Monday, May 11, 2015

We used to make things in this country. #195: McBrine "Around the World Baggage", Kitchener, Ontario

Above, a small piece of luggage I use to keep mice out of things.

Louis McBrine and William Gibson Cleghorn founded the L. McBrine Company in Kitchener.  

One source claims 1905 as the founding date, but the present company's website proclaims "supplier of quality luggage, business cases and casual bags since 1871."  The latter date seems questionnable, as Louis McBrine was born in 1866 and it seems unlikely that he founded a company at age 5.   Perhaps there was an earlier "legacy" company that dates back further. I've seen a reference to the Cairns & McBrine company as a maker of "gloves and valises" in Kitchener.  In any event, the company eventually went on to employ thousands of people and to become one of the world's largest luggage manufacturers.  Their factory in Kitchener continued in operation until sometime in the 1960's.  The present company has corporate headquarters in Toronto and Buffalo, but I suspect that their manufacturing is carried out off-shore.

Today, Kitchener's Victoria Park is located in the shadow of the former factory location, and its entrance is home to artist Ernest Daetwyler's The Luggage Project, a 2007 art installation featuring sculptures of suitcases as a tribute to all those who have arrived in Kitchener and made it their home. 

Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery

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