Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We used to make things in this country. #202: The Gold Medal Furniture Company, Toronto, Ontario


The Gold Medal Furniture Company was founded in Toronto in 1887 by W.J. McMurtry. In 1909, the company bought property at 320 King Street West from the University of Toronto.  Several years later it bought an Uxbridge factory from the former Palmer Piano Company, and got into the gramophone business in the 1922 when it changed its name to the Gold Medal Radio and Phonograph Comany.  So, in addition to its Hercules bed springs, the company made chesterfields, chairs, divanettes, davenports, library tables and chairs, "Purity" felt mattresses, steel couches and cushions, Gold Medal phonographs, record cabinets and benches. In 1925, it set up a remarkably progressive employee profit-sharing program in which 50 percent of the company's profits were divided among the employees, with a further 10 percent going into a charitable fund. The employees were given joint control of the Toronto factory through a committee they elected, which met with managers every week and which had regular access to company accounts.  In 1927, the firm successfully defended itself against a legal challenge to the use of the "Gold Medal" name by the Gold Medal Camp Furniture Manufacturing Company of Racine, Wisconsin.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which found in the Canadian company's favour. Sadly, the company seems to have gone under in the early 1930's, no doubt the victim of the growing economic depression.  For more photos and info, visit Gold Medal.

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