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Business and History - The Steel Company of Canada Limited

The Steel Company of Canada 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.


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The Steel Company of Canada, Limited was created in 1910 when a group of businessmen led by Max Aitken, later Lord Beaverbrook, brought together the leaders of five steel and iron firms and persuaded them to join forces. The five firms were The Canada Screw Company and the Hamilton Steel and Iron Company in Hamilton, Ontario; The Montreal Rolling Mills; Dominion Wire Manufacturing Company of Lachine, Quebec, and the Canada Bolt and Nut Company of Swansea, Ontario.

Of the five, three - Hamilton Steel and Iron Company, The Montreal Rolling Mills and The Canada Screw Company - had roots in pre-Confederation Canada, and through one of them - The Montreal Rolling Mills - Stelco can trace its history back to the late 18th century.

Montreal Rolling Mills had acquired the Pillow-Hersey Manufacturing Company in 1903, seven years before the merger. And Pillow-Hersey was successor to the businesses of Mansfield Holland, founded in 1856, and the City Nail and Spike Works, founded in 1839 to carry on the business of a cut nail plant established in Montreal by John Bigelow some time in the 1790's. Montreal Rolling Mills Company had itself been organized in 1868 to take over the business of Morland, Watson & Company, founded in the 1850's. The property today forms the Notre Dame Works, largest of Stelco's four plants in the Montreal area.

Main office and works of the Canada Screw Company Ltd.Through Hamilton Steel and Iron Company, Stelco traces its line to a plant established in 1861 by the Great Western Railway, which ran between Hamilton and London, to re-roll iron rails. The Great Western property was leased in 1878 by a group of businessmen who formed the Ontario Rolling Mill Company, which merged with several other companies to form The Hamilton Steel and Iron Company in 1900.

Stelco's present-day Canada Works in Hamilton was formerly The Canada Screw Company, which started lite in 1864 in Dundas, Ontario, as a partnership between J. P. Billington and T. Forsyth, who had been associated through the early years of the decade in making farm tools and sewing machines. In 1864 Billington set himself to invent, design and build machinery to make wood screws. He succeeded, and in December of that year turned out the first wood screws ever to be made in Canada, at a time when there were only three other screw manufacturers in the entire world - one each in Britain, the United States and Germany.

The partnership was dissolved in 1865, and the next year Billington set up a $100,000 Stock company - the Canada Screw Company. By the time of his retirement in 1869, the company vas turning out over half a million screws a week.

In 1876 Canada Screw was bought by the American Screw Company of Providence, R.1 and after 1879, under the leadership of two financial wizards, Cyrus A. Birge and Charles Alexander, growth was phenomenal.

Birge moved the factory to Hamilton in 1887 Aerial view of Hilton Works, basic steel plant of The Steel Company of Canada, Ltd.(as a matter of principle: he objected to the Dundas town council's ruling that the company should pay the $50.00 cost of a tile drain to prevent water from its grounds overflowing a neighboring field) and established it in a 54,000 square foot plant next to the Grand Trunk's freight yards.

By 1898 the Canada Screw Company was an immensely profitable operation, and in that year Birge fulfilled a long-standing ambition by buying out the American interest and restoring the company to full Canadian control. (Cyrus A. Birge was President of The Canadian Manufacturers' Association in 1902-03.)

Stelco's growth since 1910 has reflected the industrial development of Canada generally. Today, with 19 plants in four provinces, and with subsidiaries, joint ventures and associated companies in Canada, the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the company's principal products include plate, hot rolled and cold rolled sheet, galvanized and prepainted sheet, tin plate, wire rods, hot rolled and cold finished bars, construction materials, fasteners and forgings, pipe and tubing, manufacturers' wire, nails, fencing and barbed wire, as well as special products and some chemicals.