Thursday, May 7, 2015

We used to make things in this country. #194: Kaufman Furniture, Collingwood, Ontario

Canadian Homes, June 1961

The Kaufman story begins with the Imperial Steel and Wire Company of Collingwood, a large manufacturer of nails and fasteners.  A fire partially destroyed their factory in 1919, but the company never recovered and closed in 1925.  During World War II, the factory became home to the Clyde Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which employed 500 workers to make parts for the Mosquito bomber.  At the conclusion of the war, the Ontario government collaborated with the British Board of Trade to establish Globe Plywood Limited.  Under the control of A.R. Kaufman, this company made pre-fab plywood furniture, shipped to Britain to help replace furniture lost during the German bombing.  When this contract was completed in 1948, the company became Kaufman Furniture, turning to the North American market.  James Leithead designed a distinctly Canadian-style of furniture, beginning with "The Talisman" line.   Originally, birch wood was the material of choice, but this was succeeded by the better-selling walnut.  By the late 1940's, almost 200 people were employed in the factory which was run by William Kaufman, a third-generation businessman who also served as a flying Instructor during World War II. Kaufman Furniture was only part of the empire, which included the Kaufman Rubber Company (later renamed Kaufman Footwear).  The factory's enormous smokestack was a Collingwood landmark.
In 1979 several companies were amalgamated to form William H. Kaufman Inc. In 2000, the plant was sold to Krug Inc., a Kitchener-based manufacturer of office furniture.  Krug closed it down in 2005, with the loss of 130 jobs.  The plant was subsequently demolished.  You can see photos of the demolition at The Last Days of Kaufman Furniture.
As a curious aside, the Mariner Motel in Collingwood was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufman family in the 1950s. 


Peter Prangnell said...

Both the extension to the Kaufman Furniture Factory and the Mariner Motel were designed by local Collingwood architect Bill Carswell who was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright.

ofiskoltuklari said...
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Nancy Frey said...

In 1975 I worked at Kaufman Furniture in Collingwood as secretary to the President Gerry Cockerill. I'm really sorry to see the demise of the company and the building.

Nancy Frey formerly Mueller
Windsor, ON

Mister G said...

Thank you for your comment. If you have pictures or stories you'd like to share I'll add them to the post!

Anthony Santoro said...

Hello! Thank you for the very interesting post!

I was recently gifted a beautiful dining set made by Kaufmann Furniture Ltd. and am hoping to find out more information. Do you happen to know if there is a database of all furniture made by this company? It would be helpful to find any photos of the original sets to see if the fabric on these seats is original to manufacturing. While it is somewhat marked, I think I can clean it and have them looking in their prime once again.

For your other guest, Nancy, do you happen to know anything about anything like this either?

Nancy Frey said...

Anthony, when I worked there, Kaufman (one n) had two distinct lines. One was very traditional furniture and the other was upholstered furniture which was not made in Collingwood. But I can tell you from memory that most of the fabrics used for both diningroom furniture and upholstery were from Kobe Fabrics and they are still around. The fabric was top quality and should clean very well. You might find photos of the furniture on sites like Kijiji. And there is a book on Amazon which has photos of The Kaufman Collection but you have to be careful as there is another company today called Kaufman Fine Furniture run by a Justin Kaufman and I don't think it has anything to do with Kaufman of Collingwood.

Mister G said...

Thanks for the information and interest!