Carriage and Sleigh Manufacturers
Park St., just north of the Grand Trunk Rail Line
[now demolished, and the site of the Brockville Legion and youth softball grounds]
This company was originally started in 1879 in Gananoque, Ont., by C.W. Taylor and his brother George Taylor, M.P. , where it was known as the Gananoque Carriage Co. They were the first company in Canada to issue an illustrated catalogue and to furnish the wholesale trade.
About 1887, Grant H. Burrows, involved in carriage building in Cincinnati, Ohio, as president of the Standard Carriage Co. and the Davis Carriage Co., bought into the Gananoque business to overcome the problems of importing his products into Canada. Canadian law forbad the importation of goods which were produced in any way by prison labour. In 1892, Burrows was also involved, in his home country, in the Union Axle Co. and the Carthage Wheel Co. in Carthage, north of Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 1891, being constrained by capacity and space problems,, it was decided to move the business to Brockville, where a substantial bonus was offered by the town. A large 4-storey brick plant was built in 1892 on Park St., on the north side of the mainline of the Grand Trunk Railway. Just to the west was the line the north-south of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. This made for much better and more convenient receiving of raw materials and shipping of the finished vehicles by rail.
At first in Brockville, they used the name Brockville Carriage Co., but soon incorporation of the new Canada Carriage Co. was granted on March 28, 1892. Grant H. Burrows became the president of the newly formed company. C.W. Taylor was the vice-president and general manager, and Thomas J. Shorey of Gananoque became the mechanical superintendent.
This engraving was probably created by the Toronto Engraving Co. for the new owners in their first year in Brockville. Upon incorporation in March 1892, the name Canada Carriage Co. was used from that time on.
By 1895 this plant was possibly the largest of its kind in the Dominion of Canada. The company manufactured carriages, surreys, traps, phaetons, wagons and sleighs. These were shipped throughout Canada and the United States, as well as foreign countries. About 300 to 400 men worked in the factory, and the payroll amounted to $3,500 each week.
In 1898, an experimental automobile, designed by William J. Still for the Canadian Motor Syndicate used a carriage built by the Canada Carriage Co. as a chassis, and added his engine and controls to it.
A fire occurred at the plant on February, 26, 1901, but it was not serious.
Canada Carriage Company
View looking north-east from rail line. Photo taken about 1900
On Jan 4th, in the winter of 1905, in the late afternoon, the plant again caught fire, and within three hours the entire structure was in ruins. At the time, they had 4,000 orders on file and no place to build the merchandise.
The morning after the blaze, work started in a temporary building, and within a week every man who chose to work under difficult circumstances, was again on the payroll. Within a month, goods were being shipped by the car-load throughout Canada.
By fall of the same year, new buildings had been constructed on the same site, which occupied about four and a quarter acres of floor space, and was equipped with the most modern machinery. Within another year, the company had outgrown the new facility and it was necessary to erect another large building nearby.
This engraving shows the new and expanded Canada Carriage Co. buildings that were built after the destructive fire of January 4, 1905.
In 1909, the president and general manager of the company was Thomas J. Storey, and Donald M. Spaidal was vice-president and assistant manager.
In the fall of 1909, James B. Tudhope, owner of the Tudhope Carriage Co. of Orillia, purchased the Canada Carriage Co., along with two others, E.N. Henry Co. Ltd., Montreal, and Munro & McIntosh Carriage Co. Ltd., Alexandria, and organized all his businesses into the Carriage Factories Ltd. This new company became a selling and distributing agent for the vehicles of each factory, but they retained their individual names and identity. Tom Storey of Brockville became the vice-president of the new larger company, while James B. Tudhope was president.
[check out a link to the Orillia Hall of Fame, and the story of James B. Tudhope.]
Sam McLaughlin of Oshawa sold the carriage side of the McLaughlan Carriage Co. to J.B. Tudhope of the Carriage Factories Ltd. in 1915. This was so McLaughlan could devote his full time to making automobiles. The deal gave Tudhope the right to use the “McLaughlan” name for a year. 3000 new McLaughlan sleighs were produced in that following one-year time. Many of them were made in Brockville. A metal badge attached to these vehicles identifies them as such.
Into the Automobile Age
There was also interest in getting involved in the manufacturing of automobiles in Brockville before this time. By 1911 the Canada Carriage Co. had acquired the Canadian rights to build the “Everitt”, an American car. About 80 Brockville 30 autos were assembled in Brockville that year. It appears that they were actually Everitt 30s, built from parts shipped from Tudhope’s plant in Orillia.
A new company, the Brockville Atlas Automobile Co. was formed in 1911 by Brockville businessmen, William H. Comstock, Charles W. MacLean and Thomas J. Storey with about $200,000 capital. A new car was designed for 1912, the Brockville Atlas, model A, priced at $2,000. Bodies and chassis were built by the Canada Carriage Co., an engine was mounted which came from the Atlas Engine Works of Indianapolis, Indians, hence the name. Transmissions were supplied by the Warner Gear Co. of Muncie, Indiana.
Between 1912 and 1915 the Atlas Automobile Co. in Brockville produced models C, D, E, F and G. For example, the model D was a five- or seven-passenger car, with a 40 hp engine, right-hand drive, dual magneto, optional electric starter, headlights, sidelights, tail light, speedometer, licence holder, mohair top with side curtains, electric horn, black with nickel trim and fine striping, multiple disk clutch, and leather upholstery stuffed with horsehair. By 1915, about 300 cars had been built. On view in the Brockville Museum is a 1914 Model G, five-passenger touring car. It was sold for $1,800 when new. 1915 was the last year for the Brockville Atlas, as the pressures of World War I created material shortages and lagging sales, and production was suspended.
The Brockville “Atlas” automobile was built in Brockville at the Canada Carriage Co. from 1912 to 1915
This was not the end of automobile production in Brockville. Tom Storey, then the vice-president of the Canada Carriage Co. branch of Tudhope’s Carriage Factories Ltd. and the president of the Brockville Atlas Automobile Co. embarked on a new enterprise in October of 1915. The Brockville company entered into an agreement with Briscoe Motors of Jackson, Michigan to form a Canadian branch called the Canadian Briscoe Motor Company. New buildings were built on the south side of the main GTR line west of the Waulthausen Hat Works, with an entrance off Hamilton St. This enterprise carried on successfully for the next three years with perhaps as many as 5,000 cars were turned out in the Brockville plant.
A fleet of new Brockville Atlas taxi cabs ready to go to work in Toronto
However, disaster struck at the older Canada Carriage site on Sunday, October 27, 1918 about midnight. An explosion was first heard in the Woodworking Shop’s dry kiln area on the north side of the tracks. The fire department fought the blaze all night, just managing to prevent the spread of flames across the tracks to the buildings of the Whyte Packing Co., the Briscoe Motors buildings and the Wolthausen Hat Co. Only four of the fourteen Carriage Co. buildings were saved. About 200 men were put out of work, just before the winter. Losses were estimated at $500,000, a major blow to the local economy.
Canada Briscoe Motors continued in business after the fire, but the Canada Carriage Co. was not re-built.
Brockville’s ten year experiment in automobile building ended in 1921. That was the year the American Briscoe parent company went bankrupt and its assets were purchased by Clarence Earl of the Willys-Overland Company. The last of the Carriage Company buildings were torn down in 1930. The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 96 purchased the Carriage Co. property in 1963, and the new building which now exists, along with the young people’s ball fields, were built.