Greening Donald Wire Company Limited (B. Greening Wire Company Limited)

1859-1987, Queen and Napier Streets, Hamilton, Ontario

The original Victoria Wire Mill on Queen and Napier Streets in Hamilton (1881) (click for a closer look) The roots of the Greening Donald Wire Company Limited reach back to 1494. In this year, Christopher Greening, an Englishman living in France, opened a pin-making shop in his adopted homeland, the first such shop in France. In 1563 he returned to Great Britain, where it is supposed that he co-founded the Tintern Abbey Wire Works in Wales, though he must have been very old at the time.

His descendants continued in the tradition, and in 1858 Benjamin Greening and his brother Timothy emigrated from England to Hamilton, Canada West. The two men had intended to retire, but an occurence at the Desjardins Canal spurred a return to the wire-making business. A Great Western Railway (G.W.R.) bridge was destroyed in a violent storm, and Benjamin Greening offered to use the remains of the bridge to manufacture station-signal wires for the G.W.R.

The contract was so lucrative for Benjamin that in 1859 he came out of retirement and formed B. Greening and Company, which manufactured wire products, including wire web for locomotives, under the name of Victoria Wire Mills. The first factory was located on Queen and Napier Streets in West Hamilton. A revolving flower stand from the 1905 B. Greening Company catalogue (click for a closer look)

When Benjamin died in 1877, his son Samuel Owen (S.O.) became president of the company. In 1889 the company was incorporated, and its name was changed to the B. Greening Wire Company Limited ("Greening"). S.O. possessed a management style quite different from that of his father. Where Benjamin had emphasized production, S.O. focussed on efficiency, sales, and marketing. The latter's dedication to "pushing the product" helped the company thrive through the economic recessions of the turn of the century.

In 1882, S.O. Greening convinced a former Greening employee, John Maw, to return to the company as Superintendent. Together, they expanded the product line to include not only industrial wire products, but also beautifully designed ornamental products which appealed to the Victorian middle class. Some of the products the company manufactured were bird cages, wire baskets, iron bank railings, and iron gazebos.

In 1911, the trend for highly decorative products had passed, and the company returned to the manufacture of more practical products for industry and home.

A wire weaving loom (click for a closer look)By the beginning of the 20th century, the B. Greening Wire Company had expanded from a single mill in 1859 to a sprawling plant that covered two-and-a-half blocks along Napier Street. In 1950, the company employed 600 workers at the Hamilton plant. In 1955, a $150,000 plant was built in Orangeville, Ontario, the first time the company had ventured outside of Hamilton in almost 100 years of operation. Sales had been dropping due to increased competition from countries such as West Germany and Japan. Land and buildings were less expensive in Orangeville than in Hamilton, so the heavy screen, fabricated wire, and light iron operations were moved.

In 1960, the company expanded again, this time to Midland, Ontario. There, it built what was, at the time, the most modern rope-making facility in the country. The Hamilton plant would continue to manufacture drawn wire, woven netting, and perforated metals. Greening supplied products to such industries as construction, mining, and shipping, and won contracts to supply wire cables to such projects as the Place Ville Marie in Montreal, Quebec. "It is no exaggeration to say that if it were not for steel wire rope, modern industry as we know it today could not exist." (Robinson, pg. 14)

B. Greening Wire Company Limited 75th AnniversaryBy the mid-1960s, however, sales were lagging. In 1964, the B. Greening Company was sold to Donald Ropes and Wire Cloth Limited, which was a subsidiary of August-Thyssen AG of West Germany. The two companies were amalgamated in 1970, under the name Greening Donald Company Limited ("GreenDon"). The new company now had two plants in Hamilton (Greening's Napier Street plant, and Donald's Rifle Range Road plant), one in Orangeville, and one in Midland. The company also owned warehouses in cities across Canada, and companies in Toronto and Guelph, Ontario. In the early 1970s, it acquired Croname Donald Incorporated of Waterloo, Quebec, and Mundt Perforations of New Jersey. Although the Greening Donald Company was wholly-owned by Thyssen of Germany, it retained complete decision-making rights, and all profits earned remained in Canada.

In addition to wire products for industrial and home use, the company manufactured giant slingshots for the United States Navy. The slingshots were used to launch fighting jets from carriers, and to stop them once they landed.

In 1975 employees at the Rifle Range plant went on strike for six months (June 1 to December 4). They went back to work with an increase in wage of $1.40 per hour. Over the next few years, the company vastly increased its share of the export market. In 1983, 30% of GreenDon's business went to 40 different countries, especially those of North America, South America, and the Pacific Rim. Domestically, business was good as well. In 1984 Greendon won a certificate of defence production capability for quality assurance, from the Canadian Armed Forces.

In March of 1987, GreenDon's wire cloth division was moved from Queen and Napier Streets to the Orangeville plant. Between 1988 and 1989, the Rifle Road operations - wire rope, splicing, and perforated metals - were also moved from Hamilton to Orangeville. As of July 1989, Greening Donald Company Limited no longer existed in Hamilton, Ontario. The Greening Donald company is now a subsidiary of the Budd Company of Troy, Michigan (which is, itself, owned by Thyssen).



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