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Keeping It In The Family: The Callander Foundry And Manufacturing Company

In 1915, Alex Callander, age 55, left the Taylor-Forbes Company with plans to set up his own foundry business in St. Patrick’s Ward. He had been a moulder with standing. He had also been a representative to the Guelph Trade and Labour Council for 1900/1901. Construction was to take place in December of that year. Weather intervened so, in 1916, A. Callander was requesting tenders to construct his foundry come spring. The plan, according to the paper, was to construct “a small one to start with, the building of a capacity of 50’ by 100’… [for] small castings for individuals and small companies.”  However, something must have altered the original plan. Although by September 21, 1916 Callander’s Foundry had become a reality, it was to be found not in the Ward, but on Crimea Street.

A Family Business

The Callander Foundry and Manufacturing Co., Ltd. was truly a family business. In 1916, Alex Callander was president of the company. Together with his sons, Malcolm (VP and General Manager), John (Jack) and Harry D., they formed its basis, as they began to make their initial mark by jobbing for local industries. All had experience in foundry work. Alex had been in charge of the moulding department at Taylor-Forbes. His son John had worked there.

They also had help from another family member, Hugh B. Callander. At the time of the founding of Callander’s he held another position. He was the treasurer for another firm – the Louden Manufacturing company. He had helped establish the Canadian branch of this American Firm back in 1908. It specialized in making agricultural equipment and farm-related products. Hugh was also responsible for at least one patent at this time – a hanger for elevated tracks (1909). His association with Louden’s presented no difficulty at the time. Actually, going from the office of one firm to the other was not problematic. The two companies were located side-by-side at 54 Crimea Street.

The Callanders were joined in this new enterprise by a “silent partner” whose name is still not known. Financial difficulty initially resulted in the silent partner purchasing Callandar’s. It was possibly under his watch that the only known strike at the plant took place.

The 1920 Strike

On August 5, 1920, 150 moulders went out in protest against company refusal to grant them a wage increase of 25 per cent. The moulders were one of the oldest and strongest unions in Guelph. Local 212 had been in existence since 1902. This, however, was one of their extensive strikes since it involved not one but four shops. These were:

1.   Crowe’s Iron Works

2.   White Sewing Machine

3.   Griffin Foundry Company

4.   Callander Foundry Company

The strike lasted from August 5 to October 23 – for the Callander Foundry. It ended on August 17 for the other companies. Some employees left to work elsewhere, but, eventually, the company and the union reached a compromise. Callander’s was back in business. It was also shortly afterwards, to resume management under the Callander family. No other strikes took place until once again it was being operated under new management.

In 1919, with Alexander Callander planning retirement (although he remained President of the company long afterwards), it was up to his sons to take over. Each of the family members had a role to play. David, the eldest son, was in the charge of the overall operations of the foundry. His brothers assumed responsibility for the following areas:

·        Wilfrid “Grit”, a skilled coremaker: Core room

·     John (Jack?) S., a machinist: Machine shop

·        Harry D.: Office manager and secretary-treasurer

·        Malcom “Mac,” a moulder: General manager or foreman

Even Alex’s daughter, Grace, would have been able to help out in the shop. In 1921, she is listed as a bookkeeper. Malcolm had left home and started his own family, however, his brothers and sisters continued to stay in the family home.

Overall, the 1920s were a time of expansion. The company saw a growth in physical size and employees. This included a machine shop erected in 1923 to produce electrical conduit fittings and, in 1926, a new building and enlarged foundry.

These facilities were needed to address the needs of their customers. Among them were GM and Chrysler as they turned grey iron into castings. Callander’s also produced components for:

·        Coppifield and Easy Washing Machines

·        Remington Rand typewriters

·        Hoover Manufacturer

By 1929, the foundry had doubled in size. Harry D. had begun to make the right decisions – ones that would earn him the vice-presidency of the company, a position he would hold until his sudden death in 1946. His elder brother, David, was a moulder during this time, but it was Harry and his younger siblings – Wilfrid, Malcolm and John that chose to take a greater interest in the operation of the family business.

Family members also provided Callander’s with several Canadian patents in the 1920s. Hugh B. Callander, a close relative, retired from Louden’s in 1922. He held a 1921 patent for a clamp for metal pipes. At the end of the year, Malcolm, by this time married to Elizabeth and with children of his own, contributed a patent for a conduit outlet box.

The workforce also grew. The small foundry had proven to be durable. What had initially been a workforce of 25 men, 12 of which were moulders, soon numbered more than 300 as the foundry entered into the 1930s.

The Depression

During the Depression years (1933, specifically), a small company making woodworking tools was taken over, and yet another addition was made to the foundry. In 1938, the manufacturers’ department increased in size.

In spite of the hard times gripping the city of Guelph, the province and the country the Callander Foundry continued working. It held on and stayed afloat. The company sought out and took on various jobbing tasks. They made decorative book ends and plaques and other items along this line. The owners were doing any and everything to ensure employees continued to work no matter the toll it would take on the company’s bottom line. This philosophy was one Callander and his successors, the Brydges, were to retain. As the 1930s ended, the company was offered an opportunity to be successful once more.

Gains Made in World War II

The early 1940s saw the company add to its patent line. One man, Paul George Rudolf Ringert applied for two patents for the company. These were for a conduit box (1943) – possibly an improvement of the one by Malcolm Callander in 1923 and a wire entrance fitting (1944). They were both to help in the shift in production during the 1940s as the company began to take on different types of projects, specifically those directly related to the war effort. Castings were produced for the following:

·        Hand grenade casings ca 2,000,000

·        Brake drums for army trucks ca 800,000 army trucks

·        Machine tools

·        Gun parts

·        Tank gun mounts

·        Radar components

Callander’s joined with other companies in doing what it could to help win the war. It established a Marine Department in Toronto (It remained there until the war ended then transferred to Guelph). In fact, Callander set aside all consideration for producing other goods, devoting the entire plant to war supplies. This meant some sacrifices. Yet, while many companies saw a spike in accidents, only one was recorded for Callander’s during this period. Robert Few, age 24, was cut severely enough it was necessary to sew stiches in his right arm.

Post War Production

During the war, the company and its owners never lost touch with reality. They knew adjustments would need to be made if the company wanted to continue to be successful following the cessation of World War II. When the war ended, it was ready to adapt immediately. Their post-war production had a definite focus on tools, particularly power tools. These tools were made for the average person and quickly became popular under the now famous name of Beaver Power Tools line. Emerging in 1946, these handy tools quickly became their signature product. The man in charge of machine and tool design was W. M. Shaw.

The company capitalised on this by producing paperweights in the shape of a beaver. This form of promotional advertising was available in different metals including silver coated, pewter, brass and iron. Employees and visitors alike received them in recognition of work they had performed, milestones the company had reached or as gifts of appreciation.

This was not the only product Callander’s produced in their foundry. In 1951, they came to an agreement with an American firm – the Eureka Williams Co., to produce their Eureka oil burners for the Canadian market. However, their tools were the product most sought after at this time. In 1949, a list of their products in this area included a vast array of shop tools including:

·        Band saws

·        Bench grinders

·        Buffing wheels

·        Drill presses

·        Grinding wheels

·        Jack shafts

·        Jointers

·        Lathes

·        Machine tool power transmissions

·        Planers

·        Polishing heads

·        Scroll jigsaws

·        Shaft hangers

·        Shop circular saws

·        Work benches

At this point in time, Walter Wesley Brydges was president and general manager. Wilfrid L. Callander was Vice President and plant manager, M. J. Morton was Secretary-Treasurer, J. S. Callander was Manufacturing Superintendent and J. Allan was Foundry Superintendent. This same January 27, 1951 edition of the Guelph Mercury also provided the names of some 300 employees.

Rockwell Takes Over

In 1953, Callandar’s, by now owned and operated by W. W. Brydges, a former senior employee, was sold. The company now taking the reins was a large American conglomerate – Rockwell Manufacturing Co. By 1955, even though the buildings remained, the name had changed. It was now the Rockwell Manufacturing Co. of Canada, Ltd. The well-respected Beaver Power Tool line, was incorporated into another division of Rockwell – one they had taken over at the end of the War – the Delta Manufacturing Co. The new name/division was called the Beaver-Delta Division of Rockwell. Under this umbrella, Rockwell eventually phased out the old, quality Beaver Power Tools, replacing them with their versions. Eventually, Rockwell metamorphosized into Rockwell International of Canada Ltd. was to also become a division. However, it was not until 2011 that what little remained of the Callander operations closed down.

The building still remains on Crimea Street. It is part of several structures that once housed other important Guelph industries. Among these were Louden’s, an agricultural implement manufacturer.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jeffrey A Brydges

    Thank you for this history, JAB 2022 12 22

  2. I am Grit Callander’s Great great grandson!!! I have many artifacts from the foundry! My family still has an almost complete set of Beaver Power tools! Visit Callander street in guelph that used to be the Callander Farm! Grit and his brother served proudly in WW1 and (grit) was awarded a medal for saving the life of a nurse whom would have drowned if not for him keeping her afloat after their hospital boat was torpedoed and sunk by a the Germans.

    1. Bonnie Durtnall

      It is so neat to hear from a Callander Foundry family member. It is always important to discover the people behind the names.

      I, personally, have only one Callander item. It is a pair of legs. However, I am trading them for something that has always been on my bucket list – a Callander Beaver Power Tool paperweight.It will be much easier to carry to events where LAOL has a display.

      Thanks for the background information.