Monday, February 1, 2016

We used to make things in this country. # 228: Shurly-Dietrich-Atkins Company, Galt, Ontario

Above, a medallion from a Shurly-Dietrich hand saw. 

Above, an "Arrowhead Jointer" made by the T.F. Shurly Co. Ltd.

Below,  a "Perfect Saw Jointer" from the Shurly-Dietrich Co. meant for use with the large two-man crosscut saws of the early lumbering era.

Below, how it was used:

The story begins in 1884 with Joseph Flint, who manufactured saws in Rochester, New York until 1888.  In 1855, he also opened the first saw factory in Upper Canada, in St. Catharines, Ontario.  Below, an ad from around 1872:
His Rochester employees included R.H. Smith, Jerome C. Dietrich and Cosmos J. Shurly.  R.H. Smith ended up buying the St. Catharine's factory in 1870.  Cosmos Shurly ended up marrying Flint's daughter. Apparently, as a result of family misunderstanding, in 1873 Dietrich and Shurly came up to Galt, Ontario and started their own Shurly-Dietrich (also sometimes spelled Shurley-Dietrich) saw works in an old tannery building owned by the Goldie & McCulloch Foundry. They started with nine saw makers from both Rochester and Sheffield, England.  

By 1886, they were employing 70 skilled workmen. The factory expanded several times over the ensuing decades. They were one of the first companies in Canada to use the maple leaf as a symbol of things Canadian.

Shurly & Dietrich also bought into the R.H. Smith firm in St. Catharines.  When Smith retired in 1893, Shurly & Dietrich assumed full control of the company.  In 1914, the business was renamed the T.F. Shurly Company, operated by Cosmos Shurly's son. That company continued into the 1920's.

Beginning around 1910, the very large Indianapolis sawmaker, E.C. Atkins, opened a factory in Hamilton, Ontario.  Below, one of their saw sets (photographed at a local historical society's open house):

In 1931, Atkins merged with Shurly-Dietrich becoming, logically enough, Shurly-Dietrich-Atkins. It's not clear whether Atkins bought Shurly-Dietrich or the reverse, but I would expect that if the former were the case, the Atkins name would have been placed first in the new company identity.  In any event, the Atkins' Hamilton plant was closed and the machine tools relocated to the Galt property.

Because of the company's expertise in the hardening and tempering of steel, it was tasked with producing 40,000 tons of light armour plate during World War II.  Following the conflict, they returned to the manufacture of saws and machine knives.    In 1957, Shurly-Dietrich-Atkins was one of two main saw manufacturers in Canada. By 1968 about 1,400,000 feet of band saw blades designed for cutting metal and over 1,000,000 jigsaw blades were being manufactured each year. 

Above, a medallion from a hand saw and the company logo on a circular saw.  Below, an SDA (Shurly-Dietrich-Atkins) saw set:

Below, a Shurly-Dietrich-Atkins (SDA) No. 206 Improved Criterion Saw Set and instructions for its use. (For more information on how these tools were used, visit Galoot-o-Pedia.)

Below, Shurly-Dietrich-Atkins Co. jig saw blades:

The kiss of death came in 1969 when the company was acquired by H.K. Porter (which had been busy collecting companies of all sorts and which had swallowed up the much larger Philadelphia saw maker Disston in 1955) and four years later the plant closed after 100 years in business.

The original factory is now the north parking lot of the Southworks Outlet Mall in Cambridge (formerly Galt until 1973), Ontario.  


Bobinott said...

Wow, a double header: not only from that lost time when we used to make things in this country, but also from the time when people used to sharpen and set a saw, instead of just replacing it when it no longer cuts well!

Paul Bomers said...

Looking in my shed in the Netherlands I discovered this old handsaw, I inherited from my father in the 1960's. Apparently a Shurly & Dietrich. It is probably pre WW II.