Ontario Cotton Mills / Canadian Cottons Limited

William Hendrie, Sr., promoter of industry in Hamilton (click for a closer look)Location: 1881-1959, block bounded by James, Simcoe, MacNab, Ferrie Streets, Hamilton, Ontario (1881-1892, headquartered in Hamilton)

The Ontario Cotton Mills Company was established in 1881 in Hamilton, Ontario, by a group of men including William Hendrie (Sr.), Edward and Charles Gurney, and C.B. Snow. The name was changed the same year to the Ontario Cotton Manufacturing Company (O.C.M.), and production began in 1882. The factory covered almost the entire block bounded by James, Simcoe, MacNab, and Ferrie Streets, except for a hotel on the west side of the property. The company manufactured such cotton products as denims, shoe linings, flour bags, and carpet yarns under the brand name "Kingcot".

A worker tends to a strip machine (click for a closer look)By 1886, the mill's 400 employees (mostly women and girls) were producing 2.5 million yards - over 14,000 miles - of cloth per year. However, two years later, the company "met with a financial reverse" (according to the Hamilton Spectator) and was purchased by a Hamilton syndicate of businessmen, comprising mostly the same businessmen who established the O.C.M. in 1881. In 1892, it was reorganized again as the Ontario Cottons (O.C.) subsidiary of the Canadian Colored Cotton Mills Company Limited (C.C.C.), headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. C.C.C. controlled about a dozen mills throughout the Dominion, including three in Cornwall, Ontario, and three in New Brunswick.

In 1898, O.C. switched from using steam power to hydro-electric power supplied by the Cataract Power Company, the first company in Hamilton to do so. In 1917, the parent company's name was changed from Canadian Colored Cotton Mills Company Limited to Canadian Cottons Limited (C.C.L.) Over the next few years, the Ontario Mill was expanded, purchasing property across from the main factory on Simcoe Street, and buying the site where the hotel had stood on the west side.

A 1931 ad for Canadian Cottons Limited (click for a closer look)The employees of O.M. went on strike on July 29, 1941. The 500 workers were represented by the United Textile Workers of America, Local 7 (as they had been since August, 1940). The strike lasted 13 days, until August 12. In August, 1953, the seven-strorey warehouse on James Street was almost destroyed by fire. Apparently, a cigarette butt ignited some bales of cotton on the fifth floor. Fortunately, the company was insured for the damages.

By 1954, the competition from inexpensive Japanese and American imports were beginning to affect C.C.L.'s profits. Two of the three Cornwall mills, and the factory in Marysville, New Brunswick, were closed. C.C.L. suffered a net loss of $170,000 during the 1958 fiscal year. In 1959 the decision was made to close the Ontario Cotton mill in Hamilton, along with the factories at Saint John, New Brunswick, and Almonte, Ontario. By July, 1959, the Hamilton mill was completely shut down, and its machinery shipped to Venezuela.


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