Sunday, December 9, 2012

We used to make things in this country. #54: The Pedlar People, Oshawa Ontario

A picture of a barn pulley arrangement that someone is trying to sell on Kijiji:

The Pedlar People of Oshawa, Ontario was at one time the largest plant in the British Empire for the production of sheet metal building material. 


Its origins date back to 1840 when Henry Pedlar started a small store in Oshawa, followed by a small sheet metal plant where he made kitchen utensils.  In 1861, this became the Pedlar Metal Roofing Company.  His son George eventually took this over, adding a stamping plant in 1892 to make metal roofing, siding and similar items.  

Early 1900's advertisement
In 1911 the firm was turned into a joint stock company and incorporated as The Pedlar People.  During World War I, production shifted to radio receiver cases, fuel tanks, heat exchangers, cartridge cases, army huts, and many more metal items vital for the war effort.  Following the conflict, the factory was moved to larger premises in 1920.  Over the following decades their products diversified into tinsmithing supplies, metal lath and plastering accessories used in fireproof construction, culverts, drainage pipes, prefabricated metal buildings, metal logging flumes, barn and stable equipment, bins, lockers, work benches, and various expanded metal products.  They sold to locations all over the world, offering a cheaper and more durable alternative to the increasingly expensive wood and plaster products that were their competition.  The factory grew to cover 6 acres, and required two railway spurs to satisfy the needs of the shipping department.  The economic downturn in the 1980's along with a shortage of domestic steel spelled the end for the company, which closed its doors in 1982.  The factory was demolished to make room for a shopping centre.  So ended an industry which had spanned 120 years and, at its height, employed some 300 to 500 men.  It had helped give Oshawa the title of "The Manchester of Canada."

The Toronto Public Library holds a 1952 book on the company history:  Saga of achievement : being the story of the Pedlar People and their contribution to Canadian community life

On the now rare occasions when you get to admire an old tin ceiling, it probably came from The Pedlar People.  To see their architectural offerings back in their heyday, have a look at their 1906 catalogue:  The Pedlar People.
For a more detailed history and more photos, visit The Manchester of Canada.

1942.  Oshawa Community Museum and Archives.


Unknown said...

Great piece of old news. Nice to have a writeup to satisfy the name on this old pulley I have....

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was a traveling salesman with Pedlar people for Eastrrn Ontario and ironically I ended up living and teaching in Oshawa.