Thursday, April 9, 2015

We used to make things in this country. #189: Canadian Yale & Towne Limited, St. Catharines, Ontario

Around 1940, Linus Yale Sr. set up a lock shop in Newport, New York and began to design expensive bank locks.  His son, Linus Yale Jr., joined him in 1850 and perfected and patented the pin tumbler lock developed by his father.  In 1868 by Linus Yale, Jr. and Henry R. Towne founded the Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company.  According to the company's current website:

"In 1862, Yale Jr. introduced the Monitor Bank Lock, marking the transition in bank locks from key locks to dial or combination locks.   
Yale Jr. was also experimenting with a lock based on a mechanism first employed by the ancient Egyptians over 4,000 years ago. Granted patents in 1861 and 1865, Yale finally succeeded in creating his most important invention – the Yale cylinder lock."
The company was eventually out of Stamford, Connecticut.  That factory has now been converted to lofts.  

In August 2000 Yale was purchased by the Swedish Assa Abloy Group, the largest manufacturer of locks in the world.

Yale & Towne opened a plant in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1911.  At its height, it was employing 300 people and making, among other things, all of the city's presentation keys. 


In his book, History of Canadian Business, 1867-1914 (James Lorimer & Co., 1975), R.T. Naylor argues that successful American companies were falling over themselves to get handouts from Canadian municipalities in the early decades of the last century, and Yale and Towne was no exception. The author states:
"St. Catharines gave the needy Yale and Towne Company nine acres, free water, a ten year tax exemption and a fixed low assessment. The firm had been founded in 1868, had since absorbed most of its competitors, and by 1911, when it got the handout, had a capital subscribed of five million dollars."
This approach has been called "welfare capitalism" and still alive and well today.  The plant was making locks, lift trucks and front-end loaders when it was closed following a strike in 1974.  Since then, the Canadian factory hasn't seen the same re-purposing efforts as the American one.  You can see a 2005 picture of the abandoned St. Catharines factory here.


Unknown said...

My grandfather Ellis Jones started with Y & T in Stamford Conn. in 1894 and they sent him to St. Catharines in 1912. He ended up as General Manager for the Canadian division, and retired in 1951.

Mister G said...

He must have liked Canada!

Anonymous said...

I need a key for an old yale lock

Anonymous said...

How much is the yo key worth

Mister G said...

ebay says... 49.5¢