Friday, June 16, 2017

We used to make things in this country. #263: Simonds Canada Saw Company Limited, Brockville, Ontario


Above, a Lion grinding wheel I picked up.  The label explains that Lion was a division of Simonds Canada Saw Company Limited. As near as I can determine, Lion Grinding Wheels Limited was a stand-alone company before being bought by Simonds Canada. Below, a blotter and the cover of an instruction book, both from 1952:



The history of the Simonds Saw Company goes back to 1832, when Abel Simonds started to make scythes in West Fitchburg, Massachusetts.   The Company began making its own steel in Chicago in 1900, and in 1911 at its own steel mill in Lockport, New York.  File and hack saw manufacturing began in 1905.  At some point, their offerings included items like my saw set below.





In 1927, Simonds acquired the Abrasive Company of Philadelphia, adding these products to its line.

Meanwhile, north of the 49th parallel, the Canada Saw Company of Montreal, Quebec was begun in 1904 with the merger of the James Robertson Saw Company (founded 1868) and the Ottawa Saw Company (founded 1893).  In 1906, it was purchased by the Simonds Manufacturing Company and renamed the Simonds Canada Saw Company, headquartered in Montreal.  Other factory locations included Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario and St. John, New Brunswick.  Eventually, a new factory was constructed in Granby, Quebec, an hour east of Montreal, and in 1960 operations were consolidated there and the Montreal factory was sold.  I see from old ads that Simonds was originally an agent for Norton abrasives, and I'm assuming they bought the Lion firm in Brockville to add this capacity to their Canadian production.

In 1965, the Simonds family agreed to sell its share of the company to Wallace-Murray Corporation, a company which had just been formed through the merger of the Murray Corporation and the William Wallace Company. The new company, which specialized in truck engine parts, metal-cutting tools and plumbing fixtures, was one of the first of the big industrial conglomerates that we've all since learned to know and love.  It operated in Canada as Wallace-Murray Canada Limited, as shown on the case below for a Simonds "Em-Rald" sharpening stone made in Brockville:





The company soldiered on through the 1970's as a Wallace-Murray brand:

Canadian Workshop, January 1979

Their ads at the time introduced the square-jawed super-hero in the remarkably, albeit perhaps unintentionally, phallic ad below:

Canadian Workshop, June 1979
By the time Wallace-Murray was acquired by the Household Finance Corporation in 1981, Simonds was a very small part of a very large conglomerate.  In 1988, senior management along with private investor Greylock Management Co bought the company, returning it to private ownership. The new company was named Simonds Industries Inc.​  With the change of ownership, the Granby plant, which was the major Canadian producer, was closed and production returned to Fitchburg.

For a full history of Simonds, go to the Simonds International website.

As for Wallace-Murray, part of its legacy is have the former Scranton, Pennsylvania location listed as a "Superfund Site" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "because they pose or had once posed a potential risk to human health and/or the environment due to contamination by one or more hazardous wastes."

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