Western Libraries

Business and History - The Gibbard Furniture Shops Limited

The Gibbard Furniture Shops 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.

Canada's oldest furniture factory, The Gibbard Furniture Shops Limited, Napanee, Ont., was founded by John Gibbard, a cabinet maker who came to "The Napanee", as the village was then known, in 1835 and shortly thereafter leased a mill on the canal that still runs through the Gibbard plant. He began the manufacture of sash, doors and furniture, coffins and many items, such as fanning mills, for the local farmers.

Photo of the original factory The first Gibbard plant was run by water power, using the fall of water from the canal to the Napanee River. The water turned a water wheel which, through belts and line shafting, turned the machines. In 1864 the factory burned to the ground, but by 1868 it had been rebuilt on a more extensive scale.

The manufacture of sash and doors was discontinued after 1871, and the firm's whole energies were devoted to furniture making. Fire, the great destroyer of nineteenth century industries, struck again in 1874, but again the plant was rebuilt within a year. The new structure was supplied with both steam and water power and equipped with the latest machinery. Every article of manufacture, noted the Historical Atlas of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington in 1878, "comes under the head of elegant furniture, from a basswood cradle to a rosewood coffin."

Some sixteen separate buildings have been built against one another at various times to form the present plant. Over the past twenty-four years the plant has been completely renovated and much new machinery and equipment has been installed.

The Gibbard Company remained in control of the Gibbard family for four generations, until 1940, when the firm was purchased by Jack McPherson, who had been Sales Manager in the 1920's. The Presidents since McPherson have been his widow, Mrs. Jack McPherson, David S. Roffey and Bruce R. McPherson, the current chief executive.

Gibbard Plant Traditional skills are coupled with the most modern equipment in the present-day plant. One third of the staff have been with the Company over 25 years, and there are many father and son teams among them - in one instance, a father and three sons.

Gibbard furniture is sold everywhere in Canada and can be found in Canadian embassies in many countries of the world.