s. Macdonell Street. Parker remained in operation into the later 1870s. His premises were taken over by S & G Penfold by the early 1880s.
· Penfold, S & G: This carriage works operated out of premises on 25-27 Macdonell Street they had purchased from Robert Parker. In 1881, Samuel and George Penfold employed 7 hands. Thomas Penfold was a manager in 1880. George Penfold was the owner in 1896, while his son, William is listed as a carriage builder. The company was still operating in 1907 when, in addition to their “extensive business in carriage making and carriage repairing,” they were running a hardware store. It was called “The Red Front” in 1929.
· Reid and Ross: Located at 8 Gordon Street, this company was purchased by Deitrick and O’Gorman in
· Slater, John: Another small shop around by 1882/3. Located on Norfolk, opposite Crowe’s Iron Works, Slater is described as a carriagemaker and blacksmith
· Smith, William: He was listed as a wagon maker in 1873. His shop was on Cork Street near Norfolk.
· Thain, Charles: He advertised his premises on Eramosa Road as an agricultural implement manufacturer and wagon shop. He was one of the city’s oldest – established since at least 1862, in this field. (See Thain for further information)
Some of these shops became manufactories. While some focused on the production of wagons and carriages of all types, others, such as S & G Penfold, advertised themselves as manufacturers of “carriage’s, hearses, wagons, buggies, etc.”
Beside wainwrights and carriage manufacturers, Guelph supported several individuals and companies that provided parts for these very manufacturers. Among them were:
· Dalgliesh, Robert & Company: In 1873, they operated a wheel manufactory on Eramosa Road near the bridge known as the Guelph Wheel Works/Factory. It boasted wheels, bodies, gears and cutters “of the latest American fashions made up in the best styles.”
· Guelph (Spring and) Axle Works: This company specialized in producing carriage and wagon axles. T. Pepper and Co. (Thomas, Isaac and David) operated the shop with between 15 and 20 employees starting in around 1873. In 1875, A. Campbell was the proprietor. By 1882/3, Joseph Frazee was associated with this company. The factory was located on Wellington Street. In 1908, it was still in operation, producing its famous “Anchor” Brand and other equipment for all “spring and wheeled vehicles.”
· Guelph Carriage Top Company aka Guelph Buggy Top Works: This firm was around in 1882 and 1891. Located at the corner of Dublin and Norwich in 1890, it manufactured tops for carriages and buggies. It was associated with Christian Kloepfer through his assistant Charles S. Walker. In 1896, this company took over the old Worswick factory. In 1905, the company held a joint picnic with HA Clemens and James Steele Wire on July 22. It still remained around as late as 1923.
· Guelph Wheel Works/Factory: By 1873, this company, located on Eramosa, was producing wheels, carriage bodies and cutters. It was owned by the Robert Dalgliesh and Company. Jumpers made by this firm ranged in cost from $10 to $12 while swell side cutters cost $15 and swell side Portland would set you back $18.
· Hirsch and Dity: This duo operated a carriage axle plant on Wellington in 1872 but no further mention is made of it in other directories. It was probably taken over and operated as the Guelph Axle Works by T. Pepper & Co in 1873.
Working in these shops and, perhaps supplementing their income by being blacksmiths and wainwrights on the side are various individuals. A list from the 1870s to the 1880s includes the following:
Carriage spring maker
Carriage and wagon maker
Howard, Alfred T
Operative (JB Armstrong)
Spalding, John Jr.
Some of these men would have been members of the Carriage Workers Union which was organized in Guelph prior to 1901. Of all those listed in the directories, only a few wagon and carriage makers made it through into the 20th century. Some, such as Armstrong’s remained successful until 1913. Others, such as Muller’s and the Guelph Axle Works managed to adapt to the challenge presented by the automobile. Guelph Axle’s produced axles and other automobile parts while Muller’s offered their customers repair work as well as new paint jobs. Penfold’s, although they continued to make and repair carriages in 1907 and 1929, appeared to focus more on their hardware business “The Red Front.” While today it is still possible to purchase carriages and wagons, they are no longer a major industry in Guelph.