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Business and History - Canadian Industries Limited

Canadian Industries Limited 

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.


The corporate history of Canadian Industries Limited began in 1862. In that year, the Hamilton Powder Company was incorporated and acquired the Canada Powder Company (started in 1852). Their product was the black blasting powder so essential to Canada's pioneers.

In 1878 the company was purchased by Dr. Thomas C. Brainerd, a U.S. businessman well-known in the powder-making industry. To meet the need for tremendous quantities of explosives (especially nitro-glycerine dynamite) required for construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a dynamite plant was built at McMasterville, Que. on the general site of the present plant. Other black powder plants were acquired in Quebec and the Maritimes and, in 1890, the Hamilton Powder Company established the first explosives plant in the far west near Nanaimo, B.C.

Another C-I-L ancestor, the Dominion Cartridge Company, was founded at Brownsburg, Que. in 1886 by Captain A. L. ("Gat") Howard, who introduced the Gatling gun into Canada and operated a battery of two of the new weapons during the Riel Rebellion. Howard won the support of several influential Canadians, including Dr. T. C. Brainerd of Hamilton Powder, and when the Dominion Cartridge Company was formed Dr. Brainerd became its first president, with "Gat" Howard as plant manager.

In 1910 five explosives companies, a cartridge plant and a plant making acids and fertilizers merged to form Canadian Explosives Limited. Hamilton Powder Company and the Dominion Cartridge Company were among them; the others were Acadia Powder Company, Waverley, N.S., Ontario Powder Company, Tweed, Ont., Standard Explosives Company, Vaudreuil, Que., Western Explosives Company, near Vancouver and the Victoria Chemical Company, Victoria, B.C.

Throughout the 20's, Canadian Explosives Limited diversified into paint and varnish, coated fabrics and plastics. In 1927 the company's name was changed to Canadian Industries Limited.

At the outbreak of World War II C-I-L put its technological experience at the service of the Canadian government. A wholly-owned subsidiary, Defence Industries Limited, was formed to handle the construction, operation and management of Crown-owned munitions plants. Defence Industries Limited designed, built and operated Crown-owned plants worth more than $100 million, and at one time employed 33,000 men and women.

A great post-war building program geared C-I-L to meet peacetime needs for explosives, paints, agricultural and industrial chemicals, plastics, sporting ammunition and man-made textile fabrics.

Photo of Canadian Industries Limited In 1954 C-I-L was divided into two separate companies in accordance with the ruling of a U.S. court which had ordered E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company to end its joint interests with Imperial Chemicals Limited.

Today the company is the largest producer of chemicals and related products in Canada. With head office in Montreal, 36 plants across Canada and sales offices and warehouses in most of the major centres, C-I-L handles hundreds of products manufactured in its own plants and those of its associated companies.

The company also has manufacturing interests in the West Indies, Liberia and Mexico.