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Business and History - General Steel Wares Limited

General Steel Wares 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 earliest of the enterprises which are ancestors of today's General Steel Wares, Limited was a tinsmith shop opened in London, Ont. by John McClary in 1847. Within a few years John and his brother Oliver progressed from door-to-door peddling of pots and pans to the purchase of a small foundry where they began the manufacture of stoves and furnaces. By the time of Confederation, McClary Manufacturing Company had become a well-established industry and McClary stoves were known far beyond the borders of Ontario.

The second-oldest of the GSW component companies was founded in Montreal in 1858 by Thomas Davidson, a Scot. Thomas Davidson Company made the first enamelled cookware in Canada and the first enamelled street signs. About 1875 the company moved to larger quarters, which became the nucleus of GSW's present-day Montreal housewares division.

MacDonald, Kemp & Co. 1896 The early history of another GSW progenitor, Sheet Metal Products, is obscure, but it is certain that while Torontonians were celebrating their first Dominion Day, a man named MacDonald (his Christian name has not survived) was organizing one of the first companies to use "Dominion" in its title. Little is known of this Dominion Tin and Stamping Works, as it was called, until 1885 when it was purchased by A. E. Kemp (later Sir Edward) and his brother William. They changed the name to Kemp Manufacturing Company, relocated the plant and afterwards acquired another firm, MacDonald Manufacturing Company, which specialized in containers and cans for foodstuffs. Shortly after this merger the Kemp name was dropped in favor of Sheet Metal Products.

In October 1927 these three companies McClary Manufacturing, Thomas Davidson Company and Sheet Metal Products - joined forces with three others - E. T. Wright and Sons of Hamilton, A. Aubry et Fils of Montreal and the Happy Thought Foundry of Brantford - to become General Steel Wares of Canada.

For the next 31 years, General Steel Wares consolidated its position as a producer of housewares and allied lines, and expanded into the manufacture of heating equipment and home appliances. In 1958 the company acquired the Easy Washing Machine Company, which manufactured a line of home laundry equipment to round out GSW's appliance line.

Manufacturing Plant in London, ON The most recent company to join the General Steel Wares organization is Beatty Brothers of Fergus, Ont., founded by George and Matthew Beatty in 1874 for the manufacture of farm equipment. In the course of diversification, this company produced, among other products, the first electric washing machine in Canada, the Forest City. Beatty Brothers remained in the hands of the Beatty family until 1961, when controlling interest was purchased by the present management of General Steel Wares, of which it is now a Division.