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Business and History - Bertram Machine and Tool Company

Bertram Machine and Tool Company

This page was reproduced with permission from the Canadian Manufactures Association. The Canadian Manufacturers Association, renamed Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, holds the Copyright for the text and images.

This information came from Industry '67 Centennial Perspective, published by The Canadian Manufacturers' Association in May 1967. The original document is accessible through Western Libraries Shared Catalogue.


Two immigrant Scotsmen, John Bertram and Robert McKechnie, entered into partnership in 1863 in a small plant which they named Canada Tool Works, in Dundas, Ontario. This was the beginning of the John Bertram and Sons Company Limited, a Canadian pioneer in machine tools manufacture, known now as Bertram Machine and Tool Company, a division of Levy Industries Limited.

An illustration of McKechnie and Bertram Before the partnership was formed, John McKechnie had operated a small pattern and machine shop making planers, molding machines and shapers for wood. By the time John Bertram joined him, the new era of large-scale railroad production had inaugurated a demand for maintenance tools and engineering equipment for car and locomotive shops, and was boosting the production of metal machine tools. McKechnie & Bertram gradually discontinued the manufacture of woodworking tools and by the 1880's the firm was making a variety of standard machine tools as well as others specially designed for the locomotive industry, such as car wheel lathes, car wheel borers and a multiple spindle drill. Later, as stationary steam engines were replaced by electric power, the company supplied machine tools that were used in manufacturing the large generators and motors required for production and use of electricity.

The McKechnie & Bertram partnership continued until Robert McKechnie's retirement in 1886. John Bertram died in 1906. His eldest son, Alexander (later Brigadier-General Sir Alexander Bertram) became President, and his brother Henry, Secretary-Treasurer. Alexander, Chairman of the Shell Committee during World War I, was knighted for his work in organizing munitions manufacturing in Canada; his brother Henry organized Bertram's for war production and supervised the development of the necessary new machine tools.

In the 1920's machines for the production of electric generators and motors formed a large part of production; in the 30's the accent was on mine hoist equipment and pulp and paper machinery.
During World War II Bertram's turned out from four to five times the maximum output of any pre-war year. Special gun boring and rifling machines were made for Canadian Arsenals and shipped to Australia, the U.S. and Russia as well as to U.K. and Canadian war plants.

In 1951 the company was acquired by the Russell Industries group and since 1964 it has been, as Bertram Machine and Tool Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Levy Industries Limited.

Photo of the Bertram factory in the 1960s A 20,000 sq-ft. extension to the plant was completed in 1963, enabling the company to build heavier and larger industrial equipment for heavy industry. In the same year automatic loading equipment, sand handling and conditioning equipment was installed in the Bertram foundry.

In recent years Bertram's has made precision launching rails for the Atlas and Titan missiles, "no tolerance" shaft tubbing for use in Saskatchewan's Esterhazy potash project, and - in 1964 - the largest planetary hot mill in the world, for the Atlas Steels Mill in Tracey, Quebec. In the same year Bertram's produced its first components for the atomic energy industry, manufacturing two 350-ton doors for a reactor.

In February, 1967, Levy Industries announced the formation of a new company named BLH-Bertram Ltd., a joint venture of Levy Industries and Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation, a subsidiary of Armour and Company. The new company will own and operate the Bertram Machine plant, and will be licensed to manufacture Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton's construction equipment products. BLH-Bertram will continue to manufacture the entire existing Bertram product line.