Monday, December 8, 2014

We used to make things in this country. #175: The Andrew Malcolm Furniture Company, Ltd., Listowel, Ontario

I took these photographs of a spool bed in a Brockville thrift store.

Andrew Malcolm was born in Killearn, Scotland, leaving for Jamaica in 1862 when he was just 22 years old.  He held various jobs around the U.S. before finding himself in Ontario.  In 1874 he became a partner with the John Watson furniture firm in Kincardine, Ontario.  Malcolm proved a good manager, and oversaw the company's movement from low-quality elm furniture to premium-grade walnut and oak, selling to large companys like Eaton's and eventually employing over 100 people.  The furniture business cycle swung like a pendulum, but was booming in the early decades of the 20th century.  Watson died in 1895, and was re-incorporated as the Andrew Malcolm Furniture Company in 1905.  Watson bought the Listowel Furniture Company following its bankruptcy, and moved part of his operation to that town.  In 1912, the company clinched a major deal to furnish the bedrooms of the Canadian Pacific Railway hotel chain, beginning with the Banff Springs Hotel and the Hotel Vancouver.  They also were awarded the contract to manufacture gramaphone cabinets for the Columbia Phonograph Company.  After Malcolm's death in 1915, he was unofficially given the title of "dean of Canada's furniture manufacturers" by the trade.  During World War II, the company was kept fully occupied making parts for Mosquito bombers.  Following the war, the company returned to furniture, marketing their products at one under the slogan, "Malcolm better-built furniture : with indestructo finish."  The company closed in 1973, reportedly because it could not secure enough workers to keep the factories going.

For more information, visit Malcolm's entry in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography

No comments: