Mercury Mills Limited

The Mercury Mills plant on Cumberland Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario (click for a closer look) Locations:
Mercury Mills Limited: 1912-1916, Park Street North; 1916-1954, Cumberland Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario
Chipman-Holton Knitting Company Limited
: 1902-1954, Mary and Kelly Streets, Hamilton, Ontario
Mercury-Chipman Knitting Limited
: 1954-1955, Cumberland Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario

In 1868, John Penman (1850?-1931) founded a textile manufacturing company in Paris, Ontario, which later became known as the Penman Manufacturing Company Limited In 1906, Penman retired from active involvement, and the company was reorganized as Penman's Limited.

A 1918 advertisement for Mercury Mills hosiery (click for a closer look)

Six years later, desiring a return to working life, John Penman travelled to Hamilton, Ontario, and founded the Mercury Mills Company Limited (M.M.) on December 20, 1912. The company, which manufactured hosiery and underwear for men, women, and children, was named after Mercury, the Roman god of commerce and the marketplace. A 1913 advertisement for the Chipman-Holton Knitting Company (click for a closer look)M.M. was located, at first, in a Park Street building formerly owned by the Eagle Knitting Company. Production began with about 100 employees in early 1913. (Later, during its best years, the company payroll swelled to over 1,100 workers.)

During World War I, M.M. found that its present location was not sufficient to handle the vast amount of production brought on by war demands. In 1916 it built a new, larger plant on Cumberland

Avenue, between Prospect and Gage Avenues. Manufacturing took place in a four-story plant with six acres of floor space. The most striking characteristic of the edifice was the 30-foot high limestone sculpture of the god Mercury over the main entrance.

Mercury-Chipman's Cumberland Avenue plant shortly after it was demolished in 1983By 1930, Mercury Mills Limited owned and operated three textile mills in Ontario: Mercury Mills in Hamilton, Oxford Knitting Mills in Woodstock, and P-K Mills in Listowel.

M.M. returned to the production of garments and hosiery for war use during World War II. It also manufactured fabrics that would be used in military uniforms and parachutes. After WWII, sales were steady; however, the 1950s brought increasing competition from less-expensive imported products. The giant head of Mercury, saved from the wreckage of the plant in 1983To expand sales and reduce costs, M.M. merged with the Chipman-Holton Knitting Company Limited (C.H.) in 1954. C.H. had been established in 1902 on the corner of Mary and Kelly Streets in Hamilton, and also manufactured hosiery and textiles. After the merger, all of C.H.'s operations were moved to the M.M. factory on Cumberland, and the new company became known as Mercury-Chipman Knitting Limited (M.C.). Its products were sold across the country.

Unfortunately, the merger could not prevent the company from falling victim to the competition of imports. The Cumberland Avenue plant of C.M. was taken over by the bank in 1955, and in April of the following year the textile machinery was sold at auction.

The Park Street plant that housed Mercury Mills for the company's first four years is now (August, 2000) home to a mustard flour manufacturer. Chipman-Holton's Mary Street building was torn down after the 1954 merger to make room for a parking lot. Now standing on the lot is a fabric knitting and dyeing facility. Mercury-Chipman's Cumberland Avenue plant was demolished in August, 1983, and was replaced by apartment towers. Only the 1½-ton limestone head of Mercury remains - the rest of the sculpture could not be saved.



Home List E-mail