Thursday, April 12, 2018

We still make things In this country, Fire Hydrants

Another post from our guest contributor Mic.
As a boy, I used to enjoy wandering through a particular section of field on my family farm in Mount Forest, Ontario. It was the location of a building that was alleged to have burned down in the early 1900s, and the spot had been reclaimed as part of the agricultural land. Every Spring after the ground there was plowed, I would walk among the furrows and look for things that stood out among the dirt and rocks that had been turned (a penny from 1901, a half dime from 1885, a No. 7 brass sleigh bell, etc). One item I collected was a curious old screw valve made by T McAvity & Sons of Saint John, New Brunswick. It showed a patent from 1885 and a casting date of 1892. It’s a basic screw valve with a line diameter of ½ inch. Oh, and 120 years after being cast, including 80 years of being turned in a farm field, it still works!
Below is an image of a McAvity fire hydrant installed and operational near my home in WoodbridgeOntario.

A search online shows that T McAvity & Sons had been a large industrial foundry operation on the east coast of Canada (Saint John, NB). In 1834 Thomas McAvity, an Irish immigrant from county Donegal, started his company to distribute wholesale goods that were imported from overseas. In later years, the family-run business would open up a brass foundry to make parts for ships. The first valve was cast in 1879, and from there the company expanded successfully into plumbing fixtures. Fire hydrants, probably the most enduring and conspicuous product line, were first cast in 1903. Successive generations found success in other product lines, and the company engaged in the manufacture of munitions for use in the First World War (link). During the War, 159 McAvity employees went overseas in military service, 26 of whom did not return. McAvity men did also respond to the call of duty, with James McAvity leading the 26th New Brunswick Battalion in a deployment in France
Stories on McAvity munitions production during World War 1 here.
  After 126 years of operation by the McAvity family, the company was sold in 1960 to Crane Canada Ltd. The McAvity division of Crane Canada was sold to Clow Canada in 1990, and continues to manufacture fire hydrants and related components today. Many of the McAvity fire hydrants cast over a century ago are still operational. Although headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario, Clow continues to maintain a plant in Saint John. Clow Canada’s website advertises that “Made in Canada Matters”. When I read about tariffs being applied to Canadian products and industries each month from our largest trading partner, or watch as my new “stainless steel” products from China turn orange-brown with rust, I find myself wholly in agreement.

We were a bit surprised to find a classic reprint of T. McAvity and Sons Catalog 45 online available as a pdf.

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